What, from your experience, are some of the more charming small, quaint towns in Spain, Southern France, and Italy focusing specifically on architecture, landscaping, and overall beauty and culture? I just realized that my itinerary is chock full of large European cities but there are no smaller cities sprinkled in to break the monotony. Here's the list of the major European cities to which we're traveling:
-Florence (and likely a bus trip to Pisa for a few hours)
We have about 23 days. Thanks!!
See Ronda in Spain, if you can. It's in the south, though - but it's gorgeous. The town is seperated by a huge gorge, and connected together by an old bridge with a prison in the middle. Even the trip up is breathtaking.
And Venice is a must-see. It's like something out of this world.
in spain - toledo, segovia and santiago de compostela are an absolute blast (but santiago is unfortunately far from everywhere). other small interesting small towns in spain include ávila, cuenca, mérida and cáceres, but in my opinion they are less interesting than the big three i mentioned at the beginning.
in france - maybe carcassonne... arles is also probably very nice (although i havent been there)
in italy siena is said to be the best among small towns. cinque terre region towns are also great.
while in prague you may choose to visit cesky krumlov - a top notch picturesque central european small town
I suppose I should clarify - we're not leaving in 23 days...we have 23 days to travel. Do each of these smaller towns just warrant a day or so?
When you go to Barcelona, you must see Girona. It's only 1 hour away by train and the ticket costs around 5 euros.
Visit the old town and the jewish quarter, you'll simply love it.
There's an amazing cathedral and another church (currently being repaired), both of them really nice.
There are several bridges crossing the river, from the new town to the old town, from which you'll get an amazing view of the old part of the city.
You have some really nice (and touristy...) little towns near Girona, specially Pals and Peratallada. Now these are really tiny towns. They both have less than 2000 inhabitants. I have pictures of Peratallada in my Traveller's Point photo album if you want to check what it looks like.
A bit northern you have Cadaqués. It still has the old flavour of fishermen towns, even though it's become very, very touristy, as it's the town where Salvador Dalí was born.
You can get to Cadaqués taking a train from Barcelona to Figueres, same line as Barcelona-Girona, and once you're in figueres you have buses going there. the train from Barcelona to figueres would cost you around 9 euros, and the bus to Cadaqués 4-5 euros.
How do you intend to go from one city to another? Don't forget to calculate the time we loose during the trips! So choose carefully your small towns. Everyone has a favourite. You won't be able to visit all in that time.
Now my favourites:
In Italy. Pisa is not worthy the trip. Go to Siena, Lucca or Cinque Terre (only in the summer and if you have at least 2 days to spend there).
In Fance: Avignon is really cute. I don't love the french riviera.
Cesky Krumlov. A 3 hour trip from Prague, is one of the loveliest towns I've been. But I also think you shoud spend a night there, so it's a 2 days trip.
Enjoy your trip.
I have to agree that Santiago De Compostella in Spain and Carcassonne in France are lovely places to visit. As for Italy, head for the lakes in the north, they are absolutely stunning. George Clooney has a house on Lake Como. Bellagio on Lake Como is just incredible.