I used a road atlas. Got lost of course. Several times actually, and I've good a pretty good sense of direction. But just stopped, brewed up, and worked out a plan. Thinking about it now, a compass would have been very handy. But it was just me, meandering along B roads in the general direction I wanted to go. No schedule. No time limits. Loved every minute. 8]
maybe we'll get a compass too...
...if i ever became a millionaire, i think i'd just buy a car and a decent backpack and go all over place. ...
You're reading my mind.
...i might look into sat-nav's and a road atlas, see which we fancy
I'd get the atlas anyway. Loads of info - scenic routes, etc. Maybe satnavs do that too? Don't know.
haha, what was the hospital visit for?
i think we'll probably end up finding campsites a bit out of the city (i assume it'll be cheaper?) and with public transport nearby
We'll have to sit and work out our budget at some point with rough estimates.
The hospital visit was for a skin infection in my foot. Definitely memorable - I came home on crutches and illegal drugs (was at the end of the trip). lol
As far as the camping goes, that will depend a lot on where you are, parking vs. public transportation and distance to the city. In some places it might be cheaper when you figure out the rest of the costs to stay in/closer to the city while others might be better to stay away. I can't really tell you where/when each option is best as it varies from place to place. I used an LP guide for Europe for ideas, but there may be camping specific ones as well. Note that if there is a festival going on, you may need to book ahead.
For general city guides, I liked the Use-It maps, and you can download these before you go if you choose. Otherwise, pick them up from tourist offices when you get to a city. They aren't available for all cities, but they do have some fun local information in them, and provide a smaller local map when you get there for walking around/exploring.
I would agree with fab that maybe focusing on areas outside of the cities would be a good idea, especially considering the cheap flights available from the UK to these places. You could always do shorter trips to a particular city later. But which ones to go to/skip will depend alot on routes and timing.
An atlas and compass add a such a sense of adventure and provide you with a lot of info. Definitely my navigational tool of choice.
haha, oh dear. all adds to the fun i guess.
Sat-nav's aren't exactly known for being reliable, so i think i might just invest in a good atlas then also considering investing in a good LP guide too.
thanks for the advice, might just blagg it to a certain extent and research basics. its more exciting to go with the flow
all's left now is to work out the budget and invest in certain things and we should be well awayyyy!
A guidebook is always a good investment, imo. Whether it's LP or another one (there are lots!). It's just helpful for referencing before and during a trip. Although borrowing one from a library can be a good place to start, especially to see what books you like. There are a lot of different ones, and it's a personal choice. That being said, it's easy to rely on, so be sure to get lost, and find random things that you wouldn't otherwise - as you said, go with the flow.
I'm from Spain and I've lived in Italy for a couple of years, so if you'd like some advice, I'd suggest a couple of things:
Nice - Florence: stop at Pisa to see the Leaning Tower, the Baptisterio and the Duomo. You'll add a few km to your route, but it's really worth it. Also, a short visit is enough, don't need to spend a lot of time there, a couple of hours is just fine and then you can continue to Florence.
Florence: I'd suggest staying in Florence at least 2 nights (3 or even 4 if possible). There are plenty of things to see here, and all of them are truly AMAZING. You can find information on what to visit easily, but if you need some advice just let me know.
Florence - Rome: I'd stop either at Siena or at Arezzo (depending on the route you take). Both of them can be visited in just a few ours and both are beautiful. (Also, you could visit Siena when going from Florence to Rome, and Arezzo when going from Rome to Venezia)
Siena is a medieval town and its streets are worth a stroll, and if you are there on July 2nd or August 16th you'll be lucky enough to see the Palio, a traditional medieval horse race across the streets (amazing, seriously).
If you choose Arezzo, you'll see some beautiful locations from the film "La vita è bella" (Life is Beautiful, with Roberto Benigni, just watch it if you haven't!!)
Rome: Ideally 5 nights, if that's not possible try to spend at least 3 nights here. I wouldn't recommend using your car to visit the city, though. Traffic here is truly a mess and parking is not easy. Expect crowds everywhere and high prices.
Rome - Venezia: If you have some time, you should stop at Bologna and/or Padova. Both are beautiful cities worth a short visit.
Venezia: You won't be able to use your car in Venezia, best (and almost only) way to tour the city is by foot. And please, get a map as soon as you set foot on it!! As you might know, Venezia is formed by 120 small islands connected by bridges, so going from point A to point B is not as straightforward as you would expect. Seriously. A mess.
During summer Venezia can be hot, humid and crowded. Also, the canals may smell (they have less water and sometimes they STINK). Venezia is also a quite expensive city. It might seem I hate Venezia, but actually I really love it!! Just want you to know what you can expect.
One night is enough at Venezia, 2 is better ( a must if you want to visit the other islands - I didn't when I was there and I don't regret it, though). MUST SEE VENEZIA AT NIGHT!!
Venezia- Milano: stop at Verona. A small, beautiful city where Romeo and Juliet takes place. Visit Juliet's House, the Arena, the castle and have a walk along the river. You just need a few hours for the whole thing.
Milano: 1 night is enough. Seriously, there's not that much to see here. Don't get me wrong, it IS a beautiful city, but the only outstanding thing is the Duomo, which is the most amazing gothic cathedral. You can go up to the "roof" and enjoy the city from above, and walk among the pinnacles.
Right next to the Duomo you'll see the Vittorio Emanuele Gallery, get into it and snap a couple of photos. Also, go visit the Castello Sforzesco.
Milano-Liechtenstein: you MUST stop at Como Lake. I'd recommend staying there for a night, that way you can relax a bit after all those days travelling and driving. Have a walk around the city of Como, eat an ice cream, enjoy the lights in the lake at night. Buy a ferry ticket for a round trip around some other villages in the lake (you can stop at any village you want to visit, then take the next ferry to continue the tour)
Can't help you with the Liechtenstein-Luxemburg part of your trip, but I've also been to Belgium a couple of times and here's some advice, too:
Liege: I've been here, and although it was a nice city I'd rather go to Brussels. You can visit Brussels in a day (Grand Place, Manneken Pis and a stroll on that area - you're done in a few hours - and then the Atomium, which is outside the city). Spend the night here, and go out at night to try some of the hundreds of beers available (I'd suggest the Delirium Cafe, a unique place with a bible-sized beercart - around 2000!! The cafe is named after the Delirium Tremens beer, known for its pink elephant logo)
Brugge: on your way to Brugge stop at Gent. You can visit it in just a few hours and you just can't miss it (don't forget to go up the Cathedral, you won't be able to stop taking pics of the city from above)
What to say about Brugge? I fell in love with that city. Best way to visit it is by walking, walking, walking. Enjoy a city cruise on the canals and be amazed by it's beauty at night. If you can, spend 2 nights here.
Some general advice:
Renting a car is not as cheap as in the USA (I'm planning a road trip (West Coast National Parks) and I still can't believe how CHEAP it is to rent a car there). Also, make sure you are allowed to drive the car out of the UK!
Another consideration regarding the car: if possible, try to rent one with an automatic transmission. If you're not used to the stick you'll need some time to get used to it (and driving will be more tiring)
Gas is much more expensive than in the USA. Here in Spain you pay about 1,40€ for a litre... that makes about 7,5$ for a gallon. And I'm talking about Spain, in Italy and France is a bit more expensive (I think about 1,5€/litre)
Also, be careful with tolls, as they can be really expensive sometimes. As someone suggested, use viamichelin.com to know how much you're going to spend.
Have you considered going to the Mont Blanc? It's a bit off your route, but it is definetely worth it. You can get to it both from the italian and the french side. The cable car (do you call it like that??) is about 35 euros round trip from the italian side (search in google: funivie monte bianco), don't know how much from the french side. Seeing the Alps from above, the valleys, the glaciers and the snow (even in summer) is a unique experience. If you do go, don't forget your sunscreen!
Sorry for such a long post, but hope it helps!
Really appreciate the detail you've used in describing the must-see sights. We will definately be taking your advice with regards the different cities and how long each place is worth and I agree Mont Blanc would be well worth a detour if we can work it out.
We will make sure we have good maps for Venezia and dont waste ages on milan!
Really, really good advice. Nice to have insider information so thanks again.
The trip is planned for June/July so we will try to catch the Palio and let you know how we get on!
Nath and Sarah
Glad I could help! If you have any questions just let me know
Have a nice trip!!