Itinerary: 5 Weeks in France, Italy, Greece & Turkey

After I graduated from university, I went to Europe for five weeks with my best friend. This was a really diverse trip because we chose big cities and small towns, did day trips and squeezed in quick stops as well as taking more time in some places. We travelled by train, ferry and cruise ship and spent three weeks travelling independently and then two weeks on a group tour.

It was one of the best trips I’ve ever had because we were able to travel through fewer countries, but more towns. I loved inching our way through Italy and experiencing so many variations of Italian culture.

Read on for our full itinerary!

You can read my travel journal series about the trip here.

Itinerary: 5 Weeks in France, Italy, Greece & Turkey | www.thewanderbug.com

 

Our travel wishlist

I travelled with my best friend, who I’ve known my whole life. I’ve been to Paris three times and a number of other cities in France and Italy but was desperate to see Greece and hopefully some of Turkey. I was also really keen to see Spain.

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My friend had never been on a plane, let alone out of Australia, so she was keen to cover a lot of ground for her first trip. We both agreed on Greece as a must-see. She was really open minded about where she wanted to go, which was awesome.
We decided France and Italy would be perfect for seeing lots of big sights as well as discovering new little places along the way.

We wanted to go to Spain but we were starting in Paris and it would be easier to go either left to Spain or right to Italy at the bottom of France. Spain is a huge country with at least five cities I am dying to see, so we thought it would be better for its own trip.

We were going to stay in London and visit Cambridge but it ended up getting too expensive. The train across the channel would be almost as expensive as the rest of our train trips put together! We nixed London, and I have no regrets. A day in London is better spent in Paris, in my extremely biased opinion.

Accommodation: Clean and comfortable

At the time we were both students, so we were on a budget. Neither of us wanted to stay in hostels.

We both saved all year so we could stay in comfortable accommodation. We chose B&Bs close to the centre of town since we were in most places for just a couple of days. We purposefully made time for chilling out in quieter places so that three days felt much longer.

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Transport: Trains over planes

Taking a train is often cheaper than flying. It’s also much easier to board a train than it is an airplane. I’d rather spend time watching the countryside change than standing in a security queue at an airport. Train stations are also often closer to the town than airports.

Itinerary: 5 Weeks in France, Italy & Greece

France
  • Paris  (4 nights)
  • Avignon  (3 nights)
  • Nice (3 nights) plus day trips to Cannes and Monaco, minus a failed day trip to St Tropez

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Italy
  • Levanto (2 nights) + day trips to Vernazza and Monterosso in Cinque Terre
  • Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre (1 night) + Day trip to Corniglia and Manarola
  • Milan (2 hr stopover)
  • Verona (1 night) + Day trip to Venice
  • Florence (3 nights)
  • Rome (3 nights)
  • Sorrento (2 nights) + Day trips to Capri and Amalfi

Read more:

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Greece
  • Overnight ferry from Bari to Piraeus, followed by a big drive across Greece to Athens (1 night)
  • From Athens we started a cruise (3 nights) which took us to Santorini, Mykonos and Patmos
  • Back to Athens (1 night) I am glad we returned to Athens, I liked it much better the second time we visited!

Independent travel vs Contiki Tours vs Cruise

I loved our time just travelling by ourselves. I wasn’t quite ready to start a group tour after three weeks of solo travel, but it was worth it. When our Roman guide took us for a walking tour of Rome I was so thankful that we had chosen a tour for part of the trip. She told us so many interesting stories that we didn’t find in guidebooks or on the Internet. She was loads of fun and had oodles of local knowledge. She was easily the best guide I’ve ever had!

We chose the Contiki Tour because we were hesitant about travelling solo through Greece during the crisis. The islands are so far out at sea, I was glad that we took a cruise. It was also really easy travelling between Italy and Greece with a group.

I wouldn’t do a cruise to places I really want to explore. I didn’t realise we’d only have 4 hours at each destination, which wasn’t nearly enough time.

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Trip Highlights

  • Visiting the Blue Grotto in Capri
  • Pasta cooking class in Rome
  • Seeing the Lido in Paris – I enjoyed it so much more than the Moulin Rouge
  • Chilling out in Place des Vosges in Paris
  • Eating ice cream nearly every day
  • Shopping in Florence
  • Spending time in the gorgeous seaside village of Levanto
  • Swimming in the water at Monterosso
  • Making friends in Nice and lazing around on the beach all the time
  • Manarola, Cinque Terre
  • Views from the Acropolis in Athens

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How do you plan big trips?

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  • Wow. I just experienced some major travel envy reading this… 🙂
    Looks like you had a blast, and I love that last picture there, so carefree … !

    • Thanks! I did, it was amazing 🙂 That was definitely the most relaxing day too!

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  • Yusely

    I loved this post.
    I’m planning a tour similar to yours, (just France, Italy and Greece) and the amount of information in the web is overwhelming. I’m a little (he, a lot) loss and found your post inspiring. Thanks

    • Glad to help! If you have any questions at all, please feel free to use the contact page here to get in touch – cities, timing, budget, accommodation recommendations, experiences – anything 🙂

      Have fun!

      • Yusely

        Hey Genevieve! I’m traveling solo and want to make a blend of must see big cities and country tours in those three countries. I’m flying from Colombia (South America) to Paris and will be in Europe for three weeks in august (most likely) and I’d like to know if you have some pointers. Wow, that’s a lot of information there, hehehe.

      • Hi Yusely, it sounds like you have an amazing trip coming up!

        Keep in mind that prices in August in Italy may be higher in holiday spots, such as by the beach, because this is when Italians are on holiday. Of course, these places are still worth visiting!

        I think a blend of big cities and smaller towns is a great idea, you could try picking a few regions in each country so you can experience the different regions as well as different towns – the Veneto is different to Tuscany which is very different to Campania!

        Small countries, such as Italy and Switzerland, make it easy to visit different towns because the travel time isn’t too bad. I would have loved to include Spain on my last trip, but it was easier to choose Italy rather than Spain because we were also going to Greece.

        Trains are very cheap, and I think often a better choice as you also can save time by not having to bother going to airports, which are often out of town and have slower security measures, etc.

        Have fun! Let me know if you have any more specific questions you’d like answered 🙂

      • Yusely

        Genevieve.

        So, I’m back home and I have to say I have a lot of fun in Europe. I visited several cities in France, Italy and Greece but my absolute favorite was Florence.
        I saw so many beautiful things and still there was more left to be seen.
        This were my longest vacations ever and was kind of glad to get back home. Was missing speaking spanish, lol.

        Thanks so much for your comments.
        Yusely

      • Hi Yusely, thanks so much for letting me know how it went! So glad you had a great time – I love Florence too, can’t get enough. So happy to help you on your journey 🙂 Genevieve

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  • pearl jolly/pretty mayhem

    I’ve gone on many trips with my besties and we always have a lot of fun. We all love good food, wine and art so we’re usually interested in doing the same things which makes things easy. I also always plan for a day out alone so we can get time to do whatever we want separately. 🙂

  • This was such a good overview post, I recently did a 5 week trip in Europe, but it was a lot more rushed than yours. I’m already starting to think about my big trip back there, which will definitely be a lot more focused on quality over quantity, so this post has really inspired me. As for travelling with my bestie..lets just say it didn’t work out. But in hindsight I think it wouldn’t have worked out regardless of travelling together, I think that was just what I needed to realise it. Life, hey!! Anyway, I loved this post, your pictures are breathtaking x

    • Thank you Marnie! So happy to hear the post inspired you in some way 🙂 Yeah it’s definitely a tough call to make when choosing a travel companion, I know of a lot of people who have lost friends overseas. I’m quite lucky with my friend that we’ve known each other since birth, so we’re somewhere between best friends and sisters. The more I travel, the more I try and narrow down the number of countries I see, to focus on more cities – next time I do a big trip I’d like to just focus on one region even more xx

  • These photos look so amazing! I would love to have spent 5 weeks in Europe in the summer. Italy is my absolute favorite European country.

    Characters & Carry-ons

  • I loved reading this …. I’m heading off to the Greek Islands next summer solo and still deciding on an itinerary as I too will have 5 weeks. I have to agree with you on the ice-cream as I find myself eating it everyday too!

    • Ooo luck you! Let me know if you have any questions I could help with about these destinations 🙂 xx

  • Genevieve, you must make it to Cambridge next time! [Although I agree, Paris IS wonderful, haha…!] I’m so envious of your trip; my best friend and I backpacked around Europe for 6 weeks when we were 18 and it was the best time of my life. Also, Rome and Santorini are my top 2 favourite places of all time!! 😀 xxx

    • We were meant to go to Cambridge on that trip, but it didn’t work out unfortunately! Disappointing, but I’m very keen to visit one day! Haha, my friend and I still have huge Europe withdrawals – nothing like being in Europe with your best friend with zero responsibilities other than making the train on time haha xxx

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  • Puja Majumder

    Hi Genevieve,

    Loved reading your blog. I am planning a similar trip with my husband, but on a smaller level 🙂
    Would love to get your ideas on this. We have 14 days starting at London in the month of July-August. We are planning for:

    London
    Paris
    Lucerne
    Florence
    Rome
    Santorini
    This is not really in any fixed order. Would like to save some time if rearranging the places can do that.
    Is this feasible? Can you tell how many days to give each place? We are thinking of travelling by train most of the time except for Rome – Santorini and Santorini – London.

    Thanks,
    Puja

    • Genevieve

      Hi Puja, sounds like you have a great trip planned! It looks like you have them in a logical order too, train travel is great in Europe – definitely my favourite way to travel! How long you want to spend in each place is quite personal – for example, Paris is my favourite city and there is still lots I want to do there, but there are less things I want to see in Rome still. Have a think about which cities you want to see the most of, and stay there for 3 nights – the only caveat is that obviously there might not be as many major sights in Santorini, but a few days relaxing on the island might be just what you need – especially after sightseeing in the other cities. My advice is to try and envision how much you want to see of each city and prioritise them that way 🙂 Have a great time!

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