Subject: Trip Planning: France/Switzerland, Northern Italy,Tuscany
Hi Ziners,

I'm helping Mum and Dad plan a trip again - this time to Europe for the first few weeks of April 2004.

They're basically looking at staying in a number of places for 3-4 days each (including travel from one destination to the next): northern Holland; Switzerland or France (Q below); northern Italy lake area; Tuscany; and Rome.

They'll be flying into Amsterdam and visiting Keukenhof then spending a bit of time visiting parts of northern Holland. From then on the trip is in need of advice.

They'd like to spend time in Northern Italy. A number of years ago they were looking at the Lake Garda and Bolzano area, but now instead I think they're interested in the Lake Como/Bellagio area after reading through the archives.

They'd also like to spend time in Tuscany: They'd heard about Siena, Montepulciano and San Gimignano from friends. But after reading the archives, Arezzo and Montalcino look like they could/should be incorporated/substituted?

Finally their time in Rome before departing to fly home.

They characterise themselves as not city people - that being said while they have no desire to visit Florence they will definitely be seeing Rome - for 4 days worth! They had considered detouring to Venice because it is relatively close, but the way Lake Como reads it appears much more to their liking. They usually stay in B& Bs and hire a car. Is 3-4 days in Lake Como and surrounds too much and therefore possible to have a one-night interlude in Venice (if that's even possible)? Or add that day to Tuscany?

That being said: They had originally planned to fly from Amsterdam to Switzerland and spend the 3-4 days in the Berner Oberland. But we're worried that at that time of year the weather may play havoc with their plans by restricting their travel and the wonderful views and the walks they can do. They had then considered visiting Provence/Lourmarin/Bonnieux instead but my concern is that they would lose too much time getting to and from places. Annecy and Chamonix are closer to their first Italian destination but the weather would surely factor in there too? Perhaps they should forego an intermediate country and spend more time in some other part of Italy? Italian mountain scenery?

Car hire: Dad likes to have a hire car - obviously knowing the destination prior to Lake Como would help, but how should they best fit in car hire with their planned trip? Hire and return in Switzerland then train to Lake Como and hire and drive until dropping off outside Rome? Train between some places? Is it practical to drive from the Lake Como area to their next multi-day stop in Tuscany?

Overall sights and timing: Are their identified targets too little/much for each 3-4 day chunk? Their previous experiences: they've loved the mountains and lakes and scenery of Canada and Germany and Austria, they loved staying in Iphofen near Rothenburg, they love nature and walking, they loved Brugge.

Sorry if this is still too vague - more questions surely to come. Looking forward to your collective advice. :) Megan Brisbane, Australia