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Bob the Navigator: Thinking and Planning Small

Bob Little (Bob the Navigator)

It is often said that size does not matter, and I am one who happens to believe it. Perhaps my thinking is being influenced by my family name, LITTLE, but it seems to me that many of my favorite destinations in Europe are actually SMALL villages. Wouldn't it be fun to plan an entire itinerary without ever setting foot in a large city. Sure, you may need to land at the airport in Rome, Milan, Munich, or Zurich, but all of these are well outside the actual city and you can easily get your rental car or catch the local train and be on your way to a magical SMALL village nearby.

Having planned more than 120 customized itineraries in Europe for myself and others, I have learned to apply some basic rules that seem to work for me.

Bob's Itinerary Planning 101

1. A minimum of three nights per destination. (Note: Slow Travelers like to do a week in most destinations.)

2. Your next destination should not be more than four hours travel time from the previous one.

3. Plan to spend equal time in SMALL villages as you do in major cities.

4. Pick your destinations based on seasonal factors (e.g. avoid coastal resorts in August).

How often have you seen proposed itineraries entirely composed of major cities? Far too often in my judgment. I recently had an inquiry from a prospective client who asked my advice about this two week rail itinerary:

"Arrive Rome, depart Munich, and to include Florence, Venice, and Vienna".

Well, these are all lovely cities and certainly worth your time, but what a shame to bypass the hill towns of Tuscany, the Lakes region of central Austria, and the castle country of Bavaria in your haste to get to the next museum or art gallery in a major city.

I just do not get it. Europe has so much more to offer than merely the major cities that are well marked on any large scale map of Europe. I have to assume that the novice traveler just does not know the difference or is more comfortable in an urban setting.

Sample Itineraries

Well, just for fun, let's plan some sample itineraries by geographic regions and make the assumption that you are forbidden from staying in any destination with more than 10,000 population - my kind of trip. I will pick only four regions for now, but you may want to add others in regions that you know well. We will assume a total of thirteen nights in Europe and travel by car; it is not easy to plan train travel to these SMALL villages that we have come to enjoy.

* MUNICH TO MUNICH: St. Gilgen, Durnstein, Cesky Krumlov, Rothenburg

* MILAN TO VENICE: Lago Orta, San Mamete, Castelrotto, Asolo

* PISA TO ROME: Portovenere, Montalcino, Spello, Orvieto

* ROME TO CATANIA: Sperlonga, Ravello, Maratea, Taormina

Of course, there are at least a dozen more SMALL village itineraries that may come to mind, but you get the idea. These happen to be some of my favorite destinations. I would be curious to hear about some of your favorites.

An added benefit of choosing SMALL villages as your destinations is that the cost for food and lodging will likely be from 30 to 50% less than comparable accommodations in the major cities, and that always gets my attention.

So, THINK AND PLAN SMALL for your next adventure in Europe. You may need a good map to locate some of these destinations, but that is exactly the point. The SMALLER the detail the greater your potential reward. HAVE FUN !

Read Bob's Planning Your Trip to Europe for more suggested itineraries.


Bob the Navigator is a retired IBMer whose passion for European travel has evolved into a hobby and trip planning business - www.bobthenavigator.homestead.com (Slow Travel Classified Listing). See Bob's Slow Travel member page for a list of his articles.

© Bob Little, 2004

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