My parents are heading to Germany in May. Ever since I found out they were coming I've been searching for things to do and places we can visit. It took me months of scouring the web to make a decision on where to go. I'm quite indecisive, so this was very exhausting for me, hah! Anyway, since I put in all this work creating travel itineraries, I thought maybe someone reading this might find them useful. These all have the base point of Stuttgart, but you can cater them to fit any route.
Side Note: I think I need a course on finding good deals, because only very recently I realized that searching for flights, hotels, etc. using German websites is MUCH cheaper than American sites. It only took me nearly 3 years to figure that one out. I have been looking at www.ab-in-den-urlaub.de and there are some fantastic deals at that website. I'm hoping to use this site (or Tui) to book my next trip. While everything is in German, they respond to questions in English pretty fast (I got a return call in 20 minutes) and are quite helpful.
We're renting a car and driving everywhere, because with three people it ends up being much cheaper than buying train tickets for everyone. Car rentals in Germany are much cheaper than their U.S. counterparts. I rented an Audi compact series for the week and for 7 days it's only 200 Euro. That equates to about $260, for 7 days! And it's German spec, so it goes fast. Very fast.
If you've ever rented a car in the states you'll know that 200 Euro is super cheap. And much less expensive than buying train tickets to all the places I want to visit. I would recommend at least looking into renting a car if you're coming to Europe. Some places (like southern Italy) may not be best suited for driving, but in Germany, Austria, northern Italy, and much of France driving around isn't an issue for non-residents. Driving through the Alps is also a nice perk.
Itinerary 1 (5 days)
This is what I ultimately decided to do. It's a slower tour and includes traveling around Italy with a base point of Verona.
Day 1: Leave from Stuttgart and drive down to Verona. Travel through the Alps and stop for photos along the way. Explore the town of Verona and visit the Colosseum that's there.
Day 2: Drive on to Sirmione, the southernmost town on Lake Garda (I fell in love with this place last year so I'm excited to be visiting another town on this beautiful lake). We'll walk around that morning, possibly take a ferry to another town, grab lunch and walk around. We'll then head back to Verona to explore for the evening.
Verona to Sirmione: 41 minutes
Day 3: Head to Florence for the day. I went there when I studied abroad in college but we were drunk on wine the entire time so a redo is in order.
Verona to Florence: 2 hr 24 min
Day 4: From Verona, visit the town of Soave. There is a massive castle overlooking the valley and town below and it looks breathtaking. Then possibly head to Venice for the day if we're not too tired from the week.
Verona to Soave: 27 min
Soave to Venice: 1 hr
Total travel time (one way): 1 hr 28 min
Day 5: Drive back to Stuttgart and prepare for Fruhlingsfest! (Spring fest....just like Oktoberfest, just as awesome, but a bit smaller).
The next week we may head up to Belgium or go to Munich...I can't decide. I really need to work on my indecisiveness.
Itinerary 2 (5 - 7 days)
Here is what I emailed to my parents. I like to think that I'm a travel planner at heart. These aren't as detailed but give you an idea of a possible 5-7 day trip.
Italian Riviera Route – 17hours 18min
With this route we’ll see the beautiful city of Lucerne in Switzerland, and then head down to the Italian Riviera to stay in Portofino. Portofino is a beautiful and colorful town on the ocean and fresh seafood is plentiful. We can also hop through the infamous Cinque Terre since those towns are situated very close by. On the way back we will stop by a mountain town in Italy and also the nearby underwater town in Curon Venosta. Then we will head to Innsbruck, Austria for a night, and finally head back to Stuttgart.
This underwater town looks cool. If you've never heard of it there's a church steeple sticking out of the lake. I've had friends who have walked around the lake in the winter when it freezes over. How cool would that be?! If you're curious, here's more info: http://weburbanist.com/2012/10/11/underwater-town-single-spire-marks-architectural-tomb/
I didn't do this route because honestly I didn't want to drive that much, although looking at my current itinerary I'll still be doing a good amount of travel!
Itinerary 3 (7 days)
On this route we will head from Stuttgart and do a World War II tour in Munich. Then we will head to the home of Mozart in Salzburg and visit the castle. We will also visit Halstatt, Austria, a beautiful town on the water and close by. Afterward we will head over to Berchtesgadener Land and see the famous Eagle's Nest as well as the beautiful Koenigsee. From there we dip down into the Italian Alps for some great wine, pizza, and limoncello! After a day we take a short trip north to Innsbruck, Austria to see Swarovsky crystals, do some shopping, eat some speck, and take in the beautiful mountain views. After a day or two we head back to Stuttgart, with a few hours stopover in Fuessen to see the famous Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles.
Phew! That would be a great whirlwind of a trip, and total driving is only about 14 hours. This would be a great way to see many beautiful places in a short time. The only downside was that we wouldn't be in Italy much, and my mom had mentioned Italy a few times so that's why I decided not to do this trip.
So there you have it. There are many other trips you can do in the area but these are a few samples of itineraries I came up with. I like to combine cities with scenic countryside and beautiful areas so the trip feels comfortable and not hectic.
Here are a few other places that can be seen within these areas:
Lake Constance: If you like biking this is a FANTASTIC place. If you bike the 130 mile-ish trip around the lake you will also visit four countries!
Achensee: This is a beautiful lake near Innsbruck and highly recommended.
Dolomites: We might still drive through here on the way back.
Where would you recommend going if you had two weeks to drive around Europe?