I'm a SF poster lucky enough to have relatives renting homes in both Southern France (St. Paul de Vence) and Tuscany (30 min. outside Florence) this summer, and my boyfriend and I are trying to plan a trip around stays at both. The only downside is that the homes are being rented in late August--not an optimal travel time in these parts. Soo...I have several questions and am hoping you knowledgable, well-traveled folks can help.
I'm thinking of flying into Marseille and spending a few days around Avignon/Arles/Aix, then driving to my the family house in St. Paul de Vence, then driving to Tuscany, spending a few days en route to and in Emilia Romagna along the way. So...the questions:
-- Will it just be a disappointment to try this trip in late August? I've read that Bologna turns into a ghost town then, and that's one of the places I'm *most* interested in. Would it be better to spend more time in France vs. Italy? (We'll be in Tuscany for about 5 days with my BF's family no matter what)
-- On the Provence leg: where would you recommend staying (both areas and specific hotels/B&Bs would be appreciated). Although we would like somewhere nice and atmospheric, would also like not to spend a fortune, esp. bc we'll be renting a car and that is SO expensive in Europe...
-- What highlights of this area do you recommend culturally?
--And of course: food!!! Restaurants, markets, artisans, shops--I'd love to hear any and all suggestions.
-- Pretty much the same questions for our drive from the French Riviera to Emilia Romagna. Based on Joe H's description of La Fornace di Barbablu a few months ago, that's on my list, and maybe we should spend a night near Genoa? I'd like to spend about two nights in Bologna, or one there and one in Parma/Modena. Am fascinated by the culture and especially the cuisine of this area, so I've been reading through lots of posts on Bologna in particular...am in need of thoughts on where to stay and where to focus our time. I am always especially attracted to markets, food shops, and anything else worth seeking out gastronically, especially hidden bargains...
As always, I appreciate your thoughts and of course will post back with my reactions...Thanks in advance!