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Questions about International Layovers on a trip to Italy

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I’m planning a trip with a couple of friends from the US to Italy for a vacation. I’ve traveled plenty within the US but have never traveled internationally before (we’re all US citizens). We’ll leave from Detroit (DTW) and arrive in Venice (VCE) with a layover along the way either in Paris (CDG) or Amsterdam (AMS). We will each have a checked bag. I’m trying to figure out how long our layover should be, and whether or not we should try and leave the airport during our layover for the chance to experience an extra city. We have a similar situation on the way back, but we’ll be flying out of a different airport in Italy, hopefully with a case of wine as one of our pieces of checked baggage!

I have a few specific questions and any additional advice is appreciated!

-Will we have to go through customs/immigration when we arrive in Paris or Amsterdam for our layover if we don’t leave the airport? All countries are part of the Schengen travel area, so would this be different on our way there versus our way home?
-Will our bags remain checked or will we need to pick them up and recheck them? Is this different if we stay in the airport versus leaving the airport? And again, does this change on the way home (specifically if we don't have to go through customs/immigration on the way home)?
-What is the minimum recommended length for a layover if we stay in the airport?
-If we leave the airport, how early do you recommend we arrive again to pick up our connecting flight?

Thanks for the help!

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