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2 BFF 47 yr old travel newbies

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So, the children are now grown and living their own lives - yay! My best friend and I have decided that it's about time to venture outside the US. We'd like to make it count and stay for about a month in Europe. The only MUST SEE destination is Italy, aside from that we're open to suggestions. We're not looking for a touristy or even 'fast track' kind of trip. We're both pretty chill, healthy, somewhat active, 47 yr old women who have known each other since we were 10 yrs old. We both LOVE to eat, drink and definitely meet people and be merry, although we're not looking for a party experience either, we can get that here. We want to experience the culture, the beauty, the lifestyle, the food, etc of Europe. Who knows, maybe I'll decide to stay for good:)
Neither of us have a lot of money and will be saving up for this over the next year. So, while we cannot afford to go 1st class, we don't need to slum it either. I know there are quite a few hostels that are actually very good, so we're certainly not 'above that'.
Any advice &/or suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated!!
Thanks so very much!
K&R

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