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Barcelona and Italy itinerary...hotels all set, need help w some details

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Hello fellow travelers,

I first started planning this trip under the topic "Barcelona, Lake Como and...?" I will be traveling with my DH and two teenage sons, ages 18 and 16. They are fairly seasoned travelers, as we had extended vacations the past two summers in France, Switzerland and Italy. Click on my name for trip reports.

Thanks to tips from many of you, I was able to put together the following itinerary. We have our flights and hotels. Now, I'd appreciate any suggestions to help things flow smoothly. Also, please share any favorite activities or restaurants in any of the towns. We like small family-style restaurants with atmosphere.

Here is what we have so far:
Day 1: Fly JFK to Barcelona. Arrive 9:40 am Day 2
Stay: Hotel Colon, check-in is 2:00 pm. Hoping we can drop the bags and go somewhere nearby for lunch, then very light sightseeing around the cathedral area.

Days 3, 4, 5: Barcelona
This is our first trip to Barcelona, or anywhere in Spain. We have done some research and plan to do a lot more, but if anyone has any "must do's" please share.

Day 6: Go to Genoa, then on to Santa Margherita Ligure
How we'll get there is still undecided. I have done preliminary research on the Grimaldi cruise ferry line, and that looks like a nice way to travel. However it does take 19 hours, and we need to decide if we'd rather spend that time on a ship or on the Italian Riviera. The other alternative would be to fly. If anyone can share their experience with either of these, thank you so much in advance!

Once we get to Genoa, we'll take the train to SML.
Days 6, 7, 8, 9 (or only 7, 8, 9 if we take the overnight cruise): Santa Margherita Ligure
Staying at Hotel Continental. If anyone else is going to SML this summer, I'd suggest booking hotels ASAP. That was the most difficult reservation to get.

Day 10: leave SML, go to Lake Como
We'll travel by train, and I still haven't planned that out yet, but I imagine we'll go through Genoa to Milan and then on to Varenna, where we'll catch a ferry. This should be quite a day!

Days 10, 11, 12, 13: Stay in Bellagio at Hotel Firenze
No specific plans yet, but we'll cruise around the lake, visit Varenna. Does anyone have any suggestions for this part of the trip?

Day 14: leave Bellagio, take train to Siena
We will pick up a rental car in Siena.

Days 14, 15, 16: Stay in Siena at Palazzo Ravizza
We've stayed there before, and it is ideal for driving in and out of town. We'll take various day trips to surrounding hill towns.

Day 16: leave Siena, drive to San Gimignano
Days 16, 17: Stay in San Gimignano at La Cisterna
We've stayed here twice before; it's a nice hotel with a fantastic view. We're so excited to return! We'll probably spend one day there, and the other day visit a town nearby.

Day 18: leave San Gimignano, drive to Florence
Days 18, 19, 20: Stay in Florence at Torre Guelfa
I think my sons will really like this ancient hotel. We'll probably stay in Florence during the days, even though we have a car, since it's so difficult to drive in and out of Florence.

This part still seems a bit rough. We're flying out of Pisa, so we have to spend our last night there. It seems like the best way to get to Pisa is to drive there and then drop the car at the airport before we leave. However. we'll have the car in Florence for 3 days that we aren't using it. Does anyone see a way to improve this?

We have the option to drop the car in Florence, but then we'd have to pay for 4 train tickets to Pisa, and the cab to the airport. So, I'm not sure we'd end up saving much overall...

Day 21: drive (or train) to Pisa
If we drive, we might leave Florence early and go to Lucca first. After spending most of the day in Lucca, we'd continue on to Pisa...
DH and I have seen the Leaning Tower, and didn't much care for the area. My sons will probably be glad to see it, though. We are staying at B&B Il Campanile, which is right near the Tower. I was wondering how safe that area is at night, and whether it might be fun to walk over to the tower at night and see the buildings all lit up.

Day 22: fly back to JFK

So, it looks like a good start, but I'm hoping that some of you fellow travelers will help me to polish up the details! Thanks for your thoughts...

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