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Central/Eastern Italy in September: Help Plan Our Itinerary!

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Hello Everyone,
We will be traveling to Italy from Budapest (we live there) in September. We are staying in Venice for a few days and then renting a car on September 18 at Venice Treviso around noon. We return the car at the airport in Bari, Italy one week later to fly home. This is one of many trips we are taking to Italy. We have already visited the Amalfi Coast and the Lake Como area (separately) and we have a trip to Sicily planned for early December. We plan to visit Rome and perhaps Florence in a separate trip next year.

We are pretty experienced travelers but I am looking to do something a bit different for this trip. I would like to enlist your help in coming up with an itinerary that takes us from Venice to Bari by car in 7 days. Our preference would be to base in 2-3 towns and then use the car to visit the surrounding towns. Geographically, it makes sense to me to keep things to the east of the “line” between Florence and Rome.

We definitely do not want to stay in Florence; in fact, we are not sure we even want to visit Florence on this trip since we will return to Italy again. Right now, I think we should skip it and save it to combine with Rome but I am still open minded about it. Instead, we want this trip to be a non-hectic (but active) trip that takes us to some towns that aren’t on the typical tourist itinerary. Of course, the problem with these types of places is that they aren’t necessarily covered in the guidebooks.

So, we need some help from some of you experts who have visited these places! We are in our 40’s and active/healthy so there are no limitations there. We travel on a budget but not a backpacker’s budget. My questions for you are:

Given our parameters, how would you organize this trip?
What 2 (or maybe 3?) towns would you say we should use as a base and what places would you say that we need to make sure we visit from those bases?
Do you have a special/favorite hotel, BNB or agriturismo that you would recommend?
What are your “must-see” places in central to eastern Italy?

I want to thank you in advance for your help and we are looking forward to hearing your ideas!
Ben and Amy

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