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Comments and recs on itinerary: Venice - Varenna

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Would appreciate your comments and ideas, and responses to my questionsregarding our upcoming trip to Venice and Varenna in the Lake Como area.

We arrive in Venice from the US on Aug. 26. Will spend 4 nights at the Starhotels Splendid. That choice was dictated by my having hotel points to use up. Would appreciate comments on any firsthand experiences with the hotel and best/worst rooms. We've been to Venice a few times, but any recs for restaurants and "hidden" attractions you liked would be much appreciated. Also, any money-saving tips. Are the various discount cards worth getting?

We plan to leave Venice on Aug. 30 for Varenna as our ultimate destination. Any recs you have about food, day trips and sights in the Lakes area would be appreciated

Question 1: Our plan is to rent a car at Marco Polo. We chose that locale because (a) we'll be returning to MC to fly out (tried to return via Milan; couldn't make it work) and (b) the prices and options were better than at Piazzale Roma. The cost of renting the car until our return on Sep, 7 is about $500. Two round-trip train tickets would be a total of about $360. It seems that the flexibility of having the car for day trips plus getting to Varenna faster would make the car seem worth it, instead of the train. Or am I missing something?

Question 2: Assuming we rent the car. Our accommodation in Var (just outside of town, actually) for Aug. 31-Sep. 7 is the Camilla apartment rented by Marilena. It gets good reviews on TripAdvisor and elsewhere, and she's been very responsive with info and assistance. Also, there's parking there. That means we have a free night (Aug. 30) between Ve and Var. At first, we thought we'd spend an extra night in Venice, but now our thought is to stay somewhere in between Ve and Var, Where? We're considering a wine-country agriturismo but don't know which one. Most of them are not on the straight-line route between the two places, but I'm not going to obsess about a few extra miles and hours. If you can recommend anything, agriturismo or otherwise, that would be great.

On Sep. 7, we head back to Venice. We have an a.m. flight on Sep. 8, so our plan is to stay at the Titian Hotel near the airport for the night of the 7th. We've stayed there before and found it convenient and a good value.

Thanks

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