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driving from Barcelona to Venice by car

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My wife and I are planning a trip to Europe next May (2013). We are contemplating flying to Barcelona and spending a few days. We'd like to rent a car and spend a couple of weeks driving to Venice thru southern France and into Italy, perhaps trying a self-guided walking tour on the Italian coast south of Genoa. We want to turn the car in at Venice, and spend a few days there before flying home. I have driven in Europe many times, although not for 30 years. I'm sure things have changed some! My wife has never been there, and I'm looking forward to having her experience Europe. We are in our mid-60's. Any advice on places to stay, sightseeing ideas, car rental or flying tips to reduce expenses, etc. would be greatly appreciated.

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