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Family of five now needs help splitting time between Rome and Venice

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Hello, I posted a couple of weeks ago as to how to split our Christmas vacation in Italy. At the time, I was thinking of splitting time between Rome and Verona. However, I was convinced by the respnses to my post to fly into Rome and out of Venice instead. Well, the tickets are bought and we will fly into Rome on the 23d of December and leave Venice on the 5th of January. That will give us 12 days in Italy (excluding arrival day). However, two of those days will be holidays. We will be two parents and three daughters (13, 16, and 20 at the time of the trip).

Here is my question: Except for a brief cruise stop years ago, none of us have been to Rome, but my husband and the girls have been to Venice. My iniital instinct was to stay in Rome until the 31st or the 1st and tthen travel to Venice for the last 4 or 5 days. That would allow us to get apartments in those two cities, instead of two hotel rooms in each place, both saving money and the aggravation of moving around. Another option would be to stay longer in Rome, making day trips to some of the surrounding areas, and then get a hotel in Venice for the last couple of days. I'm certain that we could fill up more time in Rome, but a third option would be to visit Florence for a couple of days before heading to Venice for a day or two.

Here are my questions: If we decided to stay for the longer period in Venice, is it easy to take day trips to surrounding areas (thus placating the "already been to Venice" crowd), or will the logistics of Venice make getting to/from the trains a problem? Considering that we are traveling with kids, would you opt for hotels in Venice and perhaps Florence instead of an apartment in Venice? I've purchased some books, and I am reading them to see what looks interesting. However, I'm feeling a bit panicky because it seems as if the best apartments in Rome are already filling for the holidays. There seems to be more availability in Venice (however not my first couple of choices), but again, they are filling up. I just think that if I get lodging issues settled, I can "dig in" and determine what we need to do!

So, recognizing the compromises necessary when traveling in a group of five :), what would you experienced Italy travelers recommend? Thanks in advance!

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