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First time taking kids - Italy or France itinerary help needed

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We are planning to take our 13 year-old and10 year-old to Europe next April or July.

We would like to stay in a city for a few days and then travel to smaller towns. Years ago my husband and I visited Lake Como, Florence and Tuscany and really enjoyed the slower pace of the smaller towns. Likewise we have been to Paris and then down to Provence and Nice. However I don't remember any of the travel times.

With the kids we will have only 9 days. I'm looking for recommendations on itineraries that kids would enjoy and are not too hectic. For example, if we flew into Rome and spent a few days there, and wanted to end up eventually in Venice, what smaller towns could we visit that would be enjoyable to just relax and soak up the culture?

Others on this board have said that Rome is not to be missed. Would you agree? Or is a northern Italy itinerary just as rewarding?

Another idea - Paris to Provence and then spend a day or two sightseeing from Nice, possibly into Italy?

Thank you for all suggestions. i understand that I'm all over the map, so to speak.

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