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France or Italy this year

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After missing 1 year due to family issues, we are beginning to plan a late September-early October vacation with our long-time travelling partners. We are 2 couples, late-50's to early 60's, all energetic and in good health.

Normally, I do most of the overall itinerary planning (basically, where will we go and when) and the other couple likes to do research on hotels, B&Bs, etc. We then decide on the daily itineraries all together, and this has worked out great over the last 10 years or so. Nothing has been decided yet, but I like 2 potential routes, and would like some suggestions and recommendations.

We like a combination of country and city (probably a little more country), beautiful scenery to drive through, good food and wine, (lots of wine!) some interesting museums, nature. The older we get , the more we seem to enjoy a slower, relaxing pace, where we can enjoy the good company of both our friends and the locals.

One possibility is Southwestern France - Bordeaux and Dordogne. Sarlat seems to be a favorite of many here. If we were to split our time between 2 bases, and Sarlat was one, what would the other be?
Also, what would be the best way to reach this area from Northeastern US? Fly to Paris and train to Bordeaux? Would Toulouse be too far away?

Our other possibility would be Northeastern Italy. Splitting our time by starting in or near Bologna, then moving to Veneto countryside with the ability to visit Verona, Vicenza, Padua, possibly the Dolomites. We've all been to Venice several times before, so it would not be a priority to return this trip. I suppose we could fly into either Rome or Milan and train to Bolongna for starters. I'm a bit more familiar with Italy than with the section of France above.

Whichever we choose this year, we hope to do the other in a subsequent - but am having a hard time landing on this year's destination.

Thanks for any suggestions.

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