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Getting from Loire Valley to Tuscany or Venice

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First time Europe visitors. Cannot wait!
We are visiting France and Italy, for approximately 8 days each. We have settled on 5 nights Paris, 4 nights Loire Valley. Self catering apartments.

My dilemna: on planning the Italy portion, which I am just beginning, I am not sure how to connect the two parts of our trip. Here's what we envision:

2 nights in Venice
5-6 nights somewhere as a base (we will rent a car) that we can reach Florence, CinqueTerre, and possibly Val D'Orcia. My daughter stayed at La Foce for her honeymoon and she raves about this area. We like to sleep in the same place each night. However it does look quite far for day trips to CT or Florence...thoughts?

We would prefer to start with the countryside and end in Venice, but we remain flexible for cost of flying back to the US (flights are not booked yet).

Any suggestions on a home base, or the logical (read cheapest) way to get from A to B would be very much appreciated. We are open to driving (looks way too far), train, flying etc. I checked the website rome2rio and expedia etc but does not look either cheap or easy, we may have to train back to Paris, and takes a long long time. Any ideas?

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