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Italy: 12 Days Itinerary Suggestion Wanted: With 8 and 6 year old daughters

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Hi,

We are planning our first ever trip to Italy (and first ever to any European destination together as a family) at the end of june 2014: 25 June through 8 Jul. Want suggestions for a relaxing vacation in Italy. I am currently thinking of doing Rome, Florence and Venice. Nothing set in stone yet only thing is that we have booked our flight: fly in and out of Rome from San Francisco.

Goals:
1.Keep my daughters reasonably engaged,happy and interested through the entire trip.
2. Also want us (me, my wife and kids) to relax/indulge and experience countryside and Tuscany village(s).

* Which cities/places/hotels/villas can be recommended to stay in Rome, Florence (or any surrounding cities) and Venice? Particularly that are family/kids friendly. Can we rent a villa with a pool in one of the town/village in Tuscany area - would that be too expensive for single family?
* Is Venice must? Can we simply do 4-5 days in Rome and rest in Florence/Tuscany area?
* What could be good locations/places/day trips to visit apart from these three big cities in this 12 day visit?
* After doing some initial research - thinking of traveling between cities by train. Is there a need to rent a car if we want to experience Tuscany/Florence area?
* Is end of June/First week of July too hot to roam/walk around?

Thank you!

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