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Italy - best two central locations

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Friends heading to southern Italy. Visits with family for a few days at the start and end of the trip with time in between to tour around, so we need to land back down south at the end. We want to do way too much over the 21 days so figure we need to be somewhat flexible in the transportation. Also need to be flexible in case family trips are planned. Here is our wish list:

Sicily - may be a family trip as we will be close to the Messina, but not sure if that is a day on a train, car or simply this round. If you had one day in Sicily where would you go? It will take us an hour to get to Messina.

Matera/Bali/East Coast - Trying to figure out the best way to see this area. Train from Lamezia area or Catanzaro would be nice and then are there buses that take you into the region? We are thinking a very long day trip, but maybe this might be the one where we start a train to the rest of Italy from where we will be staying (in between Lamezia/Catanzaro)? Help? I really would love to see these beautiful places.

Now into the travelling away from home base ...We are looking for two central spots...we think?

One to use for commute/day trips to Pompeii/AC/Rome/Naples with Sorrento, Rome and Pompeii hiking up the volcano must dos. Was thinking Formia/Gaeta area but now wondering if it would be better to stay in Sorrento and just commute a couple days to Rome?

The other area would be north and just can't decide. We'd love to see the Verona area (i.e. wine and history) for a day, also go to Cinque Terre (hopefully some of the hike but likely have to do train/bus too as will only have a day), Florence/Pisa (this is a much looked forward to stop with history, art and shopping) and Tuscany (Wine and Hot Springs / baths). Is Bologna a good place, or Genoa, of just stay closer to Florence and commute up...or maybe more than two bases? Or??

We know we have an incredible amount packed in and don't mind long days/train trips. We will be there in May.

Help please? We are going to taking trains/buses and may have to do a tour of Tuscany if limited time. We don't mind renting a car if it is better for any part of the trip, but prefer not to if possible??

Thanks to all for your help!

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