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Italy for 5 months starting Feb 2013

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Hello, I have just discovered this great site and need some advice. I have been researching travel in Italy and have chosen Florence as a base for about 4-5 months next year to paint and write. I have joined several house minding sites in the vain hope (feels a little distant as I write this) of securing a place to stay . I don't mind looking after pets, household duties, anything that needs fixing (within reason). I have brilliant references etc. Am I being a bit too fanciful here? An alternative would be to find some reasonable accommodation for a medium stay in a smaller town close to transport/markets etc (even Southern Italy would be considered). I realise it is going to be cold but that does not bother me. I'm on a tight budget. My spoken Italian is getting better but has a long way to go. Can anyone give me some good advice about the medium stay accommodation options or recommended reading on this subject. I am surrounded by a plethora of travel books at present. Thank you for this great service and to anyone that takes the time to respond.

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