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Italy in winter for Mom & 21 year old daughter: 10 days

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My daughter JC will be going on a university exchange for a term in Belgium, starting late January 2014. She and I want to do some travel together before she starts school and we were thinking of 10 days in Italy or Spain. We're from Alberta, Canada and are quite used to really, really cold weather so travelling in Europe in winter doesn't faze us one bit - plus I'm a big baby in the summer heat. I'd rather park myself by any body of water with a cold drink close at hand during the summer than push up against hundreds of sticky tourist bodies in +30 degree weather . And the tourist crowds, I hope, would be less. Finally, I think JC wants to reserve the option to pick up travel in June and July to with her new friends and maybe some Canadians who may join her at the end of school.
We're both on a budget so no expensive hotels for us, but then I'm not prepared to do the hostel-around-Europe experience again at, ahem, my age. We are easy to please, however, so accommodation in convents or BnB's or small hotels/apartments would be okay.
So, I'm starting out with researching the Italy option. Here's what I'm thinking for a beginning itinerary for Italy:
Day 1: Fly from Brussels to Venice, hopefully in the morning.
Day 2,3: Venice
Day 4: Travel from Venice to Florence in the morning
Day 5, 6: Florence
Day 7: Travel Florence to Rome in the morning
Day 8,9: Rome
Day 10: Fly back to Brussels

Suggestions for airlines to use from Brussels? Can we do this itinerary successfully using train travel within Italy? Would it be more fun (or would it just be plain crazy) for us to rent a car so we have the freedom of the travel days to stop off at the little towns in between the big cities? Suggestions for accommodations?
Any comments or suggestions about any of this would be so very welcome. Please and thanks!!!

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