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Italy places to stay outside of the major cities

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We will be in Italy in May of 2014 and are wanting to stay outside of the major towns. We'll do day trips in if close enough but we are hoping more for a trip that is less touristy and more involved in the local towns. But that being said, it's hard to find in guidebooks that discuss small towns that would be great to stay in. Most talk about the majors (Rome, Venice etc) but we have no idea what would be some great towns and villages. We have 4 children but are up for walking, hiking, visiting towns etc. We will be there for 4 weeks so are thinking 2 weeks somewhere more northern and 2 weeks a bit more southern. Any recommendations? We will be booking houses as our accommodations (using homeaway and vrbo unless someone has another option?). Thanks for your help!

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