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Logistics for 3 weeks in mostly northern Italy

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Can you help me with a general route idea and transportation planning for a 3 week trip starting in mid May? We fly in and out of Milan Malpensa which I know is north of the city up towards the lakes. I don't think we are going to go into Milan itself at all, and we'd likely spend our last night somewhere in the lakes area with fairly easy access to the airport for our 11:00 am flight home to the US.

Here is what we are thinking: Maybe a week in an apartment Venice outside of the super touristy center; we could also do some day trips if we want. We've been to Venice before, but it was over New Year's for five days, and the weather was cold. Or, will Venice be so crazy and overrun with tourists at this time of year that we wouldn't want that much time there?

We want to see some of the lakes--maybe Maggiore and Como since out goal is to see beautiful gardens and nice villas, to do some walking, and to take the ferries to see some lovely scenery. I think maybe we'd want one base on each lake (if those are our best choices) since we much prefer trips where we can settle into an apartment-type place rather than moving from hotel to hotel all the time. I'm also wondering about a day or two in Verona and a day or two in Ravenna (I was there 40 years ago and loved it).

Here is the kicker though. We want to do a week-long bicycle trip and had originally thought we'd do one in the north. After intensive researching, the one we've found that the one we really want to do is in Umbria (not exactly in the Veneto or Lakes district). So I also need to figure out how and when in this itinerary to get to Assisi for a week.

I know the train will be our solution for most of this trip but am wondering it a rental car would make sense for the lakes region with a drop or pick up in Assisi. And, if we were to do this itinerary, if we devote a week to Venice and a week to our bike trip, how should we split up the other days? What that I have mentioned, other than Venice and the bike trip, could be reduced or eliminated? We have exactly 21 days for the trip. We've done lots of European trips and, although we like art works, churches etc,, we know that those things eventually blend together in a haze in our minds while the general ambience of places stays with us. So, we are not really all that focused on doing all of the big tourist sites. If you've got some suggestions, I'd really appreciate the help. Thanks.

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