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Looking for clean & reputable hotels in Venice, Florence and Rome!

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After much researching and discussions about my upcoming trip to Italy in Sept 2015, I have decided to forgo the "bus type tour" (which initially I thought would be easier, less intimidating in a foreign country and less stressful- of which I was advised in most cases would not be the case from many well travelled folks here on Fodors) but....
after just reading a recent poster on this website claim "Tripadvisor fined in Italy over fake reviews"....
I am back to posting another question!

I actually did quite a bit of reading on the Tripadvisor (as I am not familiar with other similar sites) looking for good, clean, well run hotels in Venice, Florence and Rome and had narrowed a few down but now I am back to asking my fellow travellers.....help....!

Because I have never been to Europe, I have no idea if a four star in the US equates to a four star hotel in Italy. Not being familiar with any other sites similar to TA, I have in fact, trusted Tripadvisor on many trips to cities such as New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Nashville,Orlando, Montreal etc and actually always found the hotels I chose to be excellent based on high ratings from TA. (please no posts on how naive this may be- I am saying it worked for me many times)
I myself, have posted glowing reviews on a number of hotels in these listed cities.
I do believe it can be a useful tool in selecting hotels, tours, restaurants etc.

If anyone here has some great suggestions for clean, fairly central, friendly hotels in any of these Italian cities... that would be greatly appreciated! (price max $400/night)
thanks to all in advance!

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