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Off to Italy and Spain this Tuesday

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After almost 15 months of research and planning, we embark on a 4-week adventure to Italy and Spain in two days. In this case, "we" are two "senior" (?) couples from Tennessee and South Carolin who traveled together four years ago to France for a 3-week holiday. My wife and I have been to Italy several times (including multiple days and nights in Rome, Venice, Umbria, and Positano/Capri, as well as numerous day-trips during those travels), the other couple not at all; we have spent a total of two days in Spain (Barcelona and Vigo), the other couple not at all.

Given our enjoyment of apartments and houses we rented in France, we're duplicating that for Italy and Spain, with the exception of staying in a hotel in Bellagio and our night near Malpensa for an early morning flight the next day to Malaga. We also love good food and wine and typical tourist-type activities (museums, beautiful scenery, people-watching, and, of course a bit of shopping).

Our basic itinerary in Italy consists of 3 nights in Rome, 7 nights in Montepulciano (with a rental car), 3 nights in Venice, 3 nights in Bellagio, and one night in Milan/Malpensa. We then fly to Malaga, rent a car, drive and stay 4 nights in Antequera, 3 nights in Sevilla (after dropping off our rental), and a train to Madrid for 3 nights. Of our total 28 days/nights, we have a rental car for 11 days, with all other travel being by train. Another thing we've learned from our past travels is to limit what we take - I'm sure we're taking more than many experienced travelers do (the equivalent of 2 carry-ons per person) but much less than we've taken in the past.

For each of these places, the four of us have spent many hours gathering and reviewing information from books and the internet (including, in my case, lots of hours reading Fodor's postings). Whenever we had short trips to visit each other at our homes, we spent lots of time planning and discussing, and enjoying not an insignificant amount of Italian and Spanish wines!

In addition to discussing and planning what to see in each city, hill town, and village, we jointly decided on our accommodations. By and large, we relied mostly on VRBO, being pretty careful to select places with lots of good reviews, often both on the individual VRBO sites as well as Trip Advisor. One of the things I've learned from previous planning and travel, however, is that there is no "perfect" place to stay, and that given more time I might have chosen one place rather than the place I selected - oh well. That's akin to having buyer's remorse upon seeing less expensive airline tickets after having already booked.

I'll try to put together a trip report when we get back (October 16), but that might be delayed until after I put together my traditional coffee table book of our trip for my wife's Christmas present.

Thanks to so many of you for your invaluable information - I'd start naming names but wouldn't know when to stop.

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