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One Month in Italy - Where would you base yourself?

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Hi everyone,

My husband and I are toying with the idea of spending 3-4 weeks in Italy later this year. We've been several times now, but a week vacation goes by so fast. We want the chance to rent an apartment, relax more, and sink into the local way of life. With so many options and not having done a trip like this before, I wanted to get some ideas from folks who may have done it before....so where would you choose to base yourself in Italy for a month?

Here's what we're looking for:
-A place where we could spend 75% of the time in that town, and approximately the remaining 25% taking day trips. I speak Italian well enough to get by, so we'd be open to less touristy places where a little Italian could be helpful for day-to-day. We love places that are off the tourist radar.
-We have been to Rome, Florence, much of Tuscany, and Cinque Terre. High on our list to explore is northern Italy (Emilia Romagna, lake region, Venice) and southern Italy (Amalfi coast, Puglia).
-We love food/wine/cooking, architecture, and being by the water.

Our timing is unknown at this point. Location might inform when we travel, but then again so may our work demands. Clearly, we want to avoid July/August due to heat and crowds. And at this point, a spring trip would be hard to pull off with only a few months to plan - so it's likely we would be there in September or October. I don't know much about apartment rentals, and am wondering if there are certain areas or cities where it's easier to come by one, or where we'd be less reliant on a car and could easily walk most everywhere, and catch a train to other cities for day trips. (although we've driven in Italy before and wouldn't mind renting a car if need be)

So again, if you could go to Italy for a month, and wanted to play local, rather than tourist, where would you choose to go? Thanks for helping us get the creative juices flowing!

Kaitlyn

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