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Pt 1 (Venice, Florence) of 31 day Italy itinerary in 2 wks-can you help?

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Hello all,

I am polishing up the final details of a 31 day trip to Italy that begins in less than two weeks! I’ll be traveling with DH and two teenage sons, ages 14 and 16. This is my fifth trip to Italy, and DH and I have driven around Tuscany on our last trip, so we have a bit of experience. It’s the first trip to Europe for our boys, and we want to make it a wonderful family experience.

I’ve done a lot of research here and on other sites (notably Trip Advisor), and I’m listing the restaurants and other specifics below to help others who might be looking for suggestions. One thing I did this trip for the first time was to research restaurants and ask the hotels to make the actual reservations. In the past I have done that myself by email; having the hotels do it is much easier!

I’m also hoping that some of the more experienced Italy travelers out there can help me fill in the areas that are still not as “planned” as I’d like.

Since it’s a long itinerary, I’m going to post in small parts. However, here’s the overview:

Fly into Venice. Stay 4 nights
Train to Florence. Stay 5 nights
Drive to San Gimignano. Stay 2 nights
Drive to Siena. Stay 4 nights
Drive to Orvieto. Stay 1 night
Train to Rome. Stay 4 nights
Train to Naples, private driver to Positano. Stay 7 nights
Return to Rome. Stay 2 nights
Fly home from Rome

So, here’s part 1, and I would truly appreciate any input!

Venice and Florence
Day 1: Arrive in Venice 11:15 am
After check-in at the Residenza Corte Grimani, if we have the energy we can take a ride on Vaporetto #1, enjoy a leisurely lunch somewhere, and hopefully pick up a few groceries for breakfast. We’ll also pick up the Multi-Day vaporetto tickets, since I think my sons will truly enjoy riding around that way.
Dinner reservations at Hostaria Gallileo

Day 2: 9:00 am private tour of Doge’s Palace and Basilica San Marco.
After that is unplanned. We’ll probably just walk around, but if anyone has any suggestions on how to use the time better, I’d appreciate them.
Dinner reservations at Da Mamo

Day 3: Early tour of Basilica de San Marco (can I pre-book entry here?), then go to the top of the Campanile (being very careful NOT to be at the top on the hour, which can be deafening), and then we’re free, so I’m looking for suggestions here.

We’ll take a gondola ride in the evening before dinner, which is not booked. Does anyone know of the best way to get a good deal on these rides? Also, what time would you recommend in order to get to dinner by 8:00?

Dinner reservations at La Porta D’Acqua

Day 4: Possible boat tour to Murano/visit Accademia in the later part of the day. Any suggestions here would be most appreciated!
Dinner reservations at Ai Mercanti

Florence
Day 5: Train to Florence. I booked these tickets online back in April, and I think we got good fares at 44 Euro each. We arrive in Florence at 1:30, and after check-in at Hotel Hermitage, we can visit the church at Santa Croce and explore the area around the Ponte Vecchio and Piazza della Signoria.
Dinner reservations at Trattoria Quattro Leoni on the Oltrarno, where we have eaten before, and really enjoyed the relaxed feeling on that side of the river.

Day 6: Visit the Bargello early in the day, since it can get extremely hot, then possibly tour the Duomo, Baptistry area. Would it be too much to try to squeeze in the Medici Chapels?
Dinner reservations at Ristorante il Pennello

Day 7: Private tour of Uffizi Gallery with Freya’s Florence at 10:00 am. I have toured the Uffizi with a private tour, using the audio guides, and with Rick Steves in hand; it’s always wonderful, but I thought the private tour would be best for the boys’ first trip. It’s practically an art history course!

Then we’ll have time for a quick panini lunch before we head over to the Accademia, where I have pre-booked entry at 2:00. I thought we’d get the major art all in one day; we’ll see how that works out, and I’ll let you know.

Dinner reservations at La Burrasca.

Day 8: Monday, so I know that many museums will be closed. So this might be the day to visit the Medici Chapel. If it’s open, we’ll go to the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens. Otherwise, we’re also interested in cooking classes, so if anyone can recommend a nice lunch time class, we’d love to know about it.
Dinner reservations at Antica Tratorria da Tito

Day 9: totally unplanned! That could be fun, so we’re completely open to any help here.
Dinner: Vini e Vecchi Saporo

Thanks to all who have read this far. I hope to receive some helpful tips.

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