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Puglia -- Worth it???

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We have planned a trip at the end of May beginning in Venice (4 nights), Bologna (2 nights) then Puglia (6 nights -- staying in Polignano a Mare, Monopoli, and Lecce) From these towns we would do day trips to Alberobello, Locorotondo, Martina Franca, Ostuni, Gallipoli... (By the way, we are driving each route, except for the return which we would fly from Brindisi back to Venice.)
Athough the food and people sound wonderful, after reading various posts and trip reports (esp. jamikins and bikerscott), I began to have a few concerns (in no particular order):
1) Amount of driving (esp. tedious driving)
2) Lack of scenery between locations
3) Very poor condition of roads, especially when travelling to the small towns
4) Confusing directions (everyone speaks of getting lost regularly even with a GPS)
5) People's hesitancy to drive at night (going to town for dinner...) (b/c of #3 & #4)
5) English not commonly spoken
We tremendously enjoy getting off the beaten path, and have already visited all the major cities in Italy, that's why Puglia seemed enticing. I have never changed gears after planning a trip, except years ago when first planning Croatia. (We did go a couple of years later, and it is one of our favorites, along with the coast of Turkey...etc.)

We do not mind a lot of driving, changing hotels, etc. Yet, like most travelers, and coming from the US, I don't want to make a mistake. I cannot help but consider how, possibly, a change of itinerary might be wise.

We are now considering making a change.
Venice, Bologna would remain the same, then contemplating:

Verona, Lake Garda, The Dolomites
OR
Solvenia (Ljublijana, Lake Bled...)

I would appreciate your thoughts, advice, (corrections to my thinking!), recommendations!
Any Fodorites to the rescue?

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