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Rome to Venice to Florence to Rome - best way to get around

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We are 2 adults and 2 college age kids flying into Rome in May. We want to hit the big 3 cities and need help. Time-wise, we thought that, since we will be landing in Rome and will already be in the airport, we should just fly to Venice . Alitalia rates now seem to be about $175 a head. Hopefully there are smaller airlines that fly the route for less maoney...

Does that seem like a reasonable plan of action? Or is the train much preferred?

We then thought we would rent a car when we leave Venice and drive to Florence, keeping the car for day trips, and dropping it off when we get to Rome.

Given the extra cost of gas and drop-off charges, is it better to train it from Venice to Florence to Rome for the 4 of us? We would then have to hire a driver or take a tour for the day trips...HELP!

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