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Seeking input on plans for three regions of Italy

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My husband and I are planning, in conjunction with several other couples, a trip to Italy In Fall 2013. We would like to identify a base point for each of three regions of Italy where we plan to rent a villa for a week for each region. We will focus mainly on northern to central Italy. We want to use the three bases as jumping off points to visit areas such as Cinque Terre, Florence, Tuscany, the Lakes region, Venice, Pisa, Sienna and Verona (not in that order). We will most likely fly into Milan and plan to leave from Rome where we will spend a few days prior to our departure.

Does anyone have any experience with such a trip? Can you recommend three possible base points that would help us to accomplish our goals? Although we will most likely rent cars, we are also interested in locations that allow us to use trains as a means of travel whenever it makes more sense. This will be our first trip to Italy so we are not familiar with distances and time for travel.

Any thoughts and input are much appreciated. Thank you!

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