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South of France and Northern Italy May 4th to 26th 2013

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My wife and I are planning a trip to Southern France and Northern Italy May 4-26 2013 and are in need of some advice and ideas, especially regarding how to get from Aigues-Morte to Florence and what to do along the way. We are over 40 and our interests include medieval art and architecture, Roman architecture, gothic art and architecture ( crypts and cemeteries are good ), nature and good eating/drinking. Wife is professional photographer who likes Chardonnay, I'm more into craft beers. We are medieval recreationists but also like ancient history and art nouveau.
We had planned to rent a car at the Marseille airport and have it on hand to day trip out from Aigue-Morte and then to drive it along the coast, eventually arriving in Florence where we would drop it off and take the train to Rome but it seems there is a very steep tariff for picking the car up in France and returning it in Italy. We could return the car in Marseille and take a train from Marseille to Venice or? We saw a show on the Dolomites and they look fantastic but it seems we are a bit early, the tram opens on May 19th and most hotels seem to be closed but driving might still be worth it? I've heard Venice is a must see but very touristy so perhaps just a day trip?
This is our guess at an itinerary so far:

4-May-13 Head to Sacramento, CA
5-May-13 Arrive in Marseille at 2pm,rent a car, drive to Aigue-Morte, Check in hotel around 4pm
6-May-13 Carcassonne w/friends or Arles, Avignon, Monteux
7-May-13 Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer - Walk and see the white horses and flamingos along the beach
8-May-13 Battle of the Nations in Aigue-Morte
9-May-13 Battle of the Nations in Aigues-Morte
10-May-13 Battle of the Nations in Aigues-Morte
11-May-13 Battle of the Nations in Aigues-Morte
12-May-13 Battle of the Nations in Aigues-Morte
13-May-13 Nice or San Remo or ?
14-May-13 Genoa or?
15-May-13 Venice and/or Dolomites
16-May-13 Venice and/or Dolomites
17-May-13 Venice and/or Dolomites
18-May-13 Florence, Villa Demidoff: Appennine Colossus
19-May-13 Florence, Stibbert Museum
20-May-13 Florence, catch train to Rome in the afternoon – Return Rental Car
21-May-13 Rome: Capuchin Crypt
22-May-13 Rome: Coliseum
23-May-13 Rome: Pantheon
24-May-13 Rome: Sistine Chapel
25-May-13 Rome: Museums
26-May-13 Fly out of Rome 12:55pm Arrive in SAC at 11:30pm, drive home 2 hours , collapse

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