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Venice & Bologna -- which one first?

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Hello everyone,

My husband and I will be spending 2 weeks in Italy--the last week of September and first week of October. We will be flying in and out of Venice. We'd like to spend at least 3 nights in Venice and about a week in Bologna (renting an apartment and taking a couple of day trips by train--we're thinking Parma and Modena). We aren't sure about the remaining 3 nights.

Here are my questions--

1) Does anyone have any suggestions about where to spend the remaining 3 nights/days? We've been to Rome several times, as well as Florence, other parts of Tuscany, and the Amalfi coast. We'd like to avoid renting a car. We love exploring large city neighborhoods, relaxing, people-watching, but also appreciate more rural, scenic, or smaller-town destinations. Should we just extend our time in Venice and do day trips?

2) Does anyone have any thoughts as to whether we should spend the first 3 nights of our trip in Venice, then move on to Bologna, etc. from there, or whether we should go directly from the Venice airport to the nearest train station (not sure if that would be Santa Lucia or Mestre) and take the train to Bologna? Whatever we decide, we want to spend our final night in Venice as we have a morning flight home. We're wondering whether there will be much difference as to crowds, weather, festivals or other events if we spend our 3 days in Venice at the beginning (last week of Sept) as opposed to the end (first week of Oct). Also, would one be a lot easier than the other logistically (in terms of time spent on airport transfers and getting to train stations) than the other?

Thanks very much!

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