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Travel in Italy-Venice,Florence,Siena

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Ok- I have been reading others posts in hopes of finding an answer to my dilema, but I am still confused. My daughter, who is currently studying in Austria, my niece, and I will be enjoying a very rushed tour of Italy in April.

We plan to arrive in Venice early on the 23rd (that is if we get the train schedule figured out). We are short on time and will be spending the nights of the 25th and 26th in Cinque Terra. My questions are as follows: if we wanted to leave Venice around 2pm on the 24th and head to either Florence or Siena, first- which would you recommend, based on the fact we need to be in CInque Terra sometime on the 25th; and second, how you work the trenitalia website? Is there a way to look at locations and departure times to pick from? When I put in from Venice to Florence it says invalid departure and arrival, which I assume is because there are several stops in those areas, but I don't know how to figure out where they are. Since my daughter is a student she would ride 2nd class so we would prefer to just ride all together in 2nd class. Is it safe to assume that there would not be sold out tickets as it is during the week and not peek season? Can someone just give me a price on a ticket from Venice to Siena purchased last minute and one purchased in advance?

Also, my brother says we should just rent a car and drive as it will save a lot of time. I'm not sure I want to mess with finding a place for the car to stay as I have struggled enough finding a place for US to stay! Ha, ha!

Any suggestions would be appreciated! ALso, if you have suggestions on a place to stay in Florence or Siena would be great! Thanks so much and I can't wait to get to Europe-it will be my first time!

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