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Where in northern Italy would you go with kids and Grandma in July?

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My husband has a conference in late July (2015) in southern France, and we're thinking of making a family trip out of it, which would include 2 kids (ages 2 and 6) and my 76 year old mother. My mom loves, loves, loves Italy, so even though the conference is in France (Montpelier), we're thinking of focusing on Italy since she's getting older and we want this trip to be special for her.

My mom and I spent a few weeks in Tuscany and Cinque Terre 10 years ago and just loved it. We'd like to go somewhere new, and ideally somewhere not too, too far from southern France by train (8 hours max?).

Where would be a good place to go, to focus on easy hikes, cute small towns and great food, that isn't too hot or too crowded in July? Mom and I especially liked the easy, coastal trails in Cinque Terre and Siena on our last trip to Italy.

Thanks for any suggestions you may have.

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