|Subject: RE: Italy Itinerary|
If this were my first trip to Italy, here is what I would see:
Venice - 3 nights/2days get off the main tourist route and see the back streets - Dorsoduro, the area around north of San Marco (the big church in that neighborhood is called San Giovanni e Paolo) - we found a nice trattoria/pizzeria near there, the name of which is at home), the Frari church, a boat to Torcello if you like really old churches with few people around, and a ride up the Grand Canal while sitting in the back of the boat (the water busses) to see the view.
Morning train to Florence. See Florence for 2 days/2 nights. Uffizi with reservations, the Duomo and Baptistry (early to avoid the crowds), Santa Croce, San Marco (interesting monestary frescos), Palazzo Vecchio, bus to Fiesole, wandering around...shopping...we found the archaeology museum interesting, too...
Pick up a rental car for a week and drive through Tuscany and Umbria, ending in Rome. Visit San Gimignano, drive through Chianti, Siena, Perugia, Assisi, Spello, Torgiano (nice wine history museum and an olive oil museum I missed), maybe Orvieto if you have time (many people rave about it, but I didn't think it was THAT great, although the Duomo is beautiful and we had a nice lunch there). We keep missing Todi, but people say it's pretty, but crowded in summer. We visited quite a number of little towns last summer - you can email me for more detail.
You could do a week rental and take day trips, but it would be a long day trip to Umbria. I would probably stay for 4 nights in Castellina in Chianti (hotelsalivolpi.com is an idea) and three nights in Assisi and day trip into Perugia. Assisi is one of the nicest hill towns, not too crowded, and with a variety of things to see, and a good base to get around the Val D'Umbra. Don't miss the view from the castle at the top of Assisi. We did enjoy Gubbio, but it would be an all day side trip - it looks close on the map, but it was a good 1.5-2hour drive each way. Great town, though!
As long as you have a good map book (an Atlante Stradale, which you can pick up at a good book store in Florence), you shouldn't get lost. The more detailed map books have even the tiny roads on them, as well as a plethora or city maps in the back.
Drop car off in Rome. Finish trip with the last 4 nights/3 days MINIMUM. We always spend at least 5 nights in Rome on every trip. We love the city and there is ALOT to see, depending on your interests. This summer will be our 6th time in Rome. I would live there if I could!
There are only 16 nights listed because I am assuming your 17 days include the day you are leaving, in which case you loose one night on the plane.
Just food for thought. We love to see art, architecture, archaeology, and wander around peaceful towns watching taking in the local scene.