|Subject: Re: Trip to Italy - Cinque Terre / Venice/ Florence|
First of all, I don't think you are spending more time than you should at the sites you have selected. The problem is that most people who are not experienced in travel spend too little time to savor what they can. I can (and do) easily spend a week or two, at least in the Venice area and, especially Florence, taking in nearby sights such as Padua, Verona, and Bassano del Grappa, which are near Venice, and the many Tuscan towns and cities near Florence like Siena.
Second, the places you name are served by train. Venice and Florence are very easy to reach, but Cinque Terre requires a bit more changing. One good site for information is http://www.ferrovie.it/ Many people prefer http://www.raileurope.com But I prefer the former for smaller Italian cities. I also find things like RailEurope's Eurailpasses rather overpriced. Once you get over what is usually a bit of fear of dealing with train stations (the larger ones have people that speak excellent English), you typically find point-to-point is your best deal.
Another option is simply to try an Italian travel agent--many train stations have one on the premises as well as ordinary ticket windows. I don't think you pay a premium for booking train tickets though any travel agent since the train company subsidizes things.
Let me make one suggestion since you are leaving from Milan. Instead of Cinque Terre, consider Como and the lake district. I am an avid photographer and find nothing better than to spend a day on one of the boats around the lake. The area is magnificent; restaurants like Le Catene are superb; hotels are reasonably priced, and, perhaps best of all, access to Malpensa airport is only slightly longer than from Milan. In turn, Milan, being a business city, is extremely expensive for the few things that you want to see (a day trip from Como to see the Last Supper and the Duomo area might do it). The only problem with access from Como is that the buses to the airport do not run very early in the morning. We once had to take a somewhat expensive ($60) cab, but the total cost was still far less than we would have paid at a Milan airport given Milan hotel prices.
Ira H. Bernstein Dallas, TX USA