My family of 4 took a trip to Italy and the places you mentioned in early July 2008. This is a country you can easily navigate without a tour group, as we did, but I strongly suggest you do the following:
Plan ahead- Find a good travel guide and start reading- (I like Rick Steves) Tripadvisor.com is a good place to get reviews of hotels but be careful, some reviewers just like to whine. Make a list of the top things you would like to do, and whittle it down to one major activity a day.
Transportation: If its just the two of you, trains are a good option, they run frequently and are cheaper than renting a car. Marriott has a great reward certificate with Hertz, but gas is 1.50 euros per liter or $9.60 U.S. dollars per gallon. If you want to visit Tuscany and it's hill towns, a rental car is really the only convenient option. So I'd use public transportation within the cities you visit, trains to get you from one city to another, and rent a car for just a couple of days to get you into the countryside.
Book ahead- May is a good time to go and a lot of people know it. You'll be lucky if you can get a room at the Marriott Grand Flora in the center of Rome it always books early. In the remaining locations you'll have a fighting chance of using regular points if you book early, but book late and you will run into availability issues or have to use double points.
Start A Travel Fund: You'll need lots of cash to pay for this trip the dolllar vs the euro is not good, a 100 euro hotel room is 160 dollar hotel room. And by the way, good luck finding a 100 euro hotel room.
Marriott Hotels: Here's what I remember about Marriott Properties in Italy: Rome-The full service Marriott Grand Flora is hard to get a room using points, there's a new to the Marriott franchise property (which I know nothing about) near the Vatican. The remaining hotel locations, in my opinion, are not good for enjoying Rome. The Naples Renaissance is nice but the city of Naples isn't, The hotel on Capri is really nice, but not much to do on Capri, so that's a good spot to hang out and do nothing. If doing Venice, stay in Venice or the island of Guidecca, the airport location just isn't a good location. We did not visit Milan.
Miscellaneous: We found the people friendly but learn a few Italian phrases to get the conversation started. Get a Commerce Bank Visa Credit Card, you can withdrawl cash without fees from any bank in Italy as well as charge purchases without any of those 2% and 3% transaction fees that other Visa/Mastercard/American Express cards charge. Book reservations ahead of time to the top sites. I like booking live tour guides to ruins like the Colloseum or the Forum and use audio guides for churches and museums.
If you want more details, let me know, but hopefully that will get you started. Ciao- ttz
I live in Italy (Milan since 14 years now) and I won various MVC properties in Europe and US. Travelling around Italy is safe no matter which method you will use (air, train, car). Obviously is always good to keep an eye on the luggage if you take the train or when you park the car (do not leave valuable items on display). I guess these are common sense rules. Not sure how much time you will have but the cities you mention are not really close each other (from Venice to Rome by car plan for a good 5 hours drive at least). Car is probably the best way to go around especially if you rent one with those portable GPS system (or ou might have one and so just load the Italian map). Then you will be able to get around also in the most complex cisties such as Rome.
Hope it helps,
Italy is part of the modern world, it is not more difficult to move around there than it is in the US.
You can rent a car, take the train, or even maybe fly with discount companies such as Ryan Air, Easy Jet, or others. Just keep in mind that the airport they use are usually far from the main city centers.
Do not leave computers, cell phones, or digital cameras in cars. They have some devices that catches waves emitted by batteries, so they know if there are such devices in the car, even if hidden. But I guess this would also prove true in France, Spain, or others...
I hope my addition is useful. I went to Italy a couple years ago. We were a small group and I planned everything down to the trains, places to stay, and the driver.
The only touristy thing we did was to ride the open top "hop on and off" Bus Tours within the larger cities. It's a nice thing to do once you get to a major city to learn the layout and history. Then you can walk around and explore. For Tuscany, we hired a driver who turned out to be excellent and about the same price as renting a car. I'd rather be looking out into the countryside and listening to facts of the area than trying to read the 40+ street signs at every roundabout in Tuscany.
Regarding my trip, information can be found here:
The driver/guide's name was Angela and she has a website.
I usually buy the DK Eyewitness Travel Guides and have always been pleased.