The Rick Steves tour was wonderful - the guides were top-notch and engaging, and it was the perfect mix of structured activities (museum visits) and free time. Here’s a link to the Rick Steves tour I took.
It pays off to wake up early in Venice to beat the cruise ship crowds. Plus, who doesn’t love a little Nutella in the morning?
Walk around Venice and Florence in the evenings, when the cities empty out. It’s so peaceful and beautiful, and you see the locals walking their (adorable) dogs.
For women, bring a sweater or something to cover your shoulders when you visit churches.
Most museums allow you to bring a small bottle of water with you. I bought one the first day and refilled it regularly.
Mosquitoes are a real thing, especially in Venice. Keep the windows closed when you’re sleeping or prepare to be itchy.
Some hotels offer laundry services, some don’t. I washed/dried socks and underwear in the bathroom, but for pants and tops, I recommend paying a little extra and having a laundry service take care of it. Who wants to spend time in a laundromat when you could be enjoying LIFE IN ITALY?
At restaurants, ask if there’s a cover charge (il coperto). Many restaurants charge separately for water, but it’s a small price to pay to linger over a delicious meal. Ask your guide if tipping is expected.
Use your extra euros to buy olive oil at the Duty Free store. I heard from several people that the best olive oils remain in Italy. If you’re worried about them breaking in your luggage, buy the tins instead. I bought two tins and only wish I’d purchased more.
Write a postcard to yourself. It’s a nice memory of the way you felt when you were half a world away.