I've been wanting to go to Italy for a while now, but didn't have anyoen to go with, so i've been putting off the trip. I've got a girl to go with now, and we're planning on doing the trip somewhere around the 20th of december for 2 weeks. Complicating this is the need to determine (and maybe guess) when my exams will be done in december. I'd like to achieve a balance of seeing as much as possible and having it feel like a relaxing trip, as opposed to feeling like I have a series of appointments to attend and always being in a rush. I'm looking for ideas from people who've been to italy (preferably around december). Right now, I'm at the "rough itinerary" stage of planning. I'm thinking I'd like to spend a good 5 days in rome and 3-4 in florence. I'd also like to make a day-trip or two from florence out to pisa and siena. I was considering maybe doing an overnight in venice, but i'm not sure if i really want to be on a train for 3 hours there and back, just to see a canal and experience some possibly miserable weather.. so i'm thinking i'll probably skip it. That leaves me with 4 days. To fill those days I was thinking of heading down to pompeii and the amalfi coast. However, the travel guide i've been reading says that a lot of stuff in the region is closed at that time of year. I know that some tourist areas in other parts of the world close down almost completely during the off-season. Is it like that for this region? Any comments would be appreciated. Oh, I'd also like to go see an opera while i'm there. Has anyone been to any of the opera houses in italy? Is there a "best"? I was also considering doing a cooking class and/or wine tasting. Has anyone done anything like that in italy? There are courses of varying duration. Some are for a day and some are for a week. I can't imagine getting much out of a class that lasts 1 day, but has anyone taken a 2-3 day class? oh and does anyone have suggestions for hotels in florence? I believe i've found one that suits my fancy for rome, however i still havent' found one for florence. I don't want to go much above 200 euros/night for accomodations. And lastly, can anyone recommend a good tailor (not necessarily something super expensive)? thanks for any comments or suggestions.