Italy vacation planning

One day not long ago I was dreaming about taking a trip to Italy. I've never been to Europe and I've always wanted to go. Of course part of my day dreaming meant researching airfare prices. I just happened to find a super deal on airfare which made me realize that maybe my dream could be a reality. Pete and I discussed the benefit of going while Hailey is little (free for her to eat and sleep and fly and perfect size for carrying around all day). I was teasing about purchasing the tickets when Pete shocked me and said "do it!". So I did.

Now we are in the midst of trying to plan our accommodations. We hadn't started because we hadn't quite determined where in Italy we were going to visit. Last Thursday night we finally sat down with a whiteboard, calendar, and a map. We discussed and discussed and finally decided on a route and now we are working at making reservations. If it were just Pete and me traveling, I think we wouldn't be so careful about making reservations...but with having a baby brings responsibility and now we feel like we need to make reservations and know where we're going so we can maximize our time abroad. I was getting REALLY nervous about things when everywhere I checked was already booked full. We are trying to stick to a budget, but are finding that Venice is expensive...and it's high season in Rome when we'll be there so the prices are high and places are booked up. Thankfully google has some tools which have proved helpful. In my gmail account I've been labeling emails by location and availability. I'd never used labels before, but this has been a lifesaver! Also, Pete and I are sharing a google doc with a list of all the places we've found and contacted and then tracking responses. If any of you need a link list of decent places to stay in Italy - hit me up for our list! We've searched the web high and low...and also are using the Rick Steves' Italy 2009 book (purchased just yesterday in hopes of finding more options at a reasonable cost). We've had to type in web address after web address and also filter through the expensive places and have ended up with a list of moderately priced apartments, hotels and bed and breakfasts throughout Italy.

Here are is the route we came up with and the number of nights in each:
Varenna (Lake Como) - 2 nights
Venice - 4 nights (fly from Venice to Naples for about 22euros/each)
Naples - 4 nights
Rome - 3 nights
Civita di Bagnoregio - 1 night (we might try to do this in a day trip on the way to Cinque Terre, not sure yet)
Cinque Terre - 3 nights
Milan - 1 night

If you have been to Italy before and see any flaws in our itinerary, feel free to call them out. Also, if you have recommendations for reasonably priced places to stay - feel free to leave me a comment with the info! The more the better. ;)

One thing I'm loving about Italy so far is the 18th century decoration in the rooms. I lost the site I was on that had the most regal looking rooms (and reasonably priced!)

Seems gold damask wallpaper or rich red, blues or gold damask bedding make even the least expensive bed and breakfasts seem deluxe! I love it so much - it's inspiring me to want to wallpaper our bedroom. :)

Going to Italy hadn't really seemed like reality until this weekend as we worked full time at locating accommodations and sending reservation requests. Now I'm SOOOOOOO excited I can barely focus on much else. I'm even more encouraged as I woke up this morning with about 15 new emails - half of which being responses saying that they DO have a room available for our stay. Yay!!!

Now if only our passports arrive in time...