Borrow all the most recent books from the library! I prefer Frommer's Italy to the Lonely Planet guide. I found it was much more critical and gave ratings for everything. DK Eyewitness guides are brilliant for focussing on individual attractions so you don't miss anything when you're there.
Useful websites: hostelworld.com, bugeurope.com, www.tripadvisor.com, http://www.travel.dk.com/venice
HOSTELS WE STAYED IN:
Bologna: Fiera Hotel-fantastic value, although not in the nicest area. not far from the city centre by bus. The bus service wasn't too bad. The train station was on the bus route on the way into the city centre. We thought Bologna could be done in a day.
Venice: Plus Camping - I'm glad we stayed here. We were worried about a runway being beside the campsite but the noise wasn't a problem because not many planes took off there and we heard none at night or early morning (I'm quite a light sleeper).
Florence: PLP Guesthouse-excellent value, arty apartment, it didn't feel like a hostel at all, in a very nice area, not that far from the city centre, it was a half hour walk to the city centre. The bus service is ok, definitely should be better for a main bus route! This was the most difficult to find on the map. The gelaterie on the main street around the corner is fantastic-we went there every night on the way home after our sightseeing!
Rome: Plus Camping Roma (stay in a chalet, not a tent!-we did both), a good bit out from the city centre in a dodgy area but good security and the bar is great fun. The hostel runs a coach near to the Vatican beside a metro station.
Yellow Hostel-I'd prefer to stay in Plus Camping Roma than the Yellow Hostel. The Yellow Hostel has the advantage of convenient location near Termini station.
Venice: San Marco's Basilica, Doge's Palace
Florence: Uffizi-even if ur not an art history graduate, u have to see it! Santa Maria del Carmine, Cappelle Medicee, Climbing the stairs to the top of Duomo. Boboli Gardens
Rome: St. Peters, Piazza di Popolo-We walked past Teri Hatcher and beau on the way up to the balcony looking over Piazza di Popolo
Pompeii-definitely read up on it before or take a tour with a guide or audio tour
Ravello & the Amalfi Coast-Ravello is a small village and its so gorgeous!
Sorrento-The pasta in the Red Lion Restaurant was the best pasta I've ever had
Capri: luxurious, loved the chairlift up to the highest point in Anacapri
Our overall favourite place in Italy was definitely CAPRI.
I WAS EXPECTING MORE FROM:
Venice: Gallerie dell'Accademia, Peggy Guggenheim, Ca d'Ora
Florence: Museo del Bargello
Rome: Fontana di Trevi-grand but over-rated. Those sellers were unbelievable-they were everywhere and they wouldn't leave you alone even when u tell them to f *** off! I had to resort to getting one out of my face by pushing him. Those guys did not understand the whole personal space thing we're so obsessed with in the Western world.
Don't bother with the Blue Grotto-total rip off, u go in4 2 seconds & in addition to the fee, a hefty tip is expected from the rower. As our tour guide pointed out, the blue is similar to the Colgate toothpaste blue.
It's so easy to get split up from your group in the Vatican especially when your group gets ambushed by a bigger group! I was glad I got separated because I got to see the Raphael rooms which the Roming Tours tour I took did not go into. I would have been so disappointed if I hadn't seen the School of Athens and Fire in the Borgo. The Raphael rooms were much quieter than the Sistine Chapel so I enjoyed them more.
The Busabout trip was absolutely brilliant, one of the best weekends I've ever had. I'd really recommend it and it's definitely not just for young backpackers.