I haven't been to Italy for many years, but my parents were just there recently with my brother/SIL, so I will ask them for suggestions for you. My mom is leaving for 5 weeks in the UK tomorrow, though, so I'll have to see how much my Dad knows!
I will say that my family has always had a "no tour" policy and we always did everything on our own (we had a camping trailer
). Italy was one of my favorite places to travel as a child; the people are extremely friendly and love to practice their English (and love to hear you practice your Italian!) Some of my best travelling memories are from there. We did hire a tour guide in Venice, but he was just for our family, so it was great. We wound up going to his daughter's wedding reception and I had my first taste of calamari! That's what I mean by friendly!
Have fun planning, I would
to go back to Italy some day! I'll post back here when I get info from my folks.