We are planning a trip very soon to Italy then Croatia. I have been reading the posts and mapping it out and wondered if you all could give me suggestions.
March 4 Fly from Atlanta to Milan arrive in the am of the 5th
March 5 Tour Milan
March 6 Train to Venice
March 6-7 Tour Venice
March 8 Ferry from Venice to Rovinj (doesn't look like ferries run during March) What is the best way to get from Venice to Northern Croatia or Rovinj?
March 9 Rovinj to Plitvice (3 hour car rental ride) Stay night in Plitvice
March 10 Drive from Plitvice to Split (2 hour car ride) Stay night in Split
March 10-11 Leave for Dubrovnik on the 11th in the afternoon
March 11-12 Tour Dubrovnik
March 13 Fly to Zagreb (walk around that day)
March 14 Fly from Zagreb back to Atlanta
We are looking to see some of the sights but don't feel the need to see everything in every city.
I would appreciate any feedback you can give.
This is a very aggressive schedule: Seven different hotels in ten nights, plus the complication of getting from Italy to Croatia.
I'm useless on my arrival day so wouldn't expect to accomplish much. Some others are livelier. In any case, I'd prioritize the Duomo in Milan. Some people go to that city specifically to see The Last Supper. If you have an interest in that, check immediately about tickets. They get snapped up rapidly, and many travelers find the only way to see the painting is as part of some sort of tour.
On the other hand, if you're lukewarm on Milan, I would just hop on the first train I could catch on arrival day and go straight to Venice. May as well collapse there. That would give you an extra half-day in that city on March 6, which to me is worth considerably more than time in Milan. You can buy the train ticket on arrival, since it is impossible to predict your timing after a trans-Atlantic flight. Doing this would also eliminate one hotel change.
Are you specifically going to Rovinj, or did you choose it just because there is sometimes ferry service? You've given yourself just bits of two days in Istria, which is hardly worth the effort. Istria is very nice, but it takes more time than that to see much of it.
Instead, I'd try to get from Venice to any convenient city in NW Croatia where I could pick up a rental car (perhaps Rijeka?), then drive on (perhaps all the way to Plitvice). A GoOpti shuttle might be your best bet. Others have dealt with ground transportation between Italy and Croatia; I have not. Doing this might gain you a day to add to one of your other destinations (there are easy side-trips to be made from Venice by train or from Dubrovnik by car), cutting out a second hotel-change.
It's important that you spend the night in or near Plitvice before your visit (which it appears you may be planning to do) since it can be unpleasantly crowded once the day-trippers show up, and it may be worse around weekends (March 9 is Friday) because of local visitors. If the weather is bad, there may not be much of an issue, but you will still have a better time if it's less crowded early. Of course, at some point bad weather makes the whole idea of visiting the park a poor one. I just don't know about March. There's no cover there, and you're walking part of the time on wooden boardwalks (virtually never with hand rails) and some of the rest of the time on uneven ground where there may be fallen leaves (slippery when wet, and again usually no hand rails). The walkways aren't far above the water, but falling in, in March, would not be fun.
If you decide to branch out from Dubrovnik to either Mostar (Bosnia-Hercegovina) or Kotor (Montenegro), you'll need to clear the trip with the car-rental company ahead of time. Even going to Dubrovnik itself may require permission since you have to cross a narrow corridor of Bosnia-Hercegovina to get there.
I agree with the previous post, as you are trying to squeeze too much into your time. At what I would consider to be a brisk pace, allowing for transport between destinations, I would want 15 days minimum on the ground. You have 10.
I agree that unless you have a burning desire to see something in Milan that you should take the train straight to Venice. There will be queues for everything in Venice, so 3 days there will barely scratch the surface.
Your major issue is how to get from Venice to Croatia. There are no ferry options at that time of year. There are no direct flights. One way car hire would be prohibitively expensive - hundreds of euros for a one way drop. I haven't done this, so I have no personal experience, but I have seen previous posts addressing this issue.
Istria is a beautiful region, but with your tight schedule, it is the obvious place to drop. (Alternatively, visit Rovinj and drop Dubrovnik, which is your geographical outlier. )
Head straight to Split and hire a car to see Plitvice etc. Your driving times are underestimated by 25%.
Split to Dubrovnik is 6 hours door to door.
I would recommend that you try to spend less time in transit and have fewer one night stays for a more enjoyable experience.