Hello again. Everyone has been so helpful here. I have yet another question. We had no choice but to plan without a lot of notice to visit my daughter in Milan. We want to go to Florence as well. I am finding the desirable hotels (at least for me) are booked in mid October. Anyone have any suggestions for Milan and Florence? I have not checked out Milan because I have a Rick Steves guidebook that covers it. But so far no luck in Florence. Anyone have experience with airbnb in those places? Thank you all for reading.
There are thousands of hotel rooms in either city, so you will find one, don't worry. October is not peak season, you just have to try more. Any website will do: Airbnb.com, booking.com, venere.com. I like this hotel here, which I know because it's close to my cousin's place next to Ponte Vecchio. It's not expensive. I like the Oltrarno (southern side of the river Arno) the best: http://www.hotellascaletta.it/ In the same area this hotel here is truly great, but it's a bit more expensive: http://www.pontevecchiosuites.com/ But if you don't find availability there you can find something else online, I'm sure. Also check the rates both in the general websites (like booking.com, airbnb.com) and the hotel website. Then make reservations with the cheaper website.
Thank you for the information and the encouragement, Roberto. I was starting to get discouraged but yes, I know I will find something. I will check out the ones you suggested.
I spent 12 days in Firenze in a small B&B named Albergo Bencidormi. It is on Via Faenza which is a wonderful street full of great, local restaurants. It is not fancy, but it is clean, safe and friendly. It is just 2 blocks from the train station and walking distance to everywhere!
On our past visits to Florence I have rented apartments as we were staying for 5 nights but in Oct. 2011 on a 2 night weekend visit to Florence from Rome we stayed at Hotel Accademia. www.hotelaccademiafirenze.com The location is great and about a ten minute walk from the train station. It is on Via Faenza and is a few steps from the entrance to the Medici Chapels. Would stay here again.
October is not high season in Milan either. Milano moda fashion shows are in January, February, June and September. The Salone del Mobile, another major event, is always in April.
The Fiera di Milano has exhibits every month. The busiest period in Florence is spring. The busiest week is probably between Liberation day (25 April) and Labor Day (May 1). Easter week is also very busy, especially when Easter falls close to Liberation day. Summer is very busy with foreign tourists, but few Italians spend the scorching summer days in Florence. That's beach time. October is considered shoulder season in Florence. There are numerous tourists but not as many as spring or summer. A quick search online I did yielded plenty of choices at any price level. One does not have to mandatorily stay in the handful of hotels recommended by Rick Steves.