What I mean is you are not stepping off the plane right onto the train. You will need to find your way to the underground station follow signs- then buy your ticket in a vending machine or ticket window, find your train and get on. That takes time when you are not familiar with the airport and you are in a foreign country. There will be some signage in English- but mostly Italian ;)
Be sure to validate your ticket before you board.
I always buy the full RS guide so I don't know about "Best of" but probably fine for where you are going (again no Bologna- for some reason Rick never includes- which is probably a good thing!)
You can buy it on Amazon for a few bucks less and free shipping if you are Prime- or at least faster shipping.
shouldn't our lodging be a good balance of distance between the
duomo/mall and fast-train station?
Yes. I've just spent the past few days looking at hotels in that area myself and there is not much other than the ones I mentioned which are closer to station than Duomo. Anything I see closer to Duomo is more expensive. We always like to be within walking distance of BOTH center and station when possible. The hotels I listed above are all about 10 min walk to station, but more like 30 min. to Duomo- at least it is flat and there is tram.
Another option that is a bit closer to Duomo is the NH Milano Touring- that's a European chain that is very nice and they have excellent bfkts. If you go to their website- sign up for the reward program and you get a discounted rate.
I like booking.com- you can set your filters- search for location, price range, see the map view, AC? elevator? bkft? cancellable? (I always book a cancellable rate). Read the reviews there as they can only be posted by folks who have actually stayed there unlike TripAdvisor. You can even filter the reviews by "wifi" "location" "quietness" etc
If you need a place in Bologna- I just booked this hotel
Hotel Internazionale 322€ for 2 nights w/bkft- it is equi-distance from station and center- about 8 min walk either way.
We are more than twice your age so location/walking distance is really important to us!
Your Rome hotel is fine- it is right at Spanish Steps which can be a bit noisy/hectic/touristy. We like staying near Pantheon/Piazza Navonna/Campo De'Fiori- from there you can walk everywhere.
I don't think anyone above congratulated you on your upcoming wedding- so Congratulations! And you could not have picked a better place to honeymoon!