Traveled with my sister and niece--we had a great time. Just want to say that the 3 hotels we stayed in, all in the Rick Steves Italy book, were very good--each was really well located, comfortable, and reasonably price:. La Residenza del Proconsolo in Florence, Hotel Fontana in Venice, and Relais Teatro Argentina in Rome. We did the bar tour in Venice, which is also in the guidebook--very fun and helped us get a bit oriented to Venice.
I also appreciate the train tips from people on this forum--thank you! We did not get pickpocketed, although we did get scammed by the helpful young man at the Venice train station, who grabbed our bags and chucked them in the overheads. Truth be told, it was worth the 4 or 5 euro we forked over. One cab driver drove us off meter, and another one started the meter at a baseline higher than 3 euro; we didn't really notice until later in the ride, so just went with it. While we were accosted on the streets frequently in all 3 cities to buy stuff, we never felt threatened or unsafe.