I am a first time visitor to Italy and am hoping to get some assistance/ideas with developing an itinerary for a short trip. I will be visiting in Oct. 2014. I will be arriving at MXP (Malpensa) at 8:30AM on a Thursday and flying back to the US from MXP on the following Tuesday morning (5 nights). I plan on spending night 5 in the Milan area with an early flight the next morning. I will be traveling as a solo female and relying solely on public transportation.
Having an internal debate as to whether to spend all 5 nights in Milan and take a couple day trips, or immediately take the train to Florence after arriving in Milan and spending 4 nights there before returning to Milan. I was also considering Bologna as a base. Friends have suggested that I go straight to Rome, but I feel too much time would be spent traveling, checking in/out of hotels, etc. and should save it for another time.
I am interested in sightseeing, photography, history, museums, food, etc. I don't particularly care about shopping.
I'm not looking to spend more than 100 Euro/night for accommodations and prefer to have breakfast and wifi included.
Any advice or recommendations, particularly experiences from other solo travelers, would be much appreciated.