When I was stationed in Germany the train companies had a 30 day Euro pass, you could buy it and ride the train anywhere in west europe as much as you want. The rail pass was popular for taking leave for a week or so, As you timed it to sleep on the train. Saved on hotel bills. Pretty much just go places at random. Not sure if they still do that.
Yep, Barry's plan is kind of what I was hoping for! Didn't pan out but I did get some great leather jackets and gloves in Italy that I still get compliments on, the drawers in Paris are also quite shocking! LOL!
When I was there... Over 11 years ago, I didn't have any problems with being an American. But Clinton was President and pretty much everyone wanted to talk about him. They were disappointed to find out I was from Arkansas and didn't have a southern accent which the Brits seemed to love! So as long as you are cute and friendly you wont have a problem. Seems like they all wanted to speak english and would ignore my attempts to speak theirs, totally different than here where we appreciate it.
Just stay safe, carry your cash/passport/etc in a belt under your clothes. Be flexible and carry a blanket with you. I missed quite a few trains and had to sleep in parks and train stations until they started running again in the morning!
Eolith, the one thing about Western Europe is that by world standards a young woman who is cautious is fairly safe providing she uses a little common sense.
One way to save money would be to fly directly to Milan or Rome and then make one's way over to Venice. Travelling down from the UK to Northern Italy can prove to be expensive even by coach which probably is the cheapest way.
There is a lot for a tourist to see in Italy where English is widely spoken. To mooch around Rome is worth a week of holiday at least. And the beaches on the Mediteranean are some of the best in Europe to sunbathe on. Southern Italy is a very different world and well worth a trip especially if you want to meet with your godfather. Then there is Trieste, the gateway to the Balkans and the beautiful Adriatic. There is an extensive national railway system to carry you about. Travel light, everything you'll need is readily available over there.
You can always go back and see Northern Europe on another trip.
Another tip is try to use a credit card most of the time. Now that most countries use the EURO it's better but when I went I lost a TON of money on currency exchange fees. The UK will sap a ton of funds, by the time I got south I was broke! I once went three days with nothing but two snickers bars out of a vending machine until I made back to Germany to get some more money, I grabbed moms credit card then!
And if you're using a credit card, check with your bank about its foreign exchange fees. You do get the good exchange rate, but then Citibank and Chase and most of the other banks tack on an extra 2% for their own pocket, on top of the 1% that Visa or MC takes. My credit union passes on the Visa fee, but doesn't take anything for themselves, so we try to use that card exclusively overseas. I've heard of a card that doesn't even pass on the Visa fee, but I don't remember what it was.
Since you're going to Rome, I'll recommend a trattoria for you: it's called "I Tre Pupazzi" (The Three Puppets) and it is one block from St Peter's Square on a street named Borgo Pio. Theyhave the best bruschetta and spaghetti carbonara in the city. If you're facing the basilica in SPS, go right and exit via the columns toward Piazza Risorgimento. I can't remember the name of that street, but it is the one with the side entrance to Vatican City. Borgo Pio is the first right and the trattoria is about 3 or 4 blocks down on the left.
I recommend eating at trattorias over the regular restaurants - they're usually family-owned and their food is normally very good.
When you visit Florence, make sure you get yourself a Florentine Steak - best steak you'll ever have.