Here's the first big tip. Google Earth. I can't tell you how valuable this tool has been in researching places to stay, sites to visit, the best viewpoints for vistas, the best scenic drives, where to park, and how to avoid the dreaded no drive zones found in most tourist towns (zona traffico limitato).
Google Earth is easy and free to install (DOWNLOAD LINK HERE). While Google Maps is best for planning driving routes, Earth allows you to save pin maps sorted by folder for each region or town you will be visiting. I have a folder for Puglia a folder for Rome and so on. I've pinned the best parking spaces, best views, hotels, bakeries, delis (salumerias), cheese shops, Hertz locations, and of course, all the sites I'd love to see in a given area.
And the best thing about Google Earth is dragging the little man to see the street level view, in 360°! This can prevent you from booking and agriturismo that looks more like a factory, how seedy a particular neighborhood really is, or how thick the crowds really are at all popular tourist site so you can plan accordingly. You might even discover areas worth visiting you had no idea about before actually seeing them on Earth.
While looking at a town you might be staying in or traveling through, turn on the Photos layer on the Google Earth map and look for clusters of little blue squares in the surrounding area. Clicking on the square pops up a photo of something interesting. I've found many "things to see" in different areas in this way--things that I had no idea existed in the area--castles, waterfalls, caves, belvederes with wonderful vistas and more.