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Yes, it has a leaning tower, but there is so much more to Pisa and its stunning Tuscan surroundings. Once you’ve climbed the tower and sipped a cappuccino in Piazza dei Miracoli, get a hire car in Pisa and go forth.
The city lies in the heart of Tuscany, an area famous for its natural beauty and endless rolling hills. Farmland takes up much of the landscape, making this a perfect driving holiday for foodies. Enjoy long Italian lunches sampling some of the freshest artisan produce, and fruit and vegetables plucked straight from the groves.
Pisa International Airport is just 10 minutes out of town and there are plenty of car hire companies there vying for your business. There is a shuttle bus to the rental car depot, so check signage for directions. Florence Airport is an hour’s drive of 50 miles, and Pisa Centrale is the city’s main train station.
There’s plenty of choice for those getting a rental car in Pisa, with pick-ups at any of the main transport hubs or in the city centre. Goldcar, Firefly and InterRent all supply a choice of vehicles. If you are travelling with children it is useful to book any car seats that you may need in advance.
So once you’re ready to start your driving adventure why not head straight for the Renaissance city of Florence, Tuscany’s capital. Home to so many famous masterpieces, Florence is a feast for the eyes. The Uffizi Gallery houses some of the world’s most famous works, including Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, the Tondo Doni by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci's The Annunciation. The original statue of David, by Michelangelo, is on display at the Accademia Gallery Museum, and tickets can be bought in advance, which can help to avoid the lengthy queues.
Bologna, situated just over 100 miles from Pisa, may be a lesser-known Italian city, but it is fast becoming a foodie Mecca. Its warm golden tones and medieval streets provide days of idle wandering. And as the name suggest, this is the home of the famous Bolognese ragu, though the authentic dish differs somewhat from the spaghetti version so many of us know.
Another option is driving two hours along the coast up to Genoa. A popular stop-off for cruise ships, Genoa has a busy working port and an important maritime history – it is thought to be the birthplace of Christopher Columbus. Its Galata Museo del Mare, or museum of the sea, sets this city’s past in context and it is a popular tourist destination. Once your appetite for history is sated, it is time to attend to your stomach. Genoa’s old town is a maze of higgledy streets with a vast choice of eateries. More pasta anyone?
Reputation has it that the Italians drive fast, but don’t let that put you off. The motorways are well maintained and well signposted so relax and take your time. Try to find a car park where possible - there can be a slightly cavalier attitude to vehicles parked on the roadside.
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