Pisa's worldwide fame is based on the eponymous leaning building – but if hiring a car in Pisa, visitors will soon find that it's a wonderful all-round city with all sorts of reasons to explore. It stands in northern Italy, on a flat plain just five miles from the Tuscan coast. The historic city straddles the River Arno and is right next to the beautiful Migliarino San Rossore National Park with its dunes, lakes and long sandy beaches. Yet Pisa's visitors will often stop briefly to pose for a photo in front of the Leaning Tower – then leave to stay in one of its more celebrated neighbours Bologna, Florence or Siena.
The bell tower of Pisa's magnificent Cathedral would be a delightful but little-celebrated monument if it wasn't for the inadequate foundations that mean it tilts by 3.99 degrees. The intricately decorated Renaissance tower is undeniably spectacular but just part of the extraordinary walled medieval Cathedral area known locally as the Piazza dei Miracoli, or Square of Miracles. This includes the grand Duomo Cathedral, Italy's largest baptistry and monumental cemetery (built on a shipload of ‘sacred soil' brought back from Jerusalem). Away from the Duomo square, there's plenty to explore but few tourists stray that far. However, rent a car in Pisa, and you'll find it easy to get around. You'll find Pisa is a lively university city so there are busy and affordable shops, cafés and bars everywhere. As you drive across the city, look out for a wide selection of gothic churches, grand piazzas and Renaissance palaces. One highlight is the dainty little Chiesa di Santa Maria della Spina built of marble to house a thorn allegedly from Christ's crown. The river laps against one wall of the chapel. On the other bank, there's the Borgo Stretto, with old covered arcades for strolling alongside the river – and you'll even find two other little-known leaning towers here.
Opening hours:Mo-Fr 0830-1230 1500-1830, Sa 0830-1230, Su closed.
Address:Via Cisanello 168, Entrance through Via Puglia 14
Opening hours:Mo-Su 0800-2400
Address:Galileo Galilei Airport.