The First Rule of Italian Driving and Eating Formaggio

I know people who will not rent a car in Italy because they fear driving in another county, they have heard about the crazy Italian drivers, or they are afraid the car will not be automatic.  My recommendation is if you are visiting Tuscany (outside of the cities like Florence) rent a car for at least a couple of days so you can explore the countryside and the small towns that are perched in the hills.  Pienza is one of these towns.  Renowned for its cheese, you can see why as you make your way to the town and see herd after herd of sheep.  I love cheese, so Pienza was like being in a candy store.  Shop after shop with variations of cheese, some with truffles, some with hot pepper flakes, some that have been covered in ash and the list goes on.  However, there is more to Pienza then cheese.  The town looks as if it is out of a picture, with flower boxes hanging on each home, the quiet streets, the beautiful square and church, and a breathtaking view of the countryside.  There are plenty of restaurants in the town so finding a good meal is not difficult.  On one trip we opted for a very casual and light lunch that consisted of purchasing a fresh pork sandwich at the local butcher with a drink and sitting at the edge of the town overlooking the rolling hills….it was perfect.  There are several other historical sites that you can visit within Pienza as well as many little shops and wine stores that you can peruse. this site, while in Italian only, will give you an idea of the town, the sites you can see, a list of restaurants, etc.  There are other English sites you can visit as well for this information.


In the coming posts I will write about other towns that you can visit by car.  It is well worth overcoming any fear you have of driving in Italy to visit them.  Driving in the countryside is very easy.  My recommendation is to rent a car in advance before you get to Italy, rent a small car and if you do not drive standard make sure to request an automatic.  Once in Italy do not let the rental car company talk you into a bigger car, the gas is expensive, and the streets are tight.  If you are first staying in Florence arrange the rental car up around that stop (i.e. pick it up on the day you depart Florence to go into the outskirts) because parking in Florence is expensive and driving there can be confusing as many streets are off limits to traffic.

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