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Pisa & Valdera

There’s more to Pisa than its Leaning Tower. Most visitors content themselves with a quick stop to see the dazzling Campo dei Miracoli, where that tipsily leaning tower is joined by a bone-white cathedral and extravagant domed baptistery. But the rest of the city, with its Gothic and Renaissance buildings, perched on the Arno river, is a peaceful joy to explore. Eastwards, towards Florence lies the Valdera, a Tuscany-in-miniature region of rolling hills crowned by terracotta villages and cypress avenues. History buzzes in unspoiled villages such as Palaia, and meets the present in modern art-filled Peccioli. There are quirky sights, too, such as the Vespas in the Piaggio Museum at Pontedera and the opera singer Andrea Bocelli’s open-air theatre for summer concerts, the Teatro del Silenzio, in the hills outside Lajatico. Volterra and San Gimignano are both easy to reach from here.

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