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ITALY: Help with itinerary of Bologna, Pisa, Lucca, Magenta

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Hello,
First-time poster here. I am looking for feedback or advice from all you travel veterans!
My wife and I have been to Italy twice, both in a group format. We went to Rome, Assisi, Siena, Turin, Florence and some nice gems in between (Orvieto, Bolsena, Lanciano). This summer we are planning to go again just the two of us. We're aiming for last week of July into first week of August. Our brainstorming has come up with the following ideas:

Fly into Milan. Spend a few days at an agrotourism (agrotorismo) outside Bolsena. Then spend a few days in the Pisa and Lucca area to see, of course, the leaning tower which is on my wife's to-do list, but mostly to spend time possibly renting bicycles, perhaps attend a cooking class, and finding some leisure time. We were looking at a Bed and Breakfast in this area. Finally, our last day or two would be in the area outside Milan to include Magenta and Mesero, both having to do with the life of St. Gianna Molla. We may stay at a hotel/restaurant in Magenta.

Some items we need help with: The costs, benefits, and drawbacks to traveling by rail vs a rental car. Stated up front: I never learned to drive manually, so we'd rent the smallest automatic we could get. Prices seem to range from a few hundred (at the italian web sites) to over a thousand (on some US-based sites) and beyond. I do see the rail travels to most of the places on our itinerary, though sometimes a taxi may be needed. I wonder which option would add up the most - a car or the combination of rail/taxi.

Also, has anyone ever been to an agrotorismo (farm) and spent any time there? It seems really enjoyable! but, just wondering if anyone has any tips about...well....anything I guess.

I think thats about it for my broad request. Just looking for some advice about the time of year (which we really don't have a choice on), things to do in these areas, best ways to travel, etc. Anything would be helpful at this point.

Ciao! Grazie!

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    darthsmozers...

    I've been to Italy several times, mostly staying in larger cities and using trains for day trips to smaller towns. I have rented cars in the past, however during those 2 trips I was with a friend who can drive a manual car. I like you, never learned to drive a manual car and so would need an automatic, and like your have found rental costs for automatic cars in Europe much more expensive than the manual version. This has influenced my choices to use the trains for day trips.

    However, staying in an agritourismo and wanting to see the country-side lends it's to wanting the flexibility of a car.

    So other things to consider when renting a car is the cost of gasoline, it is not cheap in Italy and when you see the station sign, remember the prices are in liters, not gallons, so what might look like an incredibly cheap price really isn't when you consider it's by the liter.

    My recommendation would be to make an estimate of what the cost would be to rent a car including how much gas you think you will need and if you might have to pay for parking and then check the TrenItalia website to get an idea of how much train tickets would cost for each of the train trips you would need to take and then compare.

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