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Nice place to stop between Milan and Genoa

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Hi,

Found this site a couple of weeks back and have been reading a LOT of fantastic info!

Husband and I are landing at Malpensa at 10:30 on the last Sat of Sept and driving to Sestri Levante. Have read all about train options but we would both prefer to drive. Trying to find a couple of options where we could stop en route.

Bit of background - this is our first time in Italy (and my first time outside Britain apart from day trips to France). Flight from Gatwick is only 2 hours but we will have driven 5 hours the night before to get to the airport. I'd love to find somewhere not too far off the route where we could stop for an hour or two, grab someting for lunch and enjoy finally being in Itay.

We like churches, castles, people watching and the outdoors, not too keen on navigating and parking anywhere too crazy/built up so soon after we arrive.

Certosa di Pavia seemed ideal but is closed 11:30-2:30. Will that be the case with most places? What is Pavia itself like?

I've looked at the route on multimap and googled lots of place names but would really love a personal recommendation - thanks.

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