Next stop in our European adventures: Lucca, Italy. We spent 7 days in this small Tuscan town, the longest stay of any of our stops. We planned it this way so we’d have a place we could really relax and soak in some Italian culture.
Renaissance-era walls surround Lucca, creating something like a community roof-top garden around the city. On top of the walls, people congregate, picnic, go for a jog or ride bikes. Once you’re up on the wall you can see a panoramic view of the city within the walls, a city colored by orange and yellow hues, with towers peaking up above the buildings, and a few plazas where people gather. Lucca has all of the traditional elements of a small Italian town: beautiful churches, ancient statues, delicious gelato shops, and classic regional cuisine all lending itself nicely to your heart growing fond of this city.
Our days went a little something like this in Lucca: We would wake up to the sun peeking through our balcony windows but we’d proceed to stay in bed a bit longer. Then we would walk down our block greeted by a street musician to a little historic cafe (one that composer Puccini, who was from Lucca, frequented); we’d sit on their patio for an unknown and undetermined amount of time while enjoying a capuccino. After getting some caffeine in our system we might walk around the city for a bit, go to a museum, or see a church, and grab some lunch or gelato or both in the midst of our exploring… maybe take some pizza and picnic on the wall, or grab a famous chickpea crepe and a glass of wine. After a few hours of that, we would return to our apartment for an afternoon nap. Josh would draw with his newly bought art supplies from the art shop down the street and I would read. We wold follow this up with showers then we’d venture back out into the city for dinner, trying to wait as long as we could so we could eat at the same hour as the Italians (8-9pm). Most nights we ended up eating with the early crowd, around 7:45pm, which means we would meet tourists, mainly retired aged, or the older Italian crowd. Sitting at a dinner table in a small foreign town, casually chatting with the few tables around us, and having a drawn-out 3-4 course true-Italian meal.
If we still had any room left in our stomaches we’d grab a scoop of gelato or what became my favorite treat, a hazelnut gelato bar, and we’d walk around the city at night while enjoying a sweet treat. Then we’d return to our apartment and listen to the noises of the city and restaurant beneath as we fell into a deep sleep.
Our home during our 6 days in Lucca was a perfect Italian apartment residing over a popular neighborhood restaurant and overlooking the back walls of the famous Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, where citezens used to gather and be entertained. Our cozy apartment had windows you could open up so we could get the afternoon breeze while we read, or over hear the fountain and the people enjoying a late night bottle of wine in the evenings. Every day different tour groups would come by and we’d learn a little more about their area from listening out our kitchen window.
Our days in Lucca were perfect, magical even. This small Italian town will forever be a special place for us.
MORE INFO ON LUCCA:
Lodging in Lucca: I recommend renting a small apartment within the city walls which you can find on the sites below
Our favorite places to eat in Lucca:
Di Sumo Cafe, Via Fillungo 58 (where we had capuccino every morning)
Trattoria Canuleia, Via Canuleia 14 (we had our favorite meal here)
Osteria Cia S. Giorgio, Via S. Giorgina 26 (serving classic farro soup and lots of fresh fish options)
I Santi, Via dell’Anfiteatro 29 (the restaurant under our apartment; great wine list and excellent but pricey menu)
Trattoria de Leo, Via Asili (hopping locals cafe with cheap house wine and traditional cuisine)
Pizzeria de Felice, Via Buia 12 (famous chickpea crepes)
Our favorite sites in Lucca:
San Giovanni Church – not the main church that tourists come to see but this was the first cathedral of Lucca and gives you an idea of what the city used to be like through the archeological finds that are exposed under the church. You can see remnants of ancient bath houses and roads, discovering there’s a whole other city under the modern-day Lucca. We also learned that a disciple of S. Peter of the Bible became the first bishop of Lucca, revealing that the remnants under this church date back to the time of Christ.
Guinigi Tower – tallest tower in the city built by a wealthy silk baron, giving great views of the city.
Piazza dell’Anfiteatro – ‘the archetectural ghost’ of a Roman amphitheater (as Rick Steves would say). This theater used to seat 10,000 people. (pictured above)
Wall around the city – grab a picnic of fresh salami and cheese and find a shady spot on the wall or rent a bike for a couple of rounds along the 2.5 mile jaunt.
Traditional Luccese Foods:
Ceci or cecina – garbanzo bean crepe, an ideal cheap snack best accompanies by a nip of wine
Farro – spelt grain often served in tomato soups in Lucca
Tordelli -homemade ravioli stuffed with pork and beef and served with more meat sauce (Josh had this literally every day)
Buccellato – bread dotted with raisins
Torta de Lucca – sweet swiss chard tart with pine nuts (pictured above)