Travel

The Italy Diaries: Lucca

Lucca is an ancient walled town in Tuscany which stood a very real chance at one time of usurping Florence as the central power of the region and is the birthplace of the composer Puccini. Today, it’s one of the wealthiest towns in the region thanks largely due to the silk and olive oil trades.

When we visited last year, we climbed the Torre Civica delle Ore, from where the above photo was taken. It offers amazing views across Lucca to the dramatic countryside beyond. We also explored the grounds of the Palazzo Pfanner.  This year, armed with a handy €1 map acquired in the car park, we decided to just wonder the many streets of the town.

One of the piazza’s that you’re sure to find yourself in is Piazza Saint Michele, which is dominated by its church. The builders who altered the church in the 14th century ran out of money, which is why it’s stunning facade towers over the actual roof. There are plenty of cafes and restuarants that surrond the square, so you’re able to while away some time just watching the world go by.

We then headed up to Piazza dell’Anfiteatro. This has literally been built in the place of the Roman amphitheatre and is literally a perfect circle of buildings which photos can’t really do justice to how cool it feels to stand in. It’s now full of shops and restaurants which really add to the buzzy feel of the piazza.

The best thing about wandering the streets of Lucca is that you come across churches and piazzas almost around every corner. We headed along Via Fillungo, the main shopping street of Lucca where we ate gelato and I stepped foot in a Sephora for the first time. It was great to look at high-end make-up without being mobbed by counter assistants and I left with that liquid lipstick. We then headed to a bar for prosecco and snacks. The ambience was slightly marred by the fact that the piazza had been fenced off as the venue for the Lucca Summer Festival, similar to BST Hyde Park and well worth checking out if you’re in the area during July.

We then headed to Osteria via San Giorgio which my parents had previously eaten at and was delicious. It’s popular, but for a reason. I began with toasts with a variety of toppings-I especially liked the pate and the marinated artichokes; followed by sea bass and then essentially a giant jam tart all of which was great. My Dad tried out the regional delicacy bistecca fiorentina, essentially a gigantic steak.

We walked our meal off by walking along the walls that encircle the town, some of which date back to before Christ and are now popular walk and cycle routes.

Notes
Lucca is about 30 minutes drive from Pisa International Airport
It has an excellent train service connecting it to Pisa and to Florence
This website gives you virtual tours of key landmarks and a list of places to stay

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