Italy

Tuscany’s Hidden Gem, Lucca

One of Tuscany’s best kept secrets, Lucca is a charming, beautiful city. Cobblestone streets, homes in warm yellows, oranges and pinks, it’s a place of effortless beauty.

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Keen to spend a weekend in Italy, I was drawn to Pisa because of the cheap flights from London. Realising I could fly in early Saturday and leave on the first flight out Monday, I started planning for two days.

I knew I wanted to see the leaning tower, but had heard there wasn’t enough in Pisa to warrant spending really more than a half day. Looking to the countryside, I discovered Lucca was a 30 minute train ride from central Pisa. When deciding whether to spend the first night in Lucca or Pisa, I ultimately decided on staying in Lucca. Airbnbs within Lucca were more affordable than in Pisa, and I knew I’d be tired at the end of a long travel day.

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A walled medieval city, Lucca has managed to remain relatively free from the hordes of tourists that head to more well known destinations in the area, Florence and Siena.

With only one day in Lucca, I chose to wander the city at leisure.

There’s no shortage of charming alleyways to wander, and if you prefer to see the city from a different height, you can climb ~200 steps to the top of Torre del Guinigi or Torre delle Ore. Not one for heights? The walled pathway surrounding the city, which you can also walk around, is only 30 feet from the ground. Short on time, I decided to climb to the top of Torre delle Ore and take a short walk along the town’s wall.

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When it was time for lunch, I popped into Pizza Alice for a slice topped with potatoes and herbs. Then, it was back to the streets for more meandering cute piazzas and winding alleyways. On your explorations, don’t miss Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, a perfectly circular piazza or some of the best gelato in the city at Grom.

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Ready to relax late afternoon, I sat at a cafe, Bar San Michele, outside Piazza San Michele, one of Lucca’s busiest squares and people watched for a while, spritz in hand.

At the centre of piazza is a Romanesque church dating back to the 12th century. The marble facade is said to be one of the most unusual in Italy, with dozens of mythical creatures decorating the top tiers.

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As the day settled into evening, I headed to Buca di S.Antonio for my first homemade pasta dinner. First dinner? Yes, that’s right. Part of the appeal in going to Lucca was the chance to have excellent homemade pasta, and in the end I couldn’t decide between two places.

Homemade pasta dinner uno: Fettuccine in a butter parmesan sauce with black truffle at Buca di S.Antonio. Insanely good. Tip: Go early in the day or the day prior to make a reservation- otherwise, you may be waiting quite a while for a table.

Full, but determined to experience more homemade pasta, I wandered the city streets at dusk for a while before heading to second dinner.

Homemade pasta dinner due: Rigatoni with aubergine in a tomato ricotta sauce at Cibo e Convivio. At Cibo, I loved sitting at a sidewalk table- local wine, fresh bread dipped in olive oil and excellent rigatoni? Beautiful.

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As I finished my second dinner, the streets really began to come alive- dozens of people hanging at outside cafes, sipping drinks or espresso with friends.

There’s a Puccini concert almost every night in Lucca, he was born there and grew up in the city.  While I entertained the idea of going to see a show, I was also exhausted from the day’s travels, and planned on waking early the next day to head back to Pisa before going to Cinque Terre for a day trip.

Lucca re-ignited my love for Italy, and has me thinking about a long weekend in Florence, and possibly Siena next summer.

Have you ever been to Tuscany? Where should I visit on my next trip? 

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