We have now traveled Italy from heel to toe, coast to coast, and I have to say, Lucca is one of, if not THE best cities in Italy. We are now staying here for the remainder of our last two weeks in Europe, in a quaint little apartment inside the old city walls. Lucca has a well-preserved city wall made of brick that encircles the historical center of town, and has a series of doors or 'porta' that lead outside the city center. From these porta, you can give or receive directions, and they go around the city like a wheel. There is a wide jogging path along the wall that makes for a marvelous passeggiata, or evening stroll. There are joggers, baby carriages, old men reading the paper on benches, small cafes, and mostly people walking along the wall to get from one side of the city to the other. It is supremely quiet, and there is a marvelous amount of greenery. There are wide fields surrounding the walls, where kids can play soccer, dogs can run, and people can bike. The way around the historical part of town is by bike, as cars are limited inside the walls. It makes for an incredible ambiance... There is no hum of scooters, no hugging the old stone walls while a truck zips by on a narrow street. It is a city for pedestrians, and because of that, it has a wonderfully relaxed, family-friendly feeling to it. I feel at ease allowing my little boy to toddle down the street several steps ahead, and letting him roam in a piazza, while I sip a glass of prosecco. Lucchese locals are also incredibly helpful and warm people, and finding everything you need here is remarkably easy, for a small Italian town. We found a natural food supermarket (!), there are pharmacies and hospitals, great shops, and some of the finest restaurants we have visited in Italy are here. I recommend Buca di San Antonio, if you are ever in Lucca. But really, virtually all of the restaurants here are good, even those in the more touristy areas of town. There are tourists who visit this town, but not so much that it is annoying to walk down the street or that you feel the locals are jaded, rip you off, or desire that you not be there. We happen to be in Lucca this time at the height of their tourist season, since there is a giant music festival they host each July called Lucca Summer Festival. Even in this atmosphere, it does not feel swamped with tourists or overcrowded. It is as laid-back and welcoming as always. It is one of those places that invites you inside, by continually surprising you with new vistas, piazzas, and quaint cafes. The first time we came to Lucca, we were wandering without a map, and as we walked down a narrow street, it would open up into a beaiutiful piazza. Aha! this is the place, but then a little more walking, and another piazza would appear, more beautiful then than to last. It has that kind of old world charm and architecture. Maybe there are no 'big' sights here, but the historical center in its entirety is a special place worth seeing, or in our case, coming back for again and again.
Other reasons to come to Lucca: It is an hour by bus (or two hours by slow train) to Florence, another wonderful city! and just twenty minutes to Pisa, which is nice to visit just to say you did. It is also 20 minutes to the sea, and there are some great free beaches to explore with big sand dunes that might make you imagine you are in the Southern Atlantic coast, around South Carolina. The coast also has incredible fish and chips that makes it worth a visit. It is near to the Cinque Terre, Viareggio, and also a longer day trip to Milan, Parma and other Northern towns...
Why my husband and I decided to come back to Lucca was for the peace and tranquility that the no traffic zone provides, the green areas and playgrounds for our son to run around, the Lucchese food like tortelli con ragu (tortelli/ravioli with meat sauce), risotto, farro (spelt), lamb... oh, and for an Italian language class.