Lucca Italy is a small pink-bricked walled city built on ramparts in Tuscany, just northwest of Florence. Since it’s only about a 75 minute train ride from Florence, it makes an easy day trip. But since it happens to be one of my favorite walled cities in Italy, I would recommend staying on for a few days.
Being opera fans, when I learned that Lucca was the birthplace of famed Giacomo Puccini, we decided to fit in a quick visit. Elisa Bonaparte, ‘Princess of Lucca’ as crowned by her brother Napoleon, was responsible for planting green grass, trees, flowers and other landscaping that makes up the 2.5 mile circular public park perfect for walking and biking.
It’s very charming, picturesque and serene and one of the most popular spots in all of Lucca. After seeing some of the scenery I can understand why.
Visitors can rent bikes at local shops and ride around on the path located on top of the ramparts. Along the way, you will see locals enjoying their daily passeggiata (walk) around the path. Occasionally you will pass a jogger, but two things you won’t see – vespas or cars. Lucca is definitely a bicycle town. Lucchesi ( locals from Lucca) all ride their bikes to get around.
Where to stay in Lucca
We stayed in the Hotel Piccolo Puccini located near the San Michele in Foro church. It is a lovely little hotel. The tiny cobblestone alley leads to a small charming stone facade, with a large arched front doorway and gleaming Italian marble tiles.
The rooms are on the modern side, rather large by European standards. I was transported back in time when I opened our windows, which were large evergreen-colored wooden shutters that push out with the help of old metal hinges. Our view from said window looked down on the piazza below, where a statue of none other than Puccini himself stands! He looks so casual. I wonder what he was thinking with his pose. Was he composing one of his operas?
Where to eat in Lucca
For dinner in town we opted for the family run Trattoria da Leo, which is steps away from the hotel. Even with a reservation, we waited about an hour for a table, which is always a good sign. For great food, I never mind waiting, especially when there is plenty of red wine to get us through. Da Leo did not disappoint. The décor is simple and rustic. The menu was graced with local recipes and ingredients. Ribolita and Ravioli Porciniare are two of the local favorites.
The regional olive oil pours like liquid gold and tastes grassy and fruity. They have daily specials, a tourist menu (but don’t let that deter you) and an outdoor terrace for dining al fresco. The main shopping street, Via Fillungo, is very elegant and has a large selection of designer stores, small boutiques, cafes, antique shops and more.
One of our favorite shops, Enoteca Vanni, is a wonderful wine shop that also stocks local olive oil. The owner was kind enough to give us a tour of the ancient wine cellar, which is made up of several rooms full of wine, some dating back to the early 1900’s.
We spent about an hour and a half picking his brain about Italian wine and local producers before deciding on a great bottle of red from local favorite Melini and a bottle of local extra virgin olive oil.
Things to do in Lucca
- Lucca has many lovely churches, but don’t miss San Michele in Foro and Lucca’s cathedral
- Climb both the Guinigi Tower or Torre del Ore (the clock tower), for incredible views
- Casa Natalie di Puccini, a museum dedicated to Puccini’s works
- Visit the Palazzo Pfanner, with frescos, a lovely courtyard and gardens with fountains and statuary
I really love Lucca. For the small town vibe, the medieval ramparts, for the local food, wine and olive oil, but most of all for the wonderful memories we created, especially our time with the owner of Enoteca Vanni.
I have since recommended him as a sommelier for a private wine tasting in Lucca this past summer for a large party of 10 people. They were very happy with him.
And a shout out to Giacomo Puccini for being born in Lucca and for composing opera. We would not have found Lucca without you.
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