Tuscany's best-kept secret
Buongiorno! Lucca is one of my favourite places in Italy. Situated about half an hour’s drive from Pisa which is most famous for its faulty, or should I say, leaning tower, Lucca is the place to go if you want to get away from the madding crowds and enjoy a more peaceful experience. It’s definitely a love-at-first-sight kind of place, and it wasn’t surprisingly to meet people from all around the world who had gone for a short visit and had ended up staying years.
Henry James described Lucca as ‘overflowing with everything that makes for ease, for plenty, for beauty, for interest and good example’. The birthplace of Puccini, its historic centre is jam-packed with cobbled lanes, majestic piazzas, awe-inspiring churches, art galleries, excellent restaurants and interesting shops. If you are visiting, do walk, jog or cycle the leafy Renaissance city walls – referred to by the locals as ‘their outdoor gym’ and very much the centre of Lucchese life. The 12 metre high walls were built around the old city in the 16th and 17th centuries, but were only filled in with a wide walkway in the 19th century. Being on them is definitely a great way to appreciate the city’s charms.
There is also nothing nicer than sitting in one of the beautiful piazzas in Lucca, sipping a drink and watching the world go by. On a weekend the local teenagers are out in force, groups of them eyeing each other across the square in an age-old courting ritual. Always there are family groups, parents and grandparents enjoying the day, and children busy chasing pigeons or kicking a soccer ball. The cycle of life in Lucca is relaxed and family-friendly, as well as being a fascinating place of history and culture – it dates back to before Roman times, although most of the streets and monuments are from the 12th century when Lucca became a city state. There is a real sense that nothing much of significance has changed in that time as the historic buildings look over each new generation.
Arrivederci Lucca! I hope I get to visit you again soon.