Overnight visit to Lucca….
During our Italian visit in 2017, we took a drive down to Pisa for some photos of the leaning tower and then spent the rest of the day in Lucca, a small fully walled town nearby that seems to have avoided some of the tourist hype. We were keen to revisit, with Walter particularly eager to experience it early morning and after dark when the day trippers had left. After spotting that a couple of guys had managed to get a parkrun up and going on the walls of Lucca and that the inaugural event was due for 25 August 2018, we decided it was an opportunity to good to refuse. So, we booked a night’s accommodation, packed a backpack and hopped on an early morning train, destination Lucca (via Pisa).
First priority on arrival was sugar and caffeine as we hadn’t had any breakfast before leaving Florence. We headed for a pasticceria inside the walls not far from the station and consumed a cappuccino and Nutella brioche. Suitably satiated, we were ready to head to the little inn where we were to check in (our accommodation was a little apartment with no reception). We were too early to get to our room, but were able to drop off the backpack and head off for a walk on top of the walls.
The walls of Lucca….
Lucca is known for its historic walls, built between the mid-1600s and early 1800s and still intact. The walls today are actually the fourth version, the first one having been built by the Romans in the 2nd century BC, the second one dating to the Middle Ages, finished in 1270, and the third started at the end of the 1500s and similar to the current walls. When considerable advances were made in military technology, it was decided that the walls should be improved and fortified. The work was so vast and intense, that nearly 2,000 workers were needed per day and people from the surrounding countryside were required to lend a hand at least once a week! The walls have 12 enclosures with ramparts and 11 bastions. They were never used for defensive purposes, in the end, apart from one occasion, though it was likely not to be for what you’d think! When the River Serchio flooded in 1812, all the gates were closed and reinforced, saving the city.
In 1815 part of the walls were made into a green space, which was later turned into a full-blown public park in the late 1800s. Today, the walls boast many spots to play and relax, especially around the bastions and ramparts, equipped with benches, tables, drinking fountains and games for children. The paved path on top of the walls stretches for 4.2 km around – they had to add on a loop at the beginning of the run to make it up to the 5km required for Parkrun.
Mura di Lucca Parkrun (Walls of Lucca Parkrun)……
After a rain shower during the night, we woke up to an overcast but dry Saturday morning – much better than was forecast. With the run only starting at 9am, we had plenty of time to wonder around, enjoying the town before any of the tour groups arrived. With a number of outdoor art displays around, we were able to take a look in different light to the midday sun we’d had the day before.
The start of the run was very conveniently located, less than 500m from our accommodation. We decided to get there much earlier than we typically do for a park run so we could absorb the atmosphere. We had a good chat to Georges, the founder of Parkrun Italy and met up with a few other parkrunners from Florence and abroad. David, from Bristol, was running his 293rd parkrun and had come to Lucca especially for the event. After a word from Georges and one of the local organisers, the 124 runners headed to the start line and we were off. We had a good run and were both 1st in our age category (not admitting that’s just because there weren’t many others). Following a chat to a runner from Manchester before she had to charge off to catch her plane from Pisa, we strolled back to our accommodation to shower and pack.
Around the wall and through the streets and piazzas….
On our previous visit to Lucca, we had cycled the path on top of the walls a few times. This time we had the opportunity to run on the walls with 120+ of our nearest and dearest. We also had sufficient time to stroll the 4.2km, taking in the views both outside and in. Lucca is one of the few flat towns of its type, and as it is set in a valley, the wall provides lovely vistas of the lawns just outside, the surrounding circle of trees and the buildings and hills beyond. Being up high also enables one to see the nooks and crannies around the town – and there are many of them (if anyone has watched the Top Gear episode that was filmed in Lucca, you’ll understand).
Lucca is known as the city of churches, given it has approximately 100 of them! Palazzos and villas abound. It is also the birthplace of opera composer Puccini (Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini). Generally, for a small town, Lucca had a huge artistic heart and whilst we were there is was very visible in the exhibitions in the streets and piazzas (never mind the Puccini festival taking place in the theatre). In addition to the huge sculptures of South American artist Jimenez Deredia, there were numerous other pieces, many of them made of paper.
We found Lucca to be a friendly town, full of energy. It is a place where getting lost is expected and what needs to happen so as to embrace all that this delightful place has to offer.