Visiting Lucca – Wednesday 16 August
We debated whether to take a detour via Pisa to see the tower and were glad we did. Found a small little parking lot down the road and joined the tourist throng! At 9am is was already crazy busy, so we were glad not to have left it to the end of the day to visit. We had decided not to climb the tower – too many people! So after the obligatory photos and WOW! we stopped at a bar across from the tower for macchiato and brioche. They were probably the freshest we’ve had to date – and the standard 1 Euro per pastry.
Half an hour down the road, we arrived in Lucca and managed to find a big FREE parking lot! It was only a 5 minute walk to the walls. The green grass and trees surrounding the historic centre were gorgeous and provided a peaceful setting as we walked up to Porta San Donato. As we entered the gates we fell in love with the place! It’s a little off the tourist track, so whilst there are lots of visitors and enough English spoken, it was relatively quiet – except on the main shopping street.
Piazza San Michel reminded us of a mini Piazza del Duomo in Florence. Visited a lovely 130-year old pastry shop called Buccellato Taddeucci (Buccellato is a local cake) but resisted the temptation to buy anything.
We seem to climb towers wherever we go, and as Lucca has two of them on a single combo ticket, we decided to buy that. We started with the Torre delle Ore, the Clock Tower. It has a hand-wound Swiss clock that has changed four times an hour since 1754. We planned our visit for 11am in the hope that we’d see the mechanism flip into action on the hour, but unfortunately it wasn’t working. Time for the second tower, Guingi (belonging to the Guingi family). After 227 steps, we reached a small garden with trees and surrounded by fabulous views.
As has become our custom, we looked for a café with a toilet and grabbed our second macchiato of the day. Better to pay for a coffee than a toilet!
We’d booked a table at a quirk pizzeria outside the walls, so after ensuring we could find it, we paid a visit to the Botanical Gardens. Not an elaborate garden and fairly small, but full of plants and trees from all over the work (including Australia and South Africa). We even saw fish and terrapins in the little pond / lake. It was nice quiet break.
Our lunch at La Tena Dell’Orco (the den of the ogre) was a nice surprise. The food was simple but freshly made and fabulous. We tried the house speciality, cecina – a mix between an pizza and a wrap, made of chickpeas. Filled with ham and cheese, it was to die for! Their pizza was also pretty good. And the best ricotta cannoli we’ve had!! All for Euro 26 (including ½ litre of wine). We didn’t have another thing to eat that day! The menu tells us that all the food is freshly made and will therefore take time. Slow food is good food.
Although not opera lovers, we decided a visit to Puccini’s house (now a museum) would make for an interesting experience. And so it was – seeing where he wrote his operas (including one of his pianos), marked up scores of music and letters to and from the maestro.
After a walk a walk up the shopping strip and a visit to the Anfiteatro, we finished the day with a cycle on top of the city walls. There a tree-lined road that circles the town for 4 km. The bikes we hired were from Pro-classic cycles just inside Porta San Donato, and they were great. The guys running the place are originally from the Philippines, and were super-friendly.
Time for home to Grassina, a cold drink, bath and bed – after a wonderful day out in a place that stole our heart – Lucca!