26 – 27 May: Loving being lushes in Lucca

Author: Mrs A

Location: Lucca, Tuscany, Italy

Sunday: It was only a short drive down into Lucca, and our chosen sosta for the night, behind a mechanic’s garage a ten minute walk from the city walls. We parked up and decided to explore on foot, given the threatening skies and promise of forthcoming rain.

Lucca is one of the first towns we have visited which is not situated on a hilltop – sitting on a plain at the foot of the Apuan Alps with flat cobbled streets. It’s a nice break from climbing stairs and steep pathways! Its history dates back to Roman times, with traces of an amphitheater visible and archaeological remains beneath other buildings.

It was just lovely wandering into town, ambling down the lanes. Mark was literally salivating around every corner, with shops selling cheese, meat, pickled and fresh produce, pasta, sauces, vinegar, olive oil…the lists are endless.

Olives, anchovies, fresh pesto…thank you very much
Oh so much more to try and look at!
Endless interesting boutiques to explore

Too much walking and shopping makes for a hungry Mr A
Multiple old churches and squares.

We took a break as the rain fell for an Aperol Spritz and a slice of lemon meringue pie for Mr A before continuing our exploration.

We decided to go out to a local restaurant for dinner and randomly selected one in a quiet suburban street, La Norma, promising us good quality Sicilian food. They certainly delivered!

From the street it looks like nothing special, but entering the restaurant you’re presented with high vaulted ceilings, with glass skylights, walls lined with Sicilian wine. The menu was hand written, but interesting and we both selected an appetiser and a pasta. Most of the people eating there appeared to be Lucca locals rather than tourists.

Mark’s appetiser of pecorino and potato compote with black squid ink and olive oil…

Every dish was like an art work, beautiful colours and textures, thought given to not only the flavours but the visual impact. And we got bonus dishes especially prepared without dairy products, so I could eat them too – a roast potato with a baked quail egg inside….extremely light and crispy artichoke with prawn meat…by the time we reached our pasta dishes we were quite full! We would definitely come back here again. A fabulous first day in Lucca.

Wandering home after dinner through the empty wet streets of Lucca

Monday: One of Lucca’s main attractions is the city wall, which remains intact around the city. It is in excellent condition and topped with a wide shared pathway to encourage cycling, running and walking around the city limits. We decided to start our day with a ride around.

The streets within the walls are a maze of historical buildings, a multitude of churches and museums, grand old monasteries and art galleries. To ride through these cobbled roads is to spend your time noticing many little details – carvings above doors, sculptures inset into stone, ornate gateways…to understand all the iconography of what you’re seeing would be quite a challenge and perhaps a lifetime of work.

Historical complex of San Francesco
Mr A riding under one of the grand gateways
Lucca’s Cathedral – San Martino – built in the 6th century with a cascade of pink, green and white marble

Fabulous old roses in a monastery garden

Our network of cycling around Lucca – many one way streets make it a challenge to fill in all the gaps!

Throughout the day we explored a good part of the inner street network as well as lapping the city at least twice on the walls, clocking up around 25km. The only cat we saw was disappearing down a drain into another world beneath the streets…

Lucca’s a lovely settlement and definitely worth a visit, especially if you like history, fine food and wine, and shopping for clothes or jewellery. It feels a very safe and friendly area and is definitely up there in one of our favourite Italian towns.

Onwards tomorrow to Florence, and to adventures new.

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