A Day In Lucca: An Underrated Tuscan Gem

Italy,Tuscany April 28, 2011 3:32 am

Driving south from Genova, or Cinque Terre, or even Pisa, Lucca sits quietly, unassuming, not quite yet deep into the Tuscan countryside. Lucca is a small town, mainly known for it’s center – the walled city.

Unfortunately, the walled city is in Lucca is all we got to see, but I don’t doubt that, as one waiter told us, “there’s a whole world of Lucca outside the city walls”. NOT unfortunately, Lucca turned out to be one of our favorite spots in Tuscany. This is why…

Walls of Lucca, ItalyYou enter the city past a wide mote of green grass surrounding the outside wall of the city. You can imagine an actual water filled moat was there at one time – something that looked far more intimidating – but today, the entrance to the city is both enchanting, and inviting. The wall is an attraction itself. You can hire a bike and ride round it’s edge, indulging voyeurism and peering down into the city from on high the whole time.

Inside the city is a generally typical small European city feel. Small cute shops, motorbikes and bicycles making their way along narrow streets, occasionally cobblestoned, tourists sauntering along with their gelatis, corners opening up into bustling Piazzas at many a turn.

But as you walk, Lucca begins to show you it’s depth. It boasts a bustling high end shopping quarter, with countless trendy boutiques. I’m not much for shopping but I can see it making a perfect place to spend some money outside of the token shopping locations like Florence. It has a small botanic garden that you can tour for about 6 Euros, complete with a little pond and a wide variety of flowers. And it has a multitude of proud, character filled antique shops, interesting even to the person with little interest in the subject.

That’s not even the half of it. If I could recommend a few things:

1. There’s a famous bakery right behind the church in the main square called Pasticceria Taddeucci. They sell, among other things, the local Tuscan cake called Buccelato. There is a special version of this made just in Lucca called… surprisingly, Buccelato di Lucca, which is apparently amazing. I say apparently because we actually passed this up for some of the other amazing sweet pastries on offer – ohhh boy. None of them are named, but we got a little tart of stacked, really thin slices of pastry, with custard in between and chocolate and icing sugar on top. Another was a cookie, half covered with chocolate, and with a lump inside it filled with this real orange paste stuff: also amazing. Anything you get from there will be good. Just do it. Apparently Prince Charles tried the Buccelato there during a trip to Lucca once. If you weren’t sold before, THAT should do the trick 🙂

2. Just walk. It’s a small town, there are maps everywhere, and it’s walled in, so basically impossible to get lost. There are a handful of piazzas, and you’ll easily find your way to whatever takes your fancy once you’re there. You can also hire a bike if you want to expend energy. There are bike hire shops all around and while we didn’t do it, they seem inexpensive.

3. Dinner: Don’t bother going ANYWHERE but Cantini Bernadini. Don’t look up restaurants, don’t check reviews, just do it. It’s number 1 on Tripadvisor for those interested, but even if it wasn’t, you would be a fool to miss it. We had probably one of the best meals in our life there – and I DON’T say that lightly. They serve high quality dishes with local ingredients. That’s local meats, local cheeses, local olive oils, local wines. The waiter Fabiano is a champion. He knows everything about the places each of the ingredients come from, everything about how to match the right wines with the right food with the right olive oils… and in fact everything about Lucca itself. Yes, he is a guru. We had delicious pastas, and freakishly sweet desserts (including soft Italian meringue just to whet your appetite). I repeat: If you don’t go there for dinner at least once, you’re a fool.

4. If you have more time, spend just a day, maybe 2 inside the walls, then venture out to the other sites in the region. There are some beautiful gardens, a cave, some cool ATV tours, and more. You’ll need a car to get around because each of these places are pretty spread out – some half an hour apart.

5. If you’re staying for a night or more, don’t get fooled into thinking you have to stay inside the walls. There is a lot of accommodation just outside the walls, a 5 minute walk to the city entrance, that is perfectly convenient and much cheaper. The area around there is nice, perfectly clean and safe feeling and because there’s more room out there, you’ll likely get a bigger hotel, bigger room, possibly better facilities too.

Lucca is scenic, kinda magical, and you’ll find it very tough NOT to enjoy.

Here are a few of our favorite Lucca photos…

Cute little square in Lucca, Italy

Cute little square in Lucca, Italy

Historic Centre of Lucca, Tuscany

Beautiful cathedral in Lucca, Tuscany

Incredible pastries from Pasticceria Taddeucci in Lucca

Historic centre in Lucca, Italy

2 Comments

  • Thank you for this! My family is heading to Italy in two weeks and staying in a villa in central Tuscany for a full week. Each of us chose one small town/city to visit for a day trip and I chose Lucca. Any other ‘can’t miss’ spots?

    Thanks again! I already made reservations at Cantini Bernadini!

    Katie

  • Shauna Giuffre

    Thanx for that great post. Just wondering if you can see the leaning tower of Pisa from Luca or do we need to actually go to pisa?

    thanx

    Shauna

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