So I am sitting on a plane with my hubby having given up a very good job of just over 4 years and apparently it’s not the destination that is important it’s all about the journey you go on! Well that might be the case but let me tell you right now I am only excited about the destination which is Italy and more specifically a city break in Lucca followed by four days of beach heaven in Viareggio on the Riviera Della Versilia!
This has been a long-planned trip created around my bucket list desire to visit the ‘Cinque Terre’ meaning ‘5 lands’ which is situated on the Ligurian Coast and I am super excited about going there! First stop however is Lucca for 3 nights. Lucca is a city famous for its intact renaissance-era city walls and as you travel into the city from the airport the intrigue truly starts to build as you drive round the outside of the walls you start to visualise just what might be inside them. And let me tell you it is not a disappointment when you enter the walls for the first time! The city is typically Italian with wonderful buildings, Piazza’s to die for and a lovely shabby chic feeling. Our apartment ‘Anna’s Place’ encapsulates this entirely, a bohemian pad on the 4th floor of a typical Lucchese apartment block on the famous Via Fillungo and with it’s endless views of terracotta roof tops it is absolutely perfecto.
It is day 1 in a city that I have falled in love with at first sight and now it is time to really explore and see what this place has to offer! Well just strolling round the narrow lanes and alleys is pretty magical as is stumbling across Piazza after Piazza, the perfect pit stop for a morning coffee or Aperol spritz! The most famous square is Piazza Dell’ Anfiteatro, an ancient roman city square in the heart of the city. This amphitheatre is picture perfect and has an array of restaurants and bars around it. Whilst a lot of these are pretty ‘touristy’ we loved ‘Bollicina’ a perfect spot for afternoon/evening drinks with fabulously friendly staff. Oh but don’t forget to leave some room for the nibbles that come with drinks!
Next up we hired bikes from one of the many cycle hire shops in Lucca and for the princely sum of 7 euros we are off and ready to cycle round Le Mura Di Lucca (City Walls). Originally built for defence it is now a pedestrian promenade full of trees, picnic tables, joggers, walkers, cyclists, dogs and wonderful views into and out of the city. A round journey is about 4km and it is a really easy cycle. There are a myriad of cafes to stop at and refuel along the way our favourite being ‘Caffetteria San Colombano’ which is built inside the ancient homonymous rampart of the walls.
Onto some culture next as we head to Lucca’s Duomo, Cattedrale de San Martino situated in a wonderful Piazza this is definitely worth a visit. The architecture is Roman-Pisan style and is stunning as is the interior although in a nicely unstated way. Next stop is the Torre Guinigi the most important Tower in Lucca. The Tower is one of the few remaining within the city walls and its main characteristic is its garden in the sky at the top of the roof. The ancient trees are Holm Oaks and symbolise rebirth and renewal and if you can face the climb to the top then go for it as the views of the rooftops of Lucca are amazing! Last stop for the day is Orto Botanico Du Lucca otherwise known as the Botanic Gardens! This is well worth a mosey around with gorgeous green spaces, greenhouses, medicinal plant collections, a beautiful pond that looks like a Monet painting and the Arboretum, it is perfect for simply wandering around.
Now whilst we are still on the cultural front let me share a top tip with you and it is free! Whilst meandering around Lucca take a stroll past the ‘Istituto Superiore di Studi Musicali Luigi Boccherini’ at Piazza del Suffragio. As you pass by this beautiful building you will hear the dulcet tones of every instrument under the sun being played, the voices of budding opera singers and admittedly a few ‘off’ notes but hey practice makes perfect! The sounds that come dancing into the street are truly spellbounding as are some of the surrounding townhouses and gardens.
And finally we need to talk food and drink! Lucca’s wonderful Piazza’s are all home to an eclectic mix of restaurants and bars so much so it can be difficult to actually make a choice about where to sit down! For morning coffee we frequented Caffetteria Turandot in Piazza San Michele which with the back drop of another Cathedral is a pretty nice spot to watch the world go by. Bar Lippi in Piazza Napoleone is a casual and quirky little place made all the more mysterious by the staff jumping on 3 wheeled bike every five minutes and disappearing off… The mystery was however eventually solved when we worked out that they were picking up pizza orders from the local pizzeria, sliding them out of the box onto a plate and serving to their customers – ingenious and delicious!
Real highlights in terms of traditional Italian eating experiences were ‘Gigi Trattoria’ a wonderful neighbourhood restaurant full of locals which can be found at Piazza del Carmine and ‘Osteria da Rosolo’ located at Corte Campana which is a traditional Osteria located up a nondescript alley way with a fabulous outdoor eating area. And unlike me don’t be shy to ask for a table outside even it is full they will get you one, as the waiter said to me “all you had to do was ask” – lesson learned! Last but certainly not least ‘L’isola che non c’era’ is well worth a visit. Situated on Via Degli Angeli just off the main Via Fillunga this is a family run restaurant with a fantastic Lucchese menu and great value wines. As for drinks well you really cannot go wrong with half a carafe of the Lucchese wine at 8 euro a pop, Aperol spritz is in abundance but if you do want to mix it up a bit try a Campari spritz instead, it is a great palate cleanser!
Lucca is as laid back as City’s come, there is lots to see and do but equally you could just spend the whole day strolling (or cycling) around this stunningly beautiful place. We will definitely be back but for now we are off to the Stazione di Lucca and we are heading off for Part Two of our Italian Adventure, Viareggio! Ciao…