Like every Italian I know, I love complaining about Italy.
I do it almost every day, about politics, the bureaucracy, unemployment, depressing economics – you name it. You can hear me saying “Povera Italia”, poor Italy, quite frequently and I never miss the chance to let people know that I’d love to live somewhere else, if I could.
But it takes just a day trip to Tuscany to change my mind.
I live in Liguria, which is a region in the North of Italy. It is a tiny stretch of land, nestled between the sea and the hills. Liguria is a lovely place and has the perk of laying close to the Cote d’Azur, on one side, and Tuscany, on the other. This means it is quite easy to get in the car and be in Nice, or Cannes, or Florence, or Pisa, in not more than three hours.
I have to stop complaining, I know.
For example, last week I had the chance of going to Lucca, Tuscany. I bet you have heard about it before, but if you haven’t, let me tell you a bit about it. Lucca is a beautiful little town just an hour away from Florence. It can easily be visited in a few hours, so I’d definitely recommend it for a day trip – if you are in Tuscany.
It would be a real pity to miss it, let me tell you.
Piazza San Michele
San Frediano church seen from the city walls
Why is it so special?
- It is tiny and can easily be visited by feet or by bike. Its streets are narrow and there a very few cars, which makes it a very relaxing place.
- It is surrounded by intact Renaissance-era city walls. They are now a kind of promenade above the city streets, where people jog or walk their dogs, spend time chatting with friends, enjoy sunny afternoons on a bench or take amazing pictures of the city.
- It has a unique elliptical-shaped square, called Piazza dell’Anfiteatro. The square follows the same perimeter and volume of a Roman Amphiteatre, destroyed in Medieval times, and is a magical place – at night especially, with its cafés and restaurants.
- There’s a tower with holm oaks on top. It is the Guinigi Tower,it dates back to the late 1300s and was part of the house of the Guinigi family, who were rich merchants and one of the leading families in Lucca. It is still intact and a must-see, if you go to Lucca.
- Lucca is the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini, the famous opera composer. If you are a fan of the opera, you can visit his house, now made into a museum. If you are more into pop music and happen to be in Tuscany in July, there’s Lucca Summer Festival – with names like Elton John, Lenny Kravitz, Robbie Williams, Bob Dylan, and Billy Idol.
- Its typical sweet, called Buccellato, is a ring-shaped cake filled with raisins and aniseeds. It is incredibly tasty and never boring, as it can be eaten in a variety of ways. My favourite is cutting it into slices and eating them with strawberries and cream. Totally worth trying, believe me.
- If you are in love with gardens and plants, like me, you can spend hours at the Botanical Garden, estabilished in 1820 by Marie Louise, the Duchess of Parma. Smaller than other botanical gardens I visited in the past, it has a unique atmosphere, interesting plants and a fairylike pond.
Needless to say, there are many more reasons for visiting Lucca, like museums, churches, monuments, cool shops, and amazing restaurants. Yes, I love it and I needed to share. I can’t help it, I am sorry. Down below, the highlights of my day.
This is just my happy self ready to go out and explore.
Favorite activity in Lucca: walking down the city walls spotting lovely villas and dreaming about living there.
No day trip would be the same without a gelato.
See? There is a tower with trees on top, I was not joking.
The one thing you MUST not miss when in Italy: the aperitivo. Please, don’t.
If you are interested in Lucca and want to learn more about it, I recommend you check the Lucca section on Discover Tuscany, it is full of information and useful things to know. Or, you can always ask me, I’d be more than willing to provide you with resources and information.
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If you are an independent traveler and do not like organized tours, but feel the need of visiting Italy with the help and guide of a local, Italy Your Own Way is perfect for you. You just need to fill in a questionnaire with your interests and likes and I’ll create your own travel guide, especially for you.