In my opinion, Lucca is one of the most charming cities in Italy. Off the beaten path, Lucca, with a population of around 87,000, is often missed while most tourists visit Florence, Pisa, and the Cinque Terre instead. When I read that the intact Renaissance-era ramparts in this city are among the best preserved in Italy, I knew I had to see it. Ramparts are more than city walls; they are defensive walls that have a broad top forming a walkway. The walls in Lucca are 40′ high with a 60′ wide tree lined walkway on the top that encircles the entire historic center for 2 1/2 miles. Most cities dismantled walls like these in the name of progress long ago. Any serious history nerd would want to see this.
I booked a night at B&B Il Duomo for 80 Euro ($110) in the historic area within the city walls. We arrived at the train station directly outside the wall and we immediately headed to the center. I have no sense of direction so I rely on my husband to get me where I’m going but I always bring a map with our destination marked for him to use. With no trouble, we soon located our delightful bed and breakfast. Although the owner’s mother who greeted us didn’t speak much English, we got by and I wholeheartedly recommend this B&B. The accommodations were lovely, the breakfast was good, and the price was right. We were in the heart of the historic area within walking distance of everything we wanted to see. Click on the link above to go to their website.
Less than a block from our accommodations, we discovered Lucca’s cathedral, Duomo di Martino, dating back to the 13th century. Although we did not visit, I understand it houses Lucca’s most precious relic, the Volto Santo, a crucifix with what is reputed to be the closest likeness to Jesus’ actual countenance.
Undoubtedly, the most popular tourist attraction in Lucca is to tour the ramparts by bicycle. You can rent a bike for 3 euro for a couple of hours at any of several bike rentals found near the wall and take a leisurely ride around the wide promenade. Today, the wall is reserved for pedestrian, bicycle, and roller blade traffic only, but at one time it was actually used as a racetrack.
Once we’d worked up an appetite we decided it was time to get dinner. We found an enoteca which is a wine bar, near our bed and breakfast. I’ve read that they have good, reasonably priced food and great wine so we thought we’d give it a try. Honestly, the food tasted like it was microwaved and we weren’t terribly impressed. The wine, however, was very good! Next time I’ll research the food quality a bit more before we try another enoteca.
Lucca’s other claim to fame is as the birthplace in 1858, of composer Giacomo Puccini. His compositions include some of my favorite operas– La Boheme, Madame Butterfly, Tosca, and Turandot. Listen to Luciano Pavarotti sing my all-time favorite selection, Nessun Dorma, from the opera Turandot.
Here are a few more photos of lovely Lucca before we board the train to Cinque Terre.
Based on events in October, 2013
Great post Laura! I love how the owner’s mother didn’t speak much English. Europeans are so happy to switch to English to accomodate us tourists that I view little immersion encounters as learning opportunities and adventures.