italian vacations

Travel Tuesday: Bellissima Lucca

When I think of Lucca there are many things I want to say. The architecture, the beautiful Piazza’s, the city walls, the sophisticated people and it being the city of the famed opera composer Puccini all add to why I say Bellissima Lucca.

It would be an ideal world if you could see the architecture of Lucca from a plane to truly appreciate it. You would be able to get a better feeling of how the city is situated and the amazing medieval walls that still surround a vast majority of the city. The main piazza, Piazza dell’Anfiteatro is like no piazza you’ve seen and the spot where gladiators used to battle. This piazza is a closed one, surrounded by buildings. There are only four openings to get into the piazza unlike the open airy feelings of most piazza’s in Italy. This gives it the feeling of actually sitting in an amphitheater. It is a wonderful place to do some shopping and then sit and relax, enjoy a coffee and a slice of Buccellato (an old sweet bread). In the past buccellato was a cake in Lucca traditionally made on the confirmation day of your children. But thankfully today it can be found everyday in Lucca.

One night when walking back to my hotel I passed Piazza San Michele. I was struck not by the beauty of the Piazza but what was going on inside of it, it was one of the most elegant sights I had ever seen. It was dusk and looking into the Piazza everything was white. The tables, plates, candles, tablecloths even the clothing the people wore, EVERYTHING was white. It was the most elegant and sophisticated scene I had ever witnessed. I had to ask a local what was going on. I was told it was called “Andare oltre si puó”, which translated means you can go further. This is an organization that promotes art, music and culture while fundraising to help people less fortunate. Their purpose is to show people that you can have difficulties but still overcome them. Every year they have this beautiful “White Party” in Lucca. People pay to register and agree to bring everything. They bring the tables, chairs, plates, glasses, food, etc. They are not allowed to bring paper plates or cups it all has to be ceramic. And it ends up to be a beautiful sophisticated picnic. I would love to be able to participate in this one day!

The walls that surround Lucca are amazing. I know that many of the towns in Tuscany give the feel of stepping back into medieval times but none of the cities have a walls surround so much of the city still in tact. These walls were built around the 1500’s to defend against foreign attack. The walls that are still standing are 4.2 km (2.6miles) in length, 12 meters high and 30 meters wide. A really fun and popular thing to do in Lucca is to rent a bike and ride along the cities walls. You can look down and see the whole city beneath you. And the thing that really impressed me was how sophisticated the people of Lucca are. It is almost like being in Milan but the people are not as snobbish. The women are always dressed impecably and yet still riding bicycles!

Lucca is also known as the City of Puccini. I stayed at a hotel right next to his house which is now a museum. Music enthusiast love to come to Lucca to explore the traces Puccini left behind. You can tour his house to see his Steinway Piano, signed scores of his first opera, paintings, letters, pictures and much more.

Another nice thing about staying in Lucca is that while you are in the city, there are many things to explore outside the city. Within a five minute walk you can be in the countryside where there are many activities and parks to visit. If you’re traveling with children you might want to go to Pinocchio Park located in Collodi a short drive from Lucca. You can walk thru the park and gardens tracing the events narrated in the book Pinocchio through works of art, like the sculpture of Pinocchio and the Fairy, the Carabiniere, standing wide over the walking path, or the Cat and the Fox.
I call Lucca Bellissima because here you can do it all. You can enjoy being in a city similar to Florence but not as large. You can also be in the beautiful Tuscan countryside within a few minutes. There is good shopping, excellent food and a lot of fabulous culture.