Three days into our Italian adventure and we have happy hearts and tired feet. We have explored Lucca, learned the history, tasted the specialities, and soaked up the atmosphere.
We arrived in Lucca on Friday afternoon and checked into the Albergo Celide just outside the city walls of Lucca. It’s a 4 star traditional hotel with spa, roof terrace and private parking. Perfect for tucking the car away and enjoying a few days on foot. Bikes are everywhere and you can borrow one for the hotel to tootle round the city.
Our room was quiet and shady, comfortable with plump pillows and crisp white linen, and furnished in a charming traditional Italian style. Thank goodness for the complimentary slippers after a hard day’s sightseeing in the city.
It’s a 10 minute flat and easy walk into the centre of Lucca through the massive city walls via Porta Elisa and along Via Santa Croce and then Via Roma.
The streets are narrow and mostly traffic-free apart from a constant stream of bikes – the favoured mode of transport.
If you don’t have even a slight interest in the past, then this probably isn’t the place for you.
History is everywhere in this medieval wonderland. A church or duomo on every corner, a beautiful piazza, the famous amfiteatre – an oval shaped piazza which used to house the Roman Amphitheatre, now full of cafes and shops.
And there are towers everywhere. The Medici folk seemed to be slightly obsessed with building towers – the bigger and fancier the better.
Regular cafe stops are essential – not only to refuel and rest tired feet – but to sample as many gorgeous coffee houses as possible. There is just one rule – never order cappuccino in the afternoon, or the Italians will look at you funny. Something about hot milk and the digestive system. So it’s strictly “cafe”, or espresso – as we know it – in the afternoon and evening.
If you’re coffee lovers like we are, then check out our recent blog on coffee cupping – it’s a bit like wine tasting, only with caffeine.
We found a frequent home in Turandot Gelateria, Piazza San Michel, where gelato and other delights were happily consumed in the afternoon sun.
We spent a delightful morning strolling round the the Orto Botanico di Lucca, which as you enter, informs you quite firmly that it’s a museum – not a garden.
There is a small admission fee and it’s open daily during the warmer months. It seems we have the Duchess of Parma, Marie Louise, to thank for establishing this delightful corner of the city back in 1820.
With time to spare the Orto Botanico would make a relaxing spot to sit for a while with a good book
Lucca is fascinating city to visit for a few days.
My feeling is that the beauty is in the detail. The surprise view down a narrow alley, the seemingly infinite choice of gelato flavour, the traditional old style frontages to the shops, the antiques fair outside the Duomo and the fascinating range of delightful dogs that make their home here.
We’re sorry to leave and will definitely visit again but for now we are on the road south to Montepulciano, the next stop on our Italian adventure.