They don´t ask for payment until you finish your coffee and ready to leave the café. Lucchese trust people
LUCCA, ITALY: Tuscany is the most glorious corner of Italy and before I came here I was told it´s something about the city of Lucca. About the historic city inside three circles of city walls, the first wall built around 200 BC, with some serious Roman gates into the city.
The last city wall forms a four kilometres ring of trees, a green space with species that change colours with the seasons. The green walls are perfect for a walk and a panoramic point, with churches and towers of Lucca on one side and the Alps on the horizon. No wonder Lucca has become a trendy visiting point for those on tour of Tuscany.
Click for large photos of Lucca
Get lost. Inside the massive city wall, I discovered the Roman layout, the true beauty of the city, medieval alleyways and the elegant palazzi. After walking the city with the excellent guide Gabrielle Calabrese I know even more about the mix of history and histories, about musician Giacomo Puccini, the modern Lucchese and the concern of extremely number of tourists at the same time. “My best advice to know this city is simply Get lost”, says Gabrielle.
History and culture. I´m here to learn all about the locals, history and the culture, I will explore Lucca through the gastronomy – the foody way. To pick up some advice how to make tasty Italian food, such as how-to making pasta sauce – keeping back a little of the pasta water and adding it to the sauce, to make it delicious, it really makes all the difference. Lucca has a collection of kitchens and many chefs protect the gastronomic tradition typical of this city, or simply rediscover ancient flavors and serve them in a modern way.
Local secrets. We tend to think of Italian cuisine as a mixture of pasta, pizza and the famous ham made in Parma. The reality is that no two regions eat the same, no two cities speak the same culinary dialect and – especially when it comes to food – every little town has its own tasty secrets. Lucca is located at the foot of the Apuan Alps and less than half an hour from the coast of Versilia and not far from Pisa and Florence. After a tasty and pleasant three days visit I have to declare – There´s positively something about Lucca.
Food, olive oil and wine. In general, the food served here is unpretentious simplicity, it is more exquisite than anything you could want to eat in any fancy restaurant in any great metropolis. More important, traditional local food is mainly not to be found at Italian restaurants outside Italy – just in the name of Italy. Not to forget that the olive oil is the star of Lucca, thanks to the small local farms. Try wine from the Montecarlo and Colline Lucchesi labels made from grapes and vineyards from the seaside to the mountains finished by the area’s young winemakers.
100 churches. Lucca is known as the city of a hundred churches, the city walls and once upon the time business related to trade of silk that made this city wealthy. Actually, only 48 churches are open today, small and large, but no Cathedral. At the wall of San Michele in Foro you will find the oldest graffiti in town, more than 700 years old. Make sure you visit Piazza San Michele and Piazza dell`Anfiteatro, the two oldest squares. Lucca is like a bastion with a wall 12 metres in height made of millions of bricks, and barracks for the efficient militia that controlled the city gates.
Napoleon. Julius Caesar was visiting Lucca and from 1396 the city became an independent state. Later Napoleon came with his wife Josephina, but the big revolution happened when Napoleon in 1805 brought his younger sister Elisa Baiocchi to town. She opened schools and new hospital, promoted industry and agriculture, imported Champagne and established the Swiss Guard when she governed the Republic of Lucca.
Puccini. Many places around Lucca recall the great composer Giacomo Puccini, a symbol of an age of lively intellectual and cultural activity, and still expressed by contemporary arts, photography and comics. Visit Puccini Opera and Casa Museo Puccini and learn more about operas such as La bohéme and Madame Butterfly – and about the Maestro.
The Locals. In Tuscany many consider Lucca as “that´s not Tuscan”. May be because the Lucchese people´s way of speaking, or the fact that Lucca preserved its independence until 1847 – or simply referring to the bread, which is salted in Lucca and straight elsewhere in Tuscany. Despite any claims – Lucca is like an island and home to some of the best things in Tuscany.
I came across an additional quality: People of Lucca trust in people, even in tourists. A Lucchese is a Gentleman, not so open-minded or too closed-minded. Not like people of Rome; they would rather die than be wrong. A Lucchese don´t ask for payment until you finish your coffee and are ready to leave the café.
Twenty years ago, no tourist came to visit Lucca. Now most of the tourists arrive on a day-visit and leave in the evening, just like the flock of 28 million tourist yearly visiting Venezia. Historicly, the Lucchese handled Romans and Napoleon, but are they prepared to manage hordes of tourists showing up on their doorstep in the future?
Surrounded by three walls constructed to protect, the last one completed in 1644, they are aware of turning Lucca into a touristic trap. In addition, they have seven gates and all can be closed. Hopefully gates are open on my next visit – because the locals made me feel like home and I´m certain this will not fade away.
Make it Happen!
Touch Down: Pisa´s Galileo Galilei Airport is the main arrival for visitors to Pisa, Lucca and Florence. There is a shuttle train into Pisa, from where you can get a train to Florence after you have seen the Leaning Tower. You can fly straight into Florence from London City Airport. Lucca is very easy to reach both by car as well as train from Pisa and Florence, perfect for getting around on public transportation.
Stay: Hotel Alla Corte degli Angeli has spacious rooms with big bath rooms and cosy atmosphere in the restaurant. Actually, they also serve good breakfast and excellent food in the evening. Address: Via Degli Angeli 23, Lucca From second half of 2019 you can spoil yourself at Grand Universe, the city´s first 5-star hotel
Eat: I recommend restaurant Gli Orti di via Elisa in Lucca for traditional food and excellent meat. For Sunday brunch and evening meal, try “Osteria Al Manzo”, Via Cesare Battisti 28, in town. For lunch, try restaurant “Antica Locanda dellÁngelo” in town. Excellent food. To enjoy a great cup of coffee, such as macciato, espresso or cappuccino, try Bar Pasticceria Elisa, at Via Elisa 1, opening from 7am. Cash only.
Play: Each October, Lucca Comics & Games takes place – a festival that turns the old walls into a carnival. Lucca is a summer destination for music due to the Lucca Summer Festival, features artists on the international scene. Elton John will arrive with his farewell-show summer 2019
Mini Guide: Near Lucca, visit seaside town Versilia and its beaches, the Apuan Alps and the splendid Garfagnana with its small characteristic villages as Barga. There's a lot to do and see also in the surroundings of Lucca! Cooking classes is a popular activity. Learn how to make pasta from scratch or learning more about wines, from taking an afternoon lesson to a week-long course. Lucca has historical towers and the 45m high Torre Guinigi is the most iconic tower and is known for its rooftop garden contains some beautiful Oak trees. Villa Torrigiani di Camigliano, built at the beginning of 1500, is open for public from March to November. The English Garden is voted the best park in Italy.