Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Three Days In Lucca Italy

We had the pleasure of spending three nights and days in Lucca, Italy.  It is a place I had been wanting to visit after reading about it in Rick Steve’s books.  I knew a visit here from the ship would just not be enough.  So we made a point of adding it to this voyage and to explore it fully.

Lucca is a walled city that is located in Tuscany region.  Between Pisa and Florence.  It was a reasonable distance from the port of Civitivecchia and then reasonable distance to Venice, our next stop.

We booked an apartment with Airbnb within the walled city (that is important) that was actually a two bedroom two bath.  A lot more space than we needed but the price was right and it sure was nice to have that much space.  Heck the apartment was bigger than our apartment at home.

Our first night was all about exploring the town.  The entire town is easy to get around in the narrow streets that are mainly pedestrian with occasional cars in certain areas.  You do have to watch out for bikes and motorbikes though.  

The next day we took our time getting moving.  This is a vacation after all.  After so many ports on our cruise we were ready for some R and R and sleeping in and slowly getting ready was key.  We had breakfast (bought groceries the day prior – cereal, milk, fruit, juice, wine, and bread.  Remember here you get your fruit/veggies and then you weigh them and the sticker prints out that you have to place on the bag for checkout) in the apartment and we left the place around 11 am.

time to stop and smell the pinwheels

Remember to get your coffee in one of the many coffee shops – drinking it at the bar cost a bit cheaper and this is what the locals do.  1.20 E for cappuccino – boy a lot cheaper than the 5E Cappuccino in Sardinia. 

The town looks different during the day that at night.  Many shops/restaurants are open only during the day, and then at night different shops/restaurants and bars are open.  

We explore the town using some guides we have from Rick Steve’s and others.  For lunch we stopped by a bakery and bought some focaccia – mine with onions and Bernie’s with tomatoes and we sat on a bench and had an impromptu picnic.

We booked a walking tour of the town through Viator prior to arriving that started at 2 pm.  We met our guide at the designated spot.  There were about 16 of us.  With people from Italy, a family from Spain, US, and Britain.  A nice pot pourri which allowed us to get to know each other.  

Our guide started on the wall that is now a pedestrian/bike pathway.  The wall was originally a medevial wall that was built to protect the city from other cities like Pisa and Florence and it kept out bows and arrows.  However as time progressed so did the armory, this wall would not do.  A large fortified wall was built around the city at a huge expense to the residents.  Today that wall still stands.  Where many other walled cities in Europe tore down their walls to create roadways, Lucca kept theirs and it is a highlight to the city.  The tour is two hours in length, just right and we learned a lot.

Once home we enjoy some wine and then a nap is order.  

In the evening we venture out again.  We are not really hungry but agree a nice stroll and a stop for some wine and then a stop for a cocktail are perfect end to the evening.  There are numerous bars open and we find a great spot that has live music and the cocktails are even better.  What a great way to end a great day.

The next day is all about exploring the sites we haven’t seen yet.  Again we are slow getting moving but once we are out and we have our espresso we are good to go.  

We want to walk the entire wall.  We enter via the Western gate and we walk clockwise.  The entire wall is 4 km and it takes us one hour to complete at a normal pace with stops for pictures.

We go down the wall and make our way to the Bascillica – it cost 3E to enter but I felt it was worth it.  Make sure to check out the labyrinth etched into the wall just on the outside.

Last stop we need to do is the Guingi Tower – the highest tower in the town that has trees planted on the top with a beautiful lookout – cost is 4E for adults 3E for seniors/kids.  The climb is not too strenuous if you are physically able to climb the …… steps.  It starts out wide but does get narrow.  Once at the top there is a narrow path around the perimeter where you can pose for pictues but it is narrow.  It was relatively quiet when we were there but it was a pain when you needed to get by.  I would hate to see it when it is busy.

Okay we have earned a good meal and well of course wine.  We stop at a nice restaurant that is not fancy, run by a family and has been there for a long time. 

We order half liter of the house wine, a green salad each.  We each have pasta, for me it is porcini mushrooms that are in season currently and Bernie gets the ravioli with pumpkin, that is also in season.  We each have dessert, for me the biscuits with vino santé, and for Bernie a pistachio iced dessert.  All the food was good and the bill came to 60E total, not bad considering all we had.  

Note most restaurants in Italy have a Comperto or Service Charge – usually around 1.50 to 3 E per person.  This is standard and it is just a charge for being in the restaurant.  In North America this fee is not there but it is included in the price of the food.  But also remember that tipping here is not expected.  Usually we round up the bill, like when we get coffees in the morning and it comes to 2.60E we give 3E.  

After getting back to the apartment around 3 pm we rest.  For us it is key to go with the flow and listen to our bodies.  We don’t want to push it and we know the locals take breaks in the early afternoon so we are acting like the locals.  

I did some research and found a restaurant I really wanted to try and was close by, but when we get there at 8 pm it is full – darn I should of made a reservation.  So we start wandering and we find a small family run restaurant off one of the side streets.  We eat inside as the cigarette smoke on the terrace is just too much for us to handle here in Italy.  

Here the house wine is 8E for a whole liter – well that is a sign – we will take a bottle then.   We order mushroom crepe starter and it comes with two crepes so we find it works great to share.   Then a large mixed green salad which also is big enough to share.   We even share a plate of pasta and  a side of grilled vegetables which were sadly too salty.  But everything else was great.  This meal only came to 40E total and again the service charge of 2E per person.

It is now 10 pm and we are strolling the streets.  This place is quite safe and we never felt worried.  

The next morning we are up early, only because we have to catch a train at 1030.  We are sad to say goodbye to Lucca.

Overall we really loved Lucca and would definitely come back.  It is a great spot to call home base and to travel around to the outlying areas – Florence, Pisa, Sienna and all of Tuscany.  The town is easy to get around, quiet and authentic.  Yes tourists come here, but most leave at the end of the day.  Prices are also more reasonable than the bigger places.

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