Next stop: the historical town of Lucca for our adventure, hidden in the rolling hills of Tuscany. We were really en route to Montecatini, but of course we can’t check in until 3PM so why not take another side trip? (This seemed to be Gate 1’s itinerary strategy.) Our journey there by bus (and to all the subsequent locations) slowly lulled me to sleep by our wonderful driver, Stefano. For the parts when I was awake, I noticed narrow highways with large strips of farm land similar to the US. There were of course several olive and fig trees instead of the regular US corn vegetation. Never heard of it? Apparently that was the point!
There was so much history in this lesser known portion of Italy that we both discovered! Our excellent local tour guide, Gabriel, explained that Lucca was one of the most secure kingdoms in Italy during the middle ages. Also it was one of the few stable currencies accepted across Europe, until the rulers decided they needed more of a low profile. Thus much of the city has been well preserved including the remarkable walls all around the city. As he put it, everyone knows that Switzerland is a rich country with a high standard of living, but try to name the prime minister. (Do they even use a PM? I don’t know, but they’re rich!)
The architecture here was beautiful with medieval and Romanesque churches. Most notably San Michele was in the main square for the Roman Forum also had old graffiti on the side. Gabriel pointed out that to communicate with one another even though they spoke different dialects they scrawled the graffiti across the side of the church. Hilariously there were even many faded phallic symbols. The more “modern” buildings were all from Napoleon’s era.
During his conquest of Europe, he sent his younger sister Elisa to serve as the kingdom’s princess. The rulers expected her to be a figurehead easily assuaged by fashion and luxury. Oh, how wrong they were. She modernized the town with new functional buildings. She established several free hospitals and medical institutions to help the afflicted population. She also created the department of public education to promote learning for children (both boys and girls).
As we entered Lucca we noticed these massive walls encircling the city. Originally the walls were built for defense, and they are surprisingly well preserved and very even. (Of course they have performed remodeling on several sections over time.) It’s incredible to see the sheer WIDTH of the walls. As we were walking along at least 4 abreast following the tour guide, several other visitors strolled through by foot and bicycle! The entire length of the wall is 4 km. Keep in mind the walls are also elevated about also probably about 15 feet. (Couldn’t confirm the height so this is purely a guesstimate haha with inconsistent units.) Listening to our guide’s vivid explanation animated the town throughout the eras. Gabriel made our short time in Lucca worthwhile!
We were starving again before the official “walking” tour started so this time we learned our lesson from our first stop, and took Johnny’s suggestion. We arrived at Da Francesca for lunch joined by the majority of our tour group. We both ordered their specialty pasta and once again we noticed that the portions are much smaller than we were used to in the US. The food here was much more delicious yet again than that place I’ll regrettably never forget in Venice. Even our main tour guide Johnny was there sitting right behind us multitasking with his tour tasks to coordinate future logistics. I tried their coffee here and I savored each drop. (People back home know I usually decline coffee since I love the smell but hate the coffee breath afterwards.) DH ordered a shot of Amaro to go with our delicious pasta dishes! In an effort to streamline the blog post, you can check out my standalone review of the restaurant as in the previous posts for more details. Of course no meal is complete without the Gelato afterwards!
There were also a number of shops all around the streets within Lucca case you want to get some non-trite souvenirs. My DH (he’s sick of me using SO post-marriage haha) noticed an apron sewn with his family’s name on it and briefly excused himself to run in to buy it! Of course he didn’t get that specific one, the tailor quickly sewed him a duplicate in less than a minute! Unfortunately I was keeping up with the group so I didn’t get to witness the process. However the end products turned out beautiful!
Overall we had such a fun time in Lucca and the lesser known town impressed us with their rich history. I wish we had a chance to also bike on the wall or walk the entire length of it.
Rating: 4/5 ★★★★