Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Italy 2014: Lucca

Oh Lucca, how I love thee. Who knew that I small Italian city - of which I had heard little of until Joe added it to our itinerary - would be such a gem of a place? (Probably Joe, since he took me there.)
We arrived in Lucca late in the afternoon, trekked over and down the walls, and headed to our hotel. After our stop in Pisa, we were beat and opted to give our feet a break. Once we emerged, it was dark and the streets were lit up with Christmas lights, the main square was filled with an ice skating rink, and the people walking around seemed so happy. We grabbed a drink at a bar recommended by our hotel before heading to Trattoria de Leo, another spot recommended by our hotel and yet another amazing meal. The local soup (bread + vegetables) was some of the best soup I have ever tasted! The restaurant was fantastic, and filled entirely with locals and families. A great, homey vibe with delicious food. I'd say that was a quick win for Lucca.
In the morning, we took our time heading out to explore the city. I think one of the things Lucca is best known for is its city wall, built in the 16th and 17th centuries and basically in still-perfect condition We opted to walk the walls first thing to orient ourselves. I loved casually strolling along, watching walkers, runners, and bikers (all clearly local) pass by. The views inside the walled portion of the city were punctuated with towers, churches, and red roofs. We could also see the tower with the oak trees on top, which we'd visit later. I loved taking our time and taking in the city.

Whenever Joe dropped behind me, I could always count on him trying to picture me

After our walk, we meandered through the city. It is small enough that there is no worry about getting lost. Plus, the streets had such a great feel to them. We stopped for a quick peak in San Michele in Foro, and then headed to a pizzeria so I could grab a salted chickpea sandwich (trust me it was delicious!) Next we kept wandering and found ourselves at the base of the Torre de Guinigi, one of the oldest (15th century) tower/homes inside the city and the same tower with the oak trees on top. The climb - luckily nowhere as difficult as the Duomo - afforded us panoramic views of Lucca.

Who loves hat-head selfies? Joe & E!

The imagery inside the tower was rather gruesome yet fascinating
From there we headed to the Piazza Anfiteatro, a round piazza that was once a Roman amphitheater. It was nearly deserted, save a few restaurants, shops, and kids playing. (Again, a highlight of low season!)
Inside the Piazza Anfiteatro - with no people!

Nevermind! People!

When we walked out of the piazza, Joe noted a restaurant that looked really cool, and we realized it was one we had starred in our guidebook - clearly a sign. (Okay, maybe not, but we were hungry!) We had a delicious lunch (more soup for me) and debated staying another day in Lucca.
Ultimately we decided it was better to leave before we ran out of things to do, still feeling completely charmed by the city. But Bologna better be awesome, because I really fell in love with Lucca.

Next stop: Bologna!

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