Everything about the place took me by surprise. Not only is the architecture just downright pretty and slightly unique, but the town is so…. relaxed. No one is in a hurry. No crowds, no jostling, no chaotic queuing.
Not to dis Florence or anything, but Lucca is a breath of fresh air compared to its more famous neighbor.
When working on our itinerary, I squeezed Lucca in between two packed day trips (Florence and the Cinque Terre). It was meant to be a sort of low-key, half-day filler, really. But we were so charmed, we found it hard to leave.
Though graceful in the streets, Lucca is most known for its massive, ancient walls. Four kilometers in circumference, the surface of the walls are wide enough to accommodate two lanes of vehicles. In fact, auto races were held on the walls in previous years.
Today, residents and visitors alike walk, jog, run, and cycle the walls. I didn’t want to buck the trend – so we rented bikes and joined in!
Our bikes were from Cicli Bizzarri on the north side of town. Rates were 3 euros per hour for adult and children’s bikes; tandems, trailers, and Surrey bikes cost more. We opted for two bikes with children’s seats, and a kids mountain bike for T-Rex. I wanted to rent a Surrey, but Doc Sci wasn’t keen. Since it was expensive (I think 12 or 15 euros per hour), I acquiesced.
Though he cycles to school each day, T-Rex does not have gears on his bike. The kid has not stopped talking about his “gear bike” since!
Once airborne, we couldn’t believe the extraordinary views from above of this darling city. Boutiques, churches, backyards, fountains, flowers – everything exuded a quiet elegance. The boys enjoyed counting the playgrounds (two down below and three on the walls themselves).
One complete circle on the path takes around 20-25 minutes if you don’t stop. We started clockwise, and then had another go in the opposite direction. Since the walls are so wide, I never worried about T-Rex taking a tumble. Of course, he rode near the middle of the path… just in case.
Before we returned our bikes, we decided to dip into the city below. Unfortunately, we found ourselves befuddled by the ancient alleys and lack of street signs several times, but (truth be told) that happens even when we’re walking! Even so, our legs were happy to be pedaling rather than pounding the pavement for hours as we had done in Florence the previous day.
If you happen to cycle in the city itself, be forewarned that pedestrians here don’t know the first thing about sharing paths with bikes. I might’ve gone a little overboard ding-a-ling-ing the bell…
For lunch, we chose the Trattoria da Leo as recommended by our trusty guide book. Again, it didn’t disappoint. With incredible food and reasonable prices, it’s no surprise that snagging an al fresco table at lunch time can be a real challenge. Reserve in advance, if possible.
In a sheer stroke of luck, we ordered two knockout dishes – Minestra di Farro Lucchese and Rigatoni something-or-other with eggplant. I don’t even like eggplant, and Doc Sci and I had a thumb war over the last noodle. I’m still hunting for a recipe to replicate the harmonious flavor of that soup! Even picky Big Foot scarfed down everything we put in front of him. After mopping up every last dribble of sauce, we were out the door for less than 30 euros. Yes!
To crown our culinary experience, we sought out some gelato. The organic flavors at De’ Coltelli hit the spot. A few euros later, we savored intense blueberry and lightly sweetened yogurt. Should you be the adventurous type, De’ Coltelli also whips up fish gelato. Say, what?!
We passed a boutique called Isola on the way back to the car. I popped in and found myself unable leave without a darling necklace. Whenever I wear it, I’ll think of the soup, the scenery, and the sigh of relief I felt in lovely Lucca.
- For free parking, navigate to the Piazzale Don Franco Baroni near Via delle Tagliate. It’s about a five minute walk to the walls (and Cicli Bizzarri) from there.
- The city is mostly flat and many ramps lead up to the walls so this is one of the few good places in Tuscany to bring a pram.
- Free bathrooms can be found at the Tourist Information office sandwiched in between Cicli Bizzarri and another bicycle shop.
This post is part of Our Tuscan Family Adventure: Two Weeks of History, Culture, Food, and Fun in Italy series. Click on the link to view our bucket list and recaps of each excursion!