A missed turn on the A12 in northwest Tuscany led us to Lucca, a medieval gem of a Tuscan town. (Original destination…Leaning Tower of Pisa…we saw it from the road. ) And while only there for a few hours, we knew we’d return.
Developed as a Roman city in 180 BC,Â LuccaÂ sits inside still intact 16th century ramparts. With the Apuan Alps in the distance, the town and its 2000 year history are beyond charming and perfect for a day, long weekend or week’s stay anytime of year.
Our first visit was in September which lucky for us is festival month. We stumbled upon the happening mainÂ Piazza San MicheleÂ where we discovered the most delicious traditional pastry of Lucca dating back to 1893, Frate (like a lemon donut), and yummy fresh anisette crisps being made on the spot. After a short exploration, you can walk the tiny town’s picturesque streets and squares in a few hours, we relaxed atÂ Ristorante del TeatroÂ for an amazing dinner of bruschetta, gnocchi al pesto and tagliatonni pomodoro paired with a local red wine, Montecarlo Rosso.
Our return trip a few summers ago, one of our favorite Italian weekends, centered around the now 13 yearÂ Summer Festival Concert SeriesÂ and trip to the Tuscan Coast. After settling in at the charmingÂ Hotel Palazzo Alexander, a 12th century building decorated in noble Lucchese style, we strolled the town’s highlights then took a seat atÂ Il CuoreÂ for an aperitif. Enjoying a prosecco, we soaked in one of my favorite Italian viewsâ€¦the sun shining on Tuscan orange houses dotted with green wooden shutters. Then we made our way over toÂ Piazza Napoleone, home of the Summer Festival hosting well known bands like Elton John, Dave Matthews and James Taylor (our concert!) from late June – July. It’s a spectacular spot for a concert. As we approached the piazza and settled in for a pre-show dinner onÂ Ristorante del Teatro’s patio, the square was getting lively as the town prepared for its mid-point in the concert series. Afterwards we found our seats and to my surprise, I simply bought the more expensive of the two ticket tiers, we were literally in the front row for James Taylor. And the concert was amazing!! James Taylor live in concert in an Italian piazza enjoying local wine under star lit skies. It was truly a magical evening!
We spent the next day enjoying more of the MUST GO‘s (my #1 is definitely the Summer Festival concert series)â€¦
- The Ramparts: Explore the huge city walls and their 2.5 mile long path either by bike or on foot. You’ll circle the town and enjoy some great views.
- Piazza Anfiteatro: Once a Roman amphitheater, it’s now an enchanting oval piazza with the ancient arches embedded into the picturesque buildings. A great spot for an espresso and some shopping. I found great linen treasures at a few shops. We also bought a playful Lucca painting by Bianchi Giampiero that always makes me smile when I pass it on our wall.
- Piazza San Michele: The heart of Lucca is a great place to hang out with the backdrop of the ornate cathedral. To get here from Piazza Anfiteatro, enjoy the shopping alongÂ Via FillungoÂ andÂ Via RomaÂ likeÂ Paris, for housewares, andÂ Enotecca Vanni, for a great wine selection packed into small cellars. The third Saturday and Sunday of each month Lucca also hosts 230 antique dealers throughout town.
- Giacumo Puccini Home: Puccini (1858-1924) was born here and coming 13 SeptemberÂ his birth house and museumÂ reopen to visitors. You’ll find him celebrated throughout the year in concerts like those at the 19th centuryÂ Teatro del Giglio.
Another venture I’d like to do next visit isÂ Strada del Vino e dell’OlioÂ in the Lucca Province outside of town for their D.O.C. wine and D.O.P. olive oil producers! The local Montecarlo wines I had were quite nice.
Next leg of our Tuscan Culture and Coast Weekendâ€¦Viareggio!
More great Lucca photos are in the gallery!Tagged As:
Italy, James Taylor, Lucca, Lucca Summer Festival Concert Series, Tuscany, Viareggio