Lucca, a Tuscan Culture and Coast Weekend

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, Lucca 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 main Piazza San Michele 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 at Ristorante del Teatro 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 year Summer Festival Concert Series and trip to the Tuscan Coast. After settling in at the charming Hotel Palazzo Alexander, a 12th century building decorated in noble Lucchese style, we strolled the town’s highlights then took a seat at Il Cuore for an aperitif. Enjoying a prosecco, we soaked in one of my favorite Italian views…the sun shining on Tuscan orange houses dotted with green wooden shutters. Then we made our way over to 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 on 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)…

  • 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 along Via Fillungo and Via Roma like Paris, for housewares, and 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 September his birth house and museum reopen to visitors. You’ll find him celebrated throughout the year in concerts like those at the 19th century Teatro del Giglio.

Another venture I’d like to do next visit is Strada del Vino e dell’Olio 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 Weekend…Viareggio!

More great Lucca photos are in the gallery!

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