The hills and mountains surrounding the valley have suddenly turned a brighter and deeper shade of green. The sky has also shifted, from muted greys with subtle blue hues, to a spectacular baby blue scattered with pillows of bright white clouds. The green fields are now strewn with the reds and yellows of wildflowers that have shot up from the fertile ground below. Spring came with a force in Lucca, our home of just six months, and after two months in quarantine we’re reminded of the multitude of reasons we chose to settle down in this little city in the northwest corner of Tuscany.
Our first time visiting Lucca together was just a few days after our wedding in October 2016. On our way from Siena to the Ligurian Coast, for a short stay in the seaside village of Santa Margherita Ligure, we stopped to spend the afternoon in the walled city. We’d both been here before separately, but the city felt especially magical in the afterglow of our Tuscan nuptials.
As with pretty much all of Italy, Lucca is also replete with history and charm. Dating back to the Etruscans and with Roman influences throughout, its pride and joy continues to be the completely intact renaissance walls which surround the old city. Initially built as defensive ramparts, they’re now a pedestrian area, covered in trees, and dotted with gardens, cafes and restaurants. The Passeggiata delle Mura Urbane, as it’s called in Italian, is where residents go to cycle, run, or just take a stroll.
The city’s appeal is both instant and lasting. Set at the far end of a flat plain, with the Apuan Alps just to the north and the Tyrrhenian Sea a short drive west, Lucca has all the feels of a typical Tuscan town with narrow, cobblestone streets and terracotta tile roofs. It has a sense of Florence, but smaller and without the neverending sea of tourists. In fact, it’s hard to say that it’s even a city at all, or rather just a large town. Yet Lucca is home to an incredible cuisine, unique to this part of Tuscany, and countless restaurants, bars, and cafes. Not to mention the Lucca Summer Festival, a music fest that hosts a number of big-name acts each year. For us, it’s this combination of dichotomous characteristics that makes Lucca such an intriguing place.
Living here entails much of the same leisurely activities as a visit. We spend our weekends cycling to the old city center, atop the ancient walls, and along the Serchio River. And if you thought eating a massive amount of pizza, pasta, and gelato were just shallow Italian stereotypes, think again. We’ve always been connoisseurs, but our time here has only intensified our passions for each of these delicious foods. We particularly enjoy Funiculì (for amazing Napoletana-style pizza), In Pasta - Cibo e Convivio (for fresh pasta in a friendly and casual environment), and Cremeria Opera (for life-changing gelato with flavors like lemon basil). The city is surrounded by incredible wineries as well, with some especially good wines coming out of the historic, hilltop town of Montecarlo, just a few miles east of Lucca.
Whether it’s for an afternoon stopover or an entire week, no trip to Lucca is complete without seeing the charming Piazza dell’Anfiteatro (which sits atop the ruins of a 2nd century Roman amphitheatre), climbing to the oak tree-covered top of the 14th century Torre Guinigi, visiting the Puccini Museum (born in Lucca in 1858), and of course, cycling around the walls and simply getting lost among the city’s maze of narrow streets.
It took us a few years of reminiscing about a magical afternoon in October, as well as four quick trips in 2019 to make this incredible little city our permanent home. As we look forward to many more years to come in this town, we’ll undoubtedly share more about this amazing place we’ve loved before and are falling in love with all over again.
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