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Report 673: Tuscan Rambles

By Doug Phillips from Canada, Spring 2004

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Page 12 of 17: Day 11 – Tuesday May 11: Lucca

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Streetscape in Sovana

We originally had planned on visiting Lucca on Monday, but my BW noticed that most businesses were closed on Monday, so we put it off until today. It’s quite common in most Tuscan towns for many businesses, including restaurants, to be closed one day, usually early in the week. Avoid these days, can make for a disappointing visit. Later in our trip we met a couple who had gone to Lucca on a Monday. They didn’t like the city at all. We had a great time, certainly enjoyed the unique aspects of the community.

From our apartment we drove to the A1 at Val di Chiana Bettole & turned north in the direction of Firenze. We bypassed Florence and headed west towards Pisa and the coast on the A11. Lucca is a fairly large community, apparently over 80,000, but there are no signs announcing its presence until you are almost there. We exited the A11 and almost immediately found a parking lot just outside the walls of the old city.

We parked our car and entered Lucca via Porta San Pietro, one of six gates into the city. One guidebook describes Lucca as “the most intimate and charming of Tuscany’s cities, a civilized and untroubled backwater.” My BW and I agree. Most people walk or bicycle around the city. The few cars and trucks seem to be service vehicles. We strolled down busy pedestrian streets entering several interesting and varied shops; visited the empty home church of a 20th century saint; dropped in on a municipal building where we learned a bit of the history of the city, including its’ Napoleonic connections; enjoyed a cappuccino in the Piazza Anfiteatro, the oval shape corresponding to the outline of the Roman Amphitheatre which once stood there; and had a pizza lunch al fresco in the Piazza San Michele.

The most distinctive and enjoyable feature of Lucca is the broad tree-lined 4.2km wall, built during the 16th & 17th centuries to counter the threat from Florence. We walked around most of the wall, enjoying the perspective provided of the city. At several points we walked down from the wall, explored part of the city and then walked back up onto the wall at a different spot.

In the Amphitheatre we met some British travelers on a bus tour. They were staying near Massa Marittima, which they highly recommended. Next time.

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