Day 1 in Lucca
For the next part of our Italian trip we travelled by train from Pisa to Lucca. Lucca was the starting point of our 6 day walk along the Via Francigena to Siena however Chris and I had planned to arrive arrive a couple of days early.
Lucca was founded by the Etruscans originally before the Roman’s settled here around 180 BC. Lucca has a large number of religious buildings and is known as the ‘city of a hundred churches’. An ancient historical wall surrounds the city.
The train from Pisa to Lucca took 28 minutes and we arrived in Lucca at 12.47. Our B & B was a 10 minute walk from Lucca train station so we decided to do that and drag our case along rather than take a taxi.
We followed Google maps with Chris doing the hard work pulling the case and me navigating (and taking photos). We came to what we thought was a dead end but it was a small tunnel in the city wall that curved round upwards until we arrived in a middle open section then a few steps to the top.
Our walk took us along the shady city wall around the perimeter of Lucca before we had to turn into the city along the Via dei Fossi next to a canal.
We were able to check into our B&B slightly early, dropped off our luggage and set off to explore…
The Via dei Fossi means ‘street of the canal’ and the brick sides of the canal are lined with flowers.
Situated along the Via dei Fossi is the City Gate which provides a grand entrance into the heart of the historic city.
We located the Roman San Michele church in Piazza San Michele which was the starting point of our Via Francigena walk in two days’ time. At the top of the roof of this church is a 4 m statue of the Archangel Michael.
Time for a snack and a half bottle of local wine from Lucca. Always a treat to be enjoyed in a quiet outside pavement cafe together with a bit of people watching.
A few meters from our accommodation was the Villa Bottini which happened to have a fashion show on 5, 6 and 7 May which coincided with our dates.
Entry was free and we had a wander around stalls both inside the villa and dotted around the gardens.
Each of the ceilings of the different rooms of the Villa Bottini were painted in elaborate designs and it was a pleasure to look inside this villa which was built in the second half of the 16th century.
The stalls contained all manner of goods from handbags to scented candles to clothes. The one above had some eye catching lamp shades.
Piazza dell Anfiteatro was once a Roman amphitheatre and while none of the original Roman structure is present, the current yellow and cream coloured buildings were build on the top and the oval shape remains. This was a lovely and atmospheric part of Lucca and is lined with good quality restaurants.
For our first evening in Lucca we had an absolute treat with dinner in the Ristorante L’Angelo Tondo. Everything was perfect in its delightful setting in the Piazza dell Anfiteatro, the service was excellent and this was probably the best meal I’ve eaten so far this year, if not many years!
This was one of the best meals ever despite being in a popular tourist location, which is something we would usually avoid due to a tendency for high prices and rubbish quality food! However this was the most fabulous meal I’d enjoyed in a long time. I had been spoilt the previous week in France but this meal even surpassed the wonderful Pignoulet food with its incredible mix of flavours.
Day 2 in Lucca
Chris and I were meeting 4 of our friends in Lucca as the 6 of us were to walk the Via Francigena from Lucca to Siena. They were not arriving in Lucca until late afternoon so we had a full second day to continue exploring Lucca. Above is the Chiasso Barletti, a small cobble stone alley which contains small artisan shops.
We had short wander then a macchiato while we waited for 11 am which was our allotted tower time! I had purchased our tickets from the tourist information centre the previous day which meant we didn’t have to queue. This may be advisable at busy times of the day or at weekends.
We climbed the 233 stone steps of the 700 year old Romanesque Gothic Torre Guinigi (Guinigi Tower) where we enjoyed incredible views from the top.
The Guinigi Tower is unique as it has trees growing at the top. The original purpose was a roof top garden to serve the former kitchen on the floor below. The tower is named “Guinigi’ as it was donated by descendants of the Guinigi family.
Another statue of Giovani Garibaldi.
We were heading out of the city walls and towards an aqueduct!
We walked past the station and about 15 minutes later reached the Nottolini Aqueduct. This 19th century structure was originally built to supply the residents of Lucca with water from the mountains to the south of the city.
There were over 400 arches originally but the structure was cut in half to make way for the A11 Autostrada.
Next up was a walk back to the city for lunch!
We had such a wonderful dinner in the Ristorante L’Angelo Ton in the Piazza dell Anfiteatro the previous evening but as we didn’t have any cheese we decided to return for lunch the next day. This time we had a cheese platter of local cheeses to share, local white wine from Lucca and a starter each for lunch.
The atmosphere was lovely with a street musician playing in the centre of the piazza. We were also delighted to be given a table in a prime spot over looking the square.
After lunch we walked to the Orto Botanico, or botanical gardens. There was a small entry fee which gave access to extensive tranquil gardens with a range of trees and flowers.
In the botanical gardens we saw a hoopoe (*see image at the foot of the post) and a humming bird hawk moth.
Later in the afternoon our friends Russell & Roza arrived at our B & B followed by Flo & Mike who checked in ready to start our Via Francigena walk the following morning.
The 6 of us had drinks and a meal in a nearby restaurant and toasted the start of the walking part of our trip!
*A few days later as we began our day of walking in San Miniato, Chris spotted a hand painted picture of a hoopoe bird as part of a shop door sign! Hoopoes can be found in Africa, Asia and Europe and are birds that wouldn’t be seen in the UK.