The Well-Kept Secrets of Lucca

Article & Photos by Sandy Swanton

Every time I speak with friends about Lucca – Italian or visitor – I get the same response. A smile slow rises in their lips and eyes… It is the calmness, the gentleness, and the elegance of this northwest Tuscan city that happily welcomes visitors. The origins of the city are lost in time – it has been confirmed if the Celtic – Ligurians or the Etruscans first settled the area. What is that there has been walled town in this place since 180 BC.

The regular block network of Roman streets still fills the historic town center, inside the third and latest surrounding walls. Built in the Renaissance between mid-16th and mid-17th centuries as the city expanded, the tree-topped red bricks rise above the green sea of the surrounding lawn.

Casa Laura

“Casa Laura” lies in between these two ancient markers, tucked just inside the line of the second wall, built in the Middle Ages, two short blocks from the Botanic Gardens and one of the many gentle ramps up onto the wall.

As with many Italian towns and city centers, the building’s front door opens right from the street, and the humble door belies the beauty you will find after walking up three floors. Built in the 17th century, restored in the early 1900s, and recently renovated, the climb is richly rewarded with the peace of this penthouse. As is common in many ancient buildings, there is no elevator, but don’t be deterred.

With views across the terracotta-tiled rooftops, this apartment offers space and light that welcomes you in. The attention to detail is evident in the elegant features – from the front door to the terrace looking toward to Botanic Gardens and walls.

Whether sitting inside at the dining table, relaxing on the sofa in front of the flat screen TV, or sipping wine out on the large terrazzo (above), you will feel completely at home. In fact, this non-smoking haven offers more than just a home away from home – it is more of an oasis away from home!

This is a self-cater property, but don’t let the stairs dissuade you from being adventurous with food as you visit the markets. The kitchen offers a gas stove and electric oven. The built-in fridge and freezer offers plenty of space to store all the wonderful produce you’ll buy as you visit the city. You’ll also find lovely serving platters to use if you entertain, even just for your feasts on the terrace, and storage containers for any leftovers… should there be any.

If you need to check out the latest events nearby, or do a little research about the history of Lucca, you have great Internet access throughout the apartment. You might even be inclined to send a photo or two to friends, just to make them jealous of your lovely holiday!

The wonderful accommodations

Throughout the apartment, there are skylights to bring in the sunshine and fresh air. While skylights with blinds can be a challenge to deal with, this place is completely set up to be easy. The fully automated
system with a remote lets you open and close windows and the bedroom shade without stress. There is also air conditioning and heating, as you need it depending on the season.

Unlike many apartments in Italy, there are two full bathrooms for you – both with nice large showers. The bedroom is set up for style and comfort with a king-size bed and en suite. One lovely feature off the bedroom is the hidden door, which opens to the walkin dressing room. In here you’ll find plenty of hanging space, drawers and delightfully, the washer/dryer, drying rack, iron and ironing board, should you need
them.

There is parking available – you can choose fromfree parking about a 10-minute walk away from Casa Laura, or paid parking – safe and guarded – is about a 5-minute walk away. As of this publication, it costs €13 for 24 hours, so if you are staying five or more nights, you can take advantage of the 30-day pass for €50. All of this information is provided once you book, in your pre-arrival information package.

The staff at Lucca Apartments and Villas offer wonderful personalized service, with extensive professional experience in the tourism and hospitality sectors. They’ve been market leaders in the Lucca area for 11 years, and look forward to welcoming you to Casa Laura.

Lucca as your home base

Part of the attraction of Lucca is that there is almost no car traffic in the old center. You can easily walk and not feel the stress of cars or zipping motorini about to demand space from you. There are a couple of local bus routes through the center, so you do have to keep an eye out, but it isn’t too much of a challenge. The cobblestone streets, attractive shops and gentler architecture than the powerhouse of Florence are all part of the charm of Lucca.

The rhythm of life inside the walls of Lucca is very much determined by residents. You’ll have none of the push from study-abroad students and millions of tourists visiting for a few days so familiar in Rome, Florence or Venice.

Inside the walls, the peace of the morning is only punctuated by parents cycling or walking their children to school. Workers meet at favorite caffes for their morning coffee and pasticceri, while shop windows are
washed, ready for the new day.

Shops are usually open from 9/9:30am until 1pm, and again from 3.30/4pm until 7:30pm. They are often closed on Sunday and Monday mornings. Some of the grocery stores inside the walls are open longer hours, and larger supermarkets are available outside the walls. All the information is available in a great binder in the apartment for you to refer to throughout your stay. Cycling the Ancient Walls of Lucca The spectacular Renaissance walls that surround the historic center of Lucca are just over 4 kilometers (2.5 miles). Lined with chestnut and London plane trees, with benches and quiet areas to soak up the sun or enjoy a gelato, they are used daily by locals and visitors alike as a way to easily get around the city – literally – by bike, or as the venue for a stroll with friends.

As well as the beautiful tree-lined promenade, the starkness of the outside wall face is juxtaposed with the lush greenery of the inside wall face with grass-covered slopes and ramps for easy access. The centuries-old trees are there to consolidate the mass of earth of the walls, and in summer, their shade is a welcome addition to the city.

Enjoy the Flavors of Northern Tuscany

There is a wide range of food stores in the city – from family grocery stores, to historic forno (bakeries), le pasticcerie (pastry shops), to fruit and vegetable stores that carry only the freshest of local seasonal and
regional ingredients.

Part of the charm of Italy is tasting the seasonal flavors. If you aren’t sure about what to do, just ask at the store and someone is bound to give you their favorite recipe with the seasons ingredients.

You could also book a cooking lesson with one of the local chefs. One of my favorites is Chef Giuseppe with Extra Virgin Cooking School. Raised at his grandfather’s olive oil mill in the nearby hills, food is his experience and passion – and the abundance of fresh produce continues to drive his work today.

Strolling the Markets

Lucca has a number of markets you can enjoy each week and month. On Wednesday and Saturday mornings you can discover the weekly markets. From clothes and shoes to regional food – fresh seasonal produce, salumi and cheeses – and even flowers, these markets are a staple of life all across Italy.

On the third weekend of the month, the city welcomes more than 200 exhibitors to the streets and piazzas

Plan your refreshing Casa Laura adventure in Lucca, Italy, 

Click here to discover more and book your stay.

Also within Reach

One great advantage to Lucca is that it gives you easy access to many other parts of Tuscany, and Italy. In less than 30 minutes you can be at Viareggio and the Mediterranean, either by car or by train. Or you might want to visit the marble quarries of Carrara – source of the stone Michelangelo used for his “David”.

Maybe you’d like to explore more of the Tuscan coast, and venture further north into Liguria and the five lands – the Cinque Terre. Or continue up the coast to the towns of La Spezia, Portovenere and beyond to Santa Margherita Ligure and Portofino – where each one offers wonderful experiences and are worth exploring. No matter how far you venture during your stay, the peace of Lucca means you will relax and be able to let the allure of northern Tuscany tempt you.

Seasonal Events in Lucca, Tuscany

SUMMER
Lucca Summer Fest – six weeks of concerts in Lucca’s Piazza Napoleone
Puccini Festival – only festival fully dedicated to Giacomo Puccini, at Torre del Lago Puccini

FALL
Lucca Jazz Donna – Celebrates women in jazz – singing, composing and in arrangement
Lucca Comics & Games – The leading European festival dedicated to comics, games, movies and video games.

WINTER
PhotoLux – A crossroads for renowned masters, and emerging talents, experts and photography lovers
Carnevale in Viareggio – Enjoy celebrations the entire month of February at the largest Italian folk event with satirical and irreverent floats inspired by Italian and international politics and events

SPRING
VerdeMura – March: exhibition and market celebrating gardening and outdoor living in Lucca

 

Sandy Swanton is a freelance travel writer/photographer and blogger. Training in graphic design, Sandy spent 25 years developing a strong portfolio career in written and visual communications in eastern Australia and western Canada. Now living in Italy and pursuing her triple passions of travel, painting pictures with words, and finding the unusual perspective to photograph, Sandy is also working as a consultant with several local destinations to tell their stories. Stepping out of the corporate world into the next chapters of her life, you can follow her travels on her blog

 

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