Monday, November 9, 2015


We were told over and over again that we had to visit Lucca. It is the favorite place for many. This might be in part because it, unlike most of Tuscany is flat and a welcome respite from all the hill climbing. But it is much more than that. We decided to take two nights from our time in Orvieto and spend them in Lucca. This would also allow us to take a quick day trip to Pisa and stop on our way back to Orvieto in another Tuscan hill town of renown, Volterra. Linda found a nice hotel for us just outside the wall which was easy to find and included both parking and an English style breakfast. Outside the wall, Lucca is an industrial city that specializes in paper products producing most of the paper produced in Italy.
Door stop or place to tie up the animals?
Probably to hold a steel reinforcement bar in place?
Our first evening was just spent exploring. We had a map but were careful to take a route that we could easily retrace. It turned out that we started at one of the main gates inside the wall and the street we walked is the main shopping street of the town. We passed a couple of churches that looked like they would be worth a deeper look in the daylight and did a lot of window shopping. As we returned towards the hotel we began to think about dinner even though it was a bit early. Most of the good places don’t open until 7:00 or 7:30 which is usually fine with us, but tonight we were hungry and not interested in another hour of ambling through the streets as we waited for the clock to move.

Just an ordinary corner decoration
An old-style store front.
We did not see how this works, but it folds in on itself in a T-shape at night.
When we reached the plaza in front of the gate we saw an open restaurant that we decided to check out called Puccio Puccini. As usual, the waiter was standing outside waiting for someone just like us to begin the evening’s trade. He spoke no English, but we are used to Italian menus so figured that would be all right. However, this menu had only a few choices most of which were unfamiliar. We managed to order some wine and agreed to order the appetizer he was pushing while we tried to figure out the rest of the menu using Linda’s iPhone.  I ordered a meaty pasta and Linda finally settled on the gnocchi.

Notice the remains of the old Roman theater peeking through the walls.
Inside the old theater walls. Not recommended for eating. Too much money for not great quality.
Our dinner at Puccio Puccini however was excellent.
The appetizer was excellent consisting of a tomato based filled with a heavy dark bread and small whole squid like you get when you order calamari. Linda didn’t care for the strong tomato base, but I loved it. Our main courses were also tomato-based. Linda ate quite a bit of the gnocchi while I enjoyed my pasta and some of her gnocchi. We spent some time talking to the people who came in just after we arrived who had more questions about the menu. Our waiter finally went in back to grab one of the cooks who had a translator on his phone that helped. They ordered the same appetizer and shared a pasta with mussels that also looked very good. Linda commiserated with one of the ladies who was on crutches. She had fallen three days before their trip. Without trip insurance she decided she just had to make the best of it and was doing so. When they finished dinner, they called a taxi to take them to the train station back to the small town where they were staying. The lady is quite a trooper.

On our full day in Lucca, we followed the Rick Steves’ walking tour which led us to several interesting sites and churches. We started at the Anfiteatro, a circle of buildings built on the site of the old Roman theater. From there we again walked down the shopping street and made several turns down the many curved and narrow streets until we reached the Duomo. Along the way we passed the statue of Puccini and his home. Puccini was born and lived his life here. Throughout the summer months, one can attend a Puccini concert any night of the week. During the winter, these are only on weekends so we will have to return another time for that pleasure. A stop for some gelato, something we do regularly, would tide us over until dinner time.

St.Michael's Church

The short one is Guiseppi Garibaldi, hero of Italian unification.
We returned to our hotel about 3:00 to rest up for a stroll around the ramparts, as they call the wall that still completely surrounds the town. The ramparts were built from 1550-1650 to meet the dangers of cannonballs that rendered the old thinner walls useless as a defense. These walls are 100 feet wide at the base and covered with brick. A wide open area was cleared outside the wall making any attacking soldiers vulnerable. Eleven heart-shaped bastions were added for the 130 cannons. The wall worked as expected as Lucca was never even attacked. Somehow no enemy thought that their cannon balls would destroy a wall that thick. The walls even protected the city from a major flood in 1812 when townspeople sandbagged the gates.
The Duomo
Young girls rub the nose of this noblewoman for luck in love
She died young in childbirth
St.Martin with a beggar
Last supper by Tintoretto

The walls were turned into a city park by Duchess Maria Luisa, daughter of the King of Spain who became the ruler of Lucca in the aftermath of the Battle of Waterloo and the demise of Napoleon. Today, they are a popular attraction for picnickers and joggers and just townsfolk out for a stroll. At 2.5 miles around it is long enough to provide a mile workout for walkers and wide enough for all types of recreationists including bicyclists.
Easy entrances all along the inner side of the wall
One of the eleven bastions 
We saw several play areas on the inner side of the wall
We had dinner at a newer restaurant, Allosteria, recommended by the woman who sold Linda her latest handbag. Steak and ribs accompanied by a nice local bottle of red wine filled the bill nicely. After dinner we were treated to a tour of the underground wine cellar. The staff is quite proud of their restaurant and they have turned this underground discovery into a lovely wine cellar to keep the wine just the right temperature for storage. Unfortunately, they probably won’t ever be able to use it as a dining area because Italian laws won’t allow that. Our waiter reminded us that most of Lucca is built on rooms like the ones he showed us, small rooms with arched doorways between.

An interesting way to display the wine at Allosteria
Back at the hotel we had another glass of wine and some conversation with the night clerk about Lucca and a paper mill executive from Plymouth, England who comes to Lucca regularly on business. After a good night's rest we left for Volterra and back home to Orvieto.

No comments:

Post a Comment