One of my favorite ways to experience Italy is to choose a town and stay for awhile. There are many advantages to staying in one place for more than a few days. First, you can save money by renting an apartment by the week. Even a B&B or hotel will usually give you a better price for a longer stay—four days or more.
With Italy’s convenient train system, it’s easy to get to other interesting destinations—without the hassle of taking your luggage. Also, you will get to know a town better and you won’t have the stress of trying to navigate a new city (along with your luggage) every few days. When you return to your “home town”, you know where to find your favorite barrista, the neighborhood store, a tasty pasticerria and your lodgings.
The town of Lucca, about halfway between Pisa & Florence, makes a great base for exploring Tuscany. It’s also not that far from the Ligurian Coast, where you can find the popular Cinque Terre towns or Portofino. There’s even some excellent hiking in the nearby Apuan Alps or on the Via Francigena Trail.
Lucca is about a one hour train ride west of Florence. It’s also just a short train trip from Pisa and several interesting towns further uphill towards the area called the Garfagnana.
Most people come to Lucca for a short day trip and move on. But we stayed much longer and we still didn’t do everything we had planned.
Here are a few ideas for a visit to lovely Lucca—
Climb the Guinigi Tower for views of the city and beyond.
Walk the old wall that surrounds Lucca. It’s a beautiful pedestrian and bike path that completely encircles the city. There are many bike rental shops if you prefer to ride a bike along the wall. Riding inside the city is a bit more of a challenge due to the narrow streets and pedestrians.
You can also take your rental bike outside the walls and ride on a dedicated bike path along the Serchio River nearby.
Visit the Palazzo Ducale for special exhibitions or simply to see the wonderful frescoes inside.
You can also explore several fine museums in the city. There are two National Museums and several smaller galleries that often offer free entrance.
Wander the streets for excellent shopping and relax in one of the many, charming piazzas.
It’s easy to find an excellent restaurants—large and small—fancy or street food. And there’s no shortage of gelato shops and bakeries with tasty cookies, breads and focaccia.
It’s also fun to take a language course or learn to cook Tuscan specialties. At Lucca Italian School, besides learning Italian, we made some new international friends. Also, we had a wide variety of fun “field trips” available in the afternoons.
Lucca has a wide variety of special events throughout the year. Check the city’s Tourist Information for details about the Puccini Festival in the spring or their popular Summer Music Festival in July. Volto Santo, the city’s most important celebration of the year takes place in September.
Whenever you choose to visit, plan to stay awhile so you can take advantage of the special Lucchese hospitality while exploring Tuscany.