By Harold D Partain
Nearly everyone who knows me knows I spend a lot of time in the small city of Lucca located in the western section of Italy’s very popular Tuscany region. I stay for two or three nights at a time and often up to a week… and I go to Lucca almost every year now at least once or several times in the year. So, why should you want to spend a week in Lucca? Well, why do I spend so much time in this pleasant, welcoming city? There are so many reasons that this post will come in two Parts.
It’s flat. Yes, Lucca is flat. It is unusual to not think of Tuscany and think of hill towns and after visiting many villages up and down a hill or even on a mountain-top it is most refreshing to be on a level playing field! Not that Lucca is designed for older travelers but it is certainly easy to get around. You walk. Bicycles are the preferred mode of transportation for locals and visitors. But I walk and I especially enjoy walking the 2.2 miles through the park along the top of the 16th century earthen and brick wall that encircles the old Roman city center. Although the city extends well beyond the walls this is the heart of Lucca.
Music. Giacomo Puccini to be exact. Although you will hear many forms of music by a number of great composures it is Puccini and opera at the core of this city. Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini was born in Lucca in 1858. His birth house is now restored and houses a fine museum tastefully displaying artefacts pertaining to Puccini’s life. Along with hand written music sheets you will also find an interesting collection of letters and photographs. There are a limited number of costumes from his more famous operas. My favorite, a stunning stage costume from Act II of Turandot. I discovered in a letter also at the museum that Puccini referred to Il Turandot as his “bitch-princess.”
There is a live music performance in Lucca every night from March 31 to October 31 and on Fridays and Saturdays the balance of the year. Lucca having for many years shunned Puccini now fully embraces their native son and offers “Puccini e la sua Lucca” as a permanent international music festival. (http://www.puccinielasualucca.com/).
In the nearby hamlet of Torre del Lago where Puccini built his favorite hunting lodge on the lake, the Puccini Festival is the only Festival in the world fully dedicated to the composer Giacomo Puccini. The great Puccini classics Tosca, La Boheme, Turandot, and Madame Butterfly are offered in the 2016 program of the Torre del Lago Puccini Festival for 14 nights from July 15 to August 13. (http://www.puccinifestival.it/en/)
Food. Delicious, seasonal, and fresh. Lucca has a large number of established eating places. From the simple to the refined the Lucchese culinary culture is extensive and beautifully complimented by the regionally produced wines. The local cuisine features the green gold – Lucca olive oil, River Serchio valley ancient grains and products of the mysterious, forested Garfagnana. Being only about 20 miles from the sea Lucca offers an abundance of seafood and nowhere better prepared than at Ristorante Giglio (http://www.ristorantegiglio.com/). Still one of my favorites and probably the most famous, the longest established (1782) restaurant in Lucca, is Ristorante Buca di Sant’Antonio (http://www.bucadisantantonio.com/). My always go-to especially for lunch is the brick vaulted Osteria Baralla located just off the Roman Piazza Anfiteatro (http://www.osteriabaralla.it/en/). There are literally dozens of excellent restaurants to choose from. There are some rather famous and historical bakeries and chocolate shops in town not to mention some really fine gelato!
So, Lucca – it’s flat, there’s lots of music, and the food is exceptional. Check back with us soon for Part II in “Why Should I Spend a Week in Lucca?” Learn a bit about the villas and gardens, art and architecture, and nearby excursions, as well as shopping. OMG!
We invite you to consider joining “Harold in Italy” October 4 – 11, 2016 for a week in Lucca. Under ‘Journeys’ on our website click on “Lucca, My Lucca” for details.