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davidx Lucca - A travel report by David
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Lucca,  Italy - flag Italy -  Toscana
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davidx's travel reports

Three Tuscan cities; Lucca, Firenze and Pisa.

  16 votes
Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
We were travelling back from Pisa airport and wanted to see Firenze so we stayed in Lucca to make it three – whether that makes sense or not! It was fine but we both preferred the tranquillity of Abruzzo!

Firenze's wonderful cathedral
Firenze's wonderful cathedral
OK – it may shock or horrify but, if I had to pick just one of them to see again, it would be Lucca. I should be happy to use Pisa airport again but I don’t actually like the city all that much – and Firenze? Well, that’s more complex but I’ll try to explain. I’ve had just about every possible account of Firenze, from ‘the most wonderful place I’ve ever seen’ [on this site I think] to ‘horribly oppressive with over-tall buildings excluding any light or sense of place’ from a late friend. Paradoxically I can understand both views. We felt we had to gear up to face these buildings of Firenze and the inevitable crowds and we set off from Lucca for a long day. However we could not have envisaged the density of the crowds round all the famous tourist spots and the exhaustion it would cause. I can’t imagine either of us wanting either to join or to jump the vast queues to see the principal art galleries and I was happy to see the bronze replica of my far more illustrious namesake at the Da Vinci Square, rather than queue at the Accademia. I can feel the disapproval coming at me! So what’s complex? That sounds like simple dislike of Firenze. NO WAY. The Cathedral and the Ponte Vecchio were quite up to all that’s said about them by their most enthusiastic admirers. I was stunned by the beauty of the cathedral’s interior – a magnificent simplicity except for the dome and there sheer magnificence without the simplicity, that being replaced by brilliant painting. So, a dome may seem fairly basic today but it’s possible to be transported back to feel the same wonder as when it was built. Not only is the Ponte Vecchio great in its own right, although the crowds did more to reduce the impact here, but on each side the view along the river in either direction is made more special by the delicious feeling of a bit of breeze. We also followed Martin’s recommendation to see the central market and, again, we were pretty fairly bowled over. [Continued in ‘Specials’]

Favourite spots:
Lucca's cathedral
Lucca's cathedral
I’ve already implied that Lucca was my favourite place of the three and, unlike many of my favourite Italian places, this does not depend on contours, the city being close to flat. It’s completely walled and, whereas the walls don’t emulate the grandeur of those at Spanish Ávila or some of the Portuguese places in my reports, they have a fine simplicity and give super views of the city within. The complete traverse of the wals by cycle or on foot must be a delight. Lucca is of a modest size within its walls and so can be envisaged as a whole. Spectacular towers seem everywhere and none is better than that of the cathedral, literally metres rather than km from our hotel..The impressive and ancient Church of San Giovanni is in almost the same square and from the other side starts the road full of good shops that can be followed right through to the Porta Santa Maria on the other side of the city. [continued in ‘Other’]

What's really great:
Firenze from Piazza da Vinci
Firenze from Piazza da Vinci
[Firenze continued] After the experiences above we were sick of the feeling of being starved of space and, rather than see any more of the city’s specific sights, we started to walk up to the Piazza Da Vinci.for the famous view over the rooftops which, again, came fully up to our expectations. Like what seemed most of the world’s populaton we ate delicious ices and considered what to do next. It didn’t seem right to leave for Lucca before the end of the afternoon but the thought of going back into those crowds seemed even worse and leave we did. In short Firenze is both as fine and as monstrous as is claimed – in my perspective. I’m so glad I went – I admired it so much – I feel no desire to go again!

You know where! Touristically invaluable, architecturally insane.
You know where! Touristically invaluable, architecturally insane.
OK – so Pisa has to get a mention somewhere. We’d been before when our children were young and had not been over-enamoured with it, although it was interesting to climb the Leaning Tower. I felt sure that Pisa must have some interesting streets and that we should find some before making for the airport but, all the way on the long bus ride to the Piazza di Miracoli, we didn’t see a single street that called for exploration. The Piazza itself was appallingly crowded even by 09.00. The whiteness is quite glaring and I didn’t find the Leaning Tower did anything for me. When the lean had been occasioned by nature, it was an interesting curiosity. Now that it has been re-constructed simply for tourist appeal, you could wish that one of the two architecturally saner options had been chosen – to straighten it or dismantle. That may sound churlish but there’s no point in lying and we were glad to leave it behind us.

Tore Giunigi, Lucca
Tore Giunigi, Lucca
The Hotel Diana in the Via San Giovanni has a more expensive annexe in restructured accommodation. It was the location of the hotel itself, rather than meanness, that persuaded us to book at the main building and we had no reason to regret doing so.
It provides perfectly comfortable en-suite accommodation. Although breakfast is not provided, that is no problem because the station is close and the cafeteria there has the best croissants we found anywhere in Italy.

Ponte Vecchio, Firenze
Ponte Vecchio, Firenze
I imagine the city must be good for nightlife but we went to bed early both nights, the first to be well rested for Firenze and the next because we were exhausted after Firenze!

Cathedral over the city wall from near the station, Lucca
Cathedral over the city wall from near the station, Lucca
The city walls of Lucca seem to draw younger people, either on foot or on bikes. They aren’t necessarily circumnavigating the city but are just meetin and enjoying the greenery of the banks and trees. The walls were converted from defences into a resource for the ordinary life of the residents under the Bourbons.

Detail of door panel, Frenze Cathdral
Detail of door panel, Frenze Cathdral
We were lucky to find one of the best places that we ate in all our holiday in Lucca. The first night we went to a pizzeria that provided reasonable enough food but the proprietor was a bit overbearing so we decided to try somewhere else. As we tend to want to eat before most Italians it’s not easy to apply the time-honoured test of seeing where the locals go but the second night we must have judged wisely because, although it was fairly empty when we arrived, it was well packed by the time we left. It was the Osteria Lucchese, situated about half way along the main north-south link. Not only was the food delicious but the staff were really friendly and efficient.
It was only a little above average prices but nothing about it would have disgraced a more expensive place.

Other recommendations:
Firenze, the cathedral dome from below.
Firenze, the cathedral dome from below.
That brings me back to a cheerful note after writing about Pisa. I hadn’t quite finished Lucca. There was more to see than we had time for but two places that must be recommended for a look are the impressive Piazza Napoleone and the one remaining representative of the towers of the old city, the Torre Guinigi. The area of the Roman amphitheatre comes as a surprise as there’s no trace of anything Roman except the original shape, now surrounded by shops.
Fr more information on Lucca, see the excellent website, http://www.provinc

Published on Sunday June 4th, 2006

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Sat, Jul 08 2006 - 08:33 AM rating by jorgesanchez

Very good! Your weak points are always the night life chapters!

Sat, Jun 17 2006 - 06:55 PM rating by gloriajames

Great report! Thanks for bringing back memories for me~!

Sat, Jun 17 2006 - 01:29 AM rating by downundergal

Great report. I have not had the opportunity to vist Lucca but I agree wholeheartedly about Pisa especially when we were there (even) 10 years ago when you had to pay a local kid to guard the car. Tourist trap.
I agree wholeheartedly with Firenze, the city and the Duomo has a magic that no amount of crowds could pull down in its magnificence.

Mon, Jun 05 2006 - 01:42 PM rating by st.vincent

I like the summation of the leaning tower David, I didn’t realise it leans so much, or that it now does so by artificial means rather than natural ones. Seems you had the right idea with Firenze, gear up for it then get in and out in one day.

Mon, Jun 05 2006 - 01:16 PM rating by mistybleu

You've had some wonderful experiences in Italy, I'm truly envious. A very interesting report.

Mon, Jun 05 2006 - 06:09 AM rating by frenchfrog

Really lovelly report, I would love to get there! Lots of Infos.

Mon, Jun 05 2006 - 01:28 AM rating by marianne

This is a perfect and honest report. I had expected Florence to be over crowed and tourists queueing to see the sight. (something we never do, which means we have missed out on some tourist attraction, exectly like you). Lucca sounds a good place and since Ryanair flies from Eindhoven to Pisa it is very likely that we will do the same trip. (one day)

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