On the advice of a few people, I decided to visit the smaller town of Lucca instead of Pisa or Siena. My take on the advice was that Lucca provided more of a taste of Tuscany than Siena or Pisa. Additionally, a day visit would allow me to see more of Lucca than I might have been able to have accomplished in either of the other two places. I understand the other two cities are wonderful in their own right, but I’m glad I visited Lucca yesterday. The bottom line is this – If you want a slightly more medieval feel, than visit Siena. Pisa has the leaning tower, but expect a wait of at least two hours to see it. However, if you don’t want to feel like you’re visiting a place over run with tourists, go to Lucca.
Unfortunately, I did get a late start and that only allowed me 4 hours to wander around the fortress-walled city center. I wanted to get back to my hotel by 7pm, so I could meet up with two new friends, Angie and Carmen, from Calgary, Canada.
More on that in a bit. I took the train to Lucca and that went smooth as silk. While at the main train station, I also checked on where to get my Florence to Paris tickets and armed with that knowledge, I will probably make another visit tomorrow or the day after to purchase my train ticket for my expected departure on the 4th. Back to Lucca – the trip took about an hour and a half, so I arrived there at around 1:00pm. It was a bright and beautiful day, as the early morning clouds and rain were a distant memory upon arrival in Lucca.
You exit the train station and there is a small grassy piazza which you cross and then you see a larger park like area, with a massive stone fortress like wall providing a perimeter around the old city center. This wall extends for at least a few kilometers or more. The walls are still fully intact and you can walk or bicycle around the entire length. It’s my understanding that 4 species of trees are planted – one for each principal side. They also use to race cars on the walls. Hmm. That must have been interesting, i.e., they are wide, but not that wide. In any event, today they are only used as a pedestrian promenade.
During my visit, I walked around the entire length of the old city center, most of it along the wall. I was able to visit the Lucca Cathedral complex comprised of the museum, the Sacristy of the cathedral, and the baptistry of Saints Giovanni and Reparata. The museum displays the treasures of the Duomo of Saint Martin and of the Church of Saints Giovanni and Reparata, the former cathedral of the town. It was quite interesting. Afterwards, I had lunch in one of the restaurants within the old city walls. By the by, Lucca is home to the composer Giacomo Pucchini and the great San Francisco 49er, Leo Nomellini.
I left Lucca at almost 5pm and on the train, I met a delightful group of Australians. We chatted about where we had been in Italy and what places we had enjoyed in Florence and Rome. They also mentioned their fantastic Florence apartment that they were renting for a month ($3000) and I was a bit envious about that arrangement. I mentioned my RTW trip, as well as my blog. They asked for the blog address and I gave it to one of them – I hope one of them leaves a comment.
When I got back to the hotel, I still had time to take a shower for the dinner date I had with Carmen and Angie. I made my way to the Duomo Tower where we agreed to meet, but . . . Umm, no Carmen or Angie. I waited for about 20 minutes and left, thinking we had confused times (or I had been stood up again – the story of my life. LMAO. 🙂 ). Not too worry, as we did get our “signals” confused insofar as the time and we ended up meeting an hour later, after exchanging emails. Yesterday, was a major Italian holiday and I can’t quite describe it, except to say that it was similar to Carnival in South America. There were a lot of people on the street, many eating pizza and drinking beer or wine. Oh, quite a lot of dancing going on too. Many bands were playing outside and inside restaurants and clubs. It was quite a festive atmosphere. Similar to Greece and Spain, the Italians eat late, so there were plenty of restaurants open and very packed. It took us a while to find one, but we decided on a restaurant near the Uffizi Museum. It must have been at least 10pm, perhaps later, when we sat down to dinner. I had a great time with Carmen and Angie. We will likely meet up again in Paris, where they are traveling to, after a few days in Venice first (on a train to that city this afternoon). All in all, yesterday was a wonderful day and evening. I rarely stay out as late as I did last night, so I slept in until 9am this morning. These are the photos I took yesterday in Lucca. I also included a few that Carmen sent me from last night. Ciao!