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Today I am starting a brand new feature at Italofile called Five Favorites.
The segment is a chance for me to invite fellow Italy bloggers and Italophiles to wax poetic about five favorite Italian things, be it characteristics of a town or region or five favorite foods, fashion designers, parks….anything Italy-related.
I, too, will be bringing you posts about my five faves from time to time. But Five Favorites is really a chance for guest bloggers to shine.
To kick-start this feature, I have quite a stellar guest blogger. Robin Locker is the creator of My Mélange, a blog devoted to Italy and France, which has recently undergone a gorgeous renovation. Robin has chosen to write about Lucca, one of Tuscany’s most charming little towns.
By the way, if you’d like to be a future contributor to Five Favorites, send an email to melanie at italofile dot com or send me a tweet @italofileblog.
Five Favorites: Lucca
Tuscany is one of my most favorite places on Earth. And while it’s comprised of many beautiful hill-towns, the one that really stands out to me is the walled, and rather flat, city of Lucca. A short train ride from Florence drops you just a few blocks from the ramparts, which means you don’t even need a car to visit.
Thought I am quite sure I could come up with a list of about 100 things to love about Lucca, in the interest of time and space, I’ll limit it to my Top Five.
1. Lucca loves Puccini
The great opera composer, Giacomo Puccini, responsible for Turandot and Madam Butterfly, was born in Lucca in 1858. And the city loves to celebrate its talented son. There is a hotel named after him (where we stayed of course!), a statue of him seated in a relaxed position located in a quiet piazza and even a Puccini Festival held in the summertime.
2. The Walls
Napoleon gave the city of Lucca to his sister Elisa , who can be credited with the landscaping of the outer walls and the trees planted around them. Those very walls help to keep the city small and keep car traffic to a minimum which in turn helps keep Lucca quiet. The walls are where you will find Lucchesi taking their daily passeggiata and riding their bikes along the paved paths atop the ramparts. It’s one of my most favorite ways to spend time.
I love eating at this gem, where the locals congregate for a great meal at down-right rock-bottom prices. The place is always packed and you’ll find cruets of the freshest, local olive oil on each table- perfect for passing. They serve up Tuscan favorites like Zuppa di Farro (spelt and bean soup), stewed rabbit or Bistecca alla Fiorentina. And if you’re lucky you can squeeze into the tiny outdoor terrace in the nice weather.
4. Enoteca Vanni
There are many wonderful boutiques, but this unassuming enoteca/liquor store really stands out. It houses an ancient wine cellar with a wide selection and some of the most welcoming and knowledgeable staff around. We had a private tour of the old cellars, help picking out a special bottle to bring home and even a local olive oil tasting. What’s not to love?
5. The Towers
Lucca has not one, but two towers that can be climbed. Torre Guinigi, which is adorned with a lovely roof garden with oak trees on top, and pictures lining the walls detailing the history of Lucca, is my favorite. If you reach the top after the 230 step climb, your reward will be a stunning 360 degree view of Lucca and the Tuscan countryside you soon won’t forget.
About Robin Locker
Robin is a European Travel Consultant, Photographer and Freelance Writer with a passion for France and Italy. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley, but her heart is never far from the Bel Paese. You can learn more about her travel services and browse her photo gallery on her website or enjoy recipes, helpful travel tips and ways to infuse the European culture into your lifestyle on her blog.
All photos © Robin Locker.