My time in Italy was quite unpredictable and basically I had no established plans, like I usually make. Instead, I just went where I wanted. And, I really wanted to go to Lucca, mostly because I am at my best in small and quiet cities. And Lucca is just wonderful.
Not just because it is the birthplace of Puccini, but because it has a certain je ne sais quoi. I believe it is a combination of history, culture, local pride and lack of tourists which makes this place so special.
From the moment I stepped inside the walled city I understood why this place is also called the “city of one hundred churches”, because there are many religious establishments wherever you look. For instance, the cathedral, il Duomo (St Michael’s Church), is just 5 minutes away from the train station.
I was enjoying a lot the quite of the city, but then I found the Basilica di San Michele in Foro, which seemed to be the busiest part of the city. I understand why, really. The facade of the church is so stunning that it attracts your look, no matter what you do.
I will not even mention that Puccini’s birth house is just one minute away.
Another mandatory stop, which I found completely by accident, is the Basilica of San Frediano which has a wonderful mosaic, from the 14th century, kept in a remarkable condition.
If there was a place I really wanted to see, it was the Amphitheater Square. I had to walk a bit while searching for it, getting lost on the narrow-cobbled streets, but then I found it. The oval shape of the square has been maintained from the Roman times and, even though, the amphitheater is long gone, the busy atmosphere is still maintained by the large numbers of restaurants and the local buzz.
By far, my favorite thing to do was to buy a gelato and just walk the streets. These streets are just charming!
And, by the way, I barely made it out of Lucca without buying a book from the many bookstores which are everywhere.