Lucca is a town that is so easy to reach – just off the main highway between Florence and the sea. But once you arrive, you feel worlds away from everything. This perfectly sized walled city is not considered a hill town – the hills are surrounding the town just past the River Serchio. It is primarily flat which is why bicycles are by far the preferred mode of transportation here. One can also easily walk on top of the massive sixteenth century walls around the town for a lovely stroll or taking a bicycle around the outer loop is also very popular.

Inside the walls is everything you would want your favorite medieval city to have; a grand piazza where everyone meets and local musicians play, lots of local markets and fine shops, an antiques market, many fabulous restaurants, great bakeries, fruit markets, wine stores, gelaterias , museums, theaters, incredible churches and lovely hotels. It also happens to be the birthplace of the famous Giacomo Puccini and recently was the 150th anniversary of his birth. There were banners hanging from every lamppost in honor of remembering this great author of some of the world’s most famous operas.

We had the good fortune to be shown around this town by local resident and tour operator Silvia from Tamitaly Tours. Born and raised in Lucca, she knows the intimate details and history of many of the magnificent structures. One tower which she pointed out to us had large, beautiful trees growing on the rooftop! The height of a tower she told us was a sign of power and wealth. When a neighboring tower was built of similar height, these trees were planted to rise above and keep its tallest structure status! A medieval and Renaissance way to keep up with the Jones’!

There are many ways in which to visit Lucca – One way is to come for a Tuscan Cooking Program with local chef and culinary teacher Giuseppe Mazzocchi (who also helped to show us around this beautiful town). He was born on a small olive farm not far from Lucca and has spent many years enjoying and teaching the fine art of Tuscan cooking. He shows students how to create wonderful and simple meals which can easily be recreated upon return home. The classroom is in the heart of old Lucca and the program includes visits to the surrounding small markets to collect the freshest of ingredients as well as journeys outside of the walls to the local farms, vineyards and olive oil production facilities. A stay at the 4 star San Luca Palace Hotel also helps to make this program unforgettable. And, visiting for a day in Lucca as we did still made our trip unforgettable. A presto Lucca!