The first time I visited Lucca, Italy was by total accident. You know, one of those “on the fly” plans that turn out, in this case, to have been a great choice! The second time I went to Lucca, was totally planned and was equally amazing!
WHERE IS LUCCA? AND HOW DID I END UP THERE?
Lucca is located in the Tuscany region of Italy. Getting off the cruise ship in the port of Livorno, we had a private driver and were headed to Florence, Italy. The driver heard the conversation about how many times we had been to Florence and suggested an alternative. He said he would take to us to a small town in Tuscany which he promised would be enchanting and a new adventure. We had no idea where we were going, but always up for an adventure, a new plan was born!
A BRIEF HISTORY AND OVERVIEW OF LUCCA:
Lucca dates back to about 180BC. Its history of invasion and retaking its independence is similar to many European towns. Also similar is the fortification wall that surrounds the city. What is not similar is that the wall remains completely intact. In today’s Lucca, atop the wall, a pedestrian walkway has been built which allows you to stroll the complete circumference of the city!
The city was the birthplace of many composers which gives it importance in Italian Opera. Giacomo Puccini (La Bohème and Madama Butterfly) is arguably the most renowned of those to which Lucca gave birth.
The historic center of town offers a Roman grid-like layout and is surrounded by 15 beautiful Piazzas. As you wander the city, which is a pedestrian-only city inside the wall, you find yourself amazed at the number of medieval churches, palaces, and villas, all of which have been remarkably preserved!
MY FIRST TIME IN LUCCA:
The first time in Lucca, we arranged a time and location with the driver to meet us back in the city center, and off we went. After one of the best Italian coffees I’ve ever had, we wandered in and out of churches, shops, and squares. I kept thinking back to the word the driver had used, “Enchanting”. He was 100% spot on!
As we sat on the steps of a church, plotting our next steps, a couple approached us and not only gave some advice but were kind enough to walk us to our next amazing find! They explained they had rented a villa in Tuscany for 3 months and that had spent lots of time in Lucca and that we couldn’t leave without visiting Pfanner Garden.
(I used the online booking app for tours, Viator. They offer so much pre-tour information, which allows you to “know before you go”! The vouchers are easy to download to your phone and you are all set! I used TripAdvisor for the reviews and past guest comments, which I found very helpful! And of course, for the hotel and flights, I got great deals using Kiwi.com. I highly recommend all three of those vendors when booking your next trip!)
One word comes to mind when speaking of Pfanner garden: WOW!
Passing through the families of Moriconi and Cotronis, the home and surrounding garden ended up in the hands of The Pfanner family around 1800. Through the different family ownership, the location has been a brewery, and a hospital, and is now open to the public. Still owned by the Pfanner family, the interior is a well-preserved museum of sorts with an amazing outdoor staircase. In my opinion, the most significant feature of the property is the numerous gardens, pools, fountains, and statuary. The location is also home to special events throughout the year.
Without a doubt, Pfanner Gardens was the highlight of my first visit to Lucca and definitely the inspiration for the second visit! I wish there was a way to thank that couple who steered us to this amazing place!
MY SECOND VISIT TO LUCCA:
My second visit was part of a tour; a ship-sponsored excursion. A few months ago, because of Covid restrictions in Italy, you were not allowed to disembark the ship unless you were a participant in ship sponsored excursion. I’m usually not a tour kind of gal and this felt like the only thing missing was the shackles. You weren’t allowed to leave the group to use the bathroom, buy a bottle of water, or for any other independent needs/desires. Honestly, this was a last-minute change to the cruise policies and really put a damper on enjoyment. When I say last minute, I really mean that: the day before the cruise embarked, this policy was put in place. Had I known this earlier in the planning, I would have postponed the voyage to a less restrictive time.
Anyway, my rant over, The experience was not quite as enchanting as the first but was still wonderful in that I experienced different locations in Lucca.
Lucca was introduced to me by being in the right place at the right time. Or better said- having the right driver at the right time. It is truly enchanting and I know in my heart, that another trip to Lucca is in my future. This is one of those places like Taormina, Sicily: you find that the location stays in your heart and you yearn to go back! That being said, I encourage you to live Mallory’s Dream and travel to Lucca!
Until next time, friends, remember “To Travel is to Live!”