Never again will I complain about Ben’s obsession with bikes, because to my absolute astonishment, it led to the discovery of what would soon become my favourite place in Italy.
For some context, Ben is an avid cyclist and was feeling particularly sad about not having his bike with us after a rubbish day of school. So we brainstormed how to fix his mopes, and decided to book a little weekend getaway to Lucca, which apparently, is very well know for its mountainous rides.
I knew little to nothing about Lucca (shocking, I know), but was keen to explore more of Tuscany and was also happy to escape the heat in Florence. Ben was going to be riding pretty much the entire weekend so I was looking forward to exploring what I assumed would be a relatively boring city at my own pace, maybe downing a spritz or two at a bar while reading a book. And those, were the absolute extent of my plans and expectations of Lucca.
Of course, I was proved to be a complete idiot; Lucca is possibly the most beautiful little town I have ever visited. Surrounding the city is a circle of renaissance walls that host hundreds of cobble-stoned streets that are filled with vintage market stalls, classic gelati shops, and old men playing the saxophone. The people are kind, the food is incredible (and cheap), and the whole town has this relaxed vibe to it that you couldn’t help but get lost in.
What I both loved, and found really interesting, was the pace of the town. The shop owners were in no rush to serve people, because there weren’t the swarms of tourists I have come to expect in Italy so far. Also, because the majority of their customers are Italian, they did not speak English. Like, at all. It was genuinely refreshing to be expected to communicate in Italian, or at lease attempt to. Of course, my Italian is still dreadful, so this proved somewhat difficult. However, to my surprise, the people were so kind and really encouraged me to keep persevering, even if it felt like we would never understand each other. If it took 5 minutes to serve me, they were totally ok with it. They would smile, say “piano piano” to me (which translates to ‘softly, softly’) and attempt to rephrase my thoughts until they were satisfied we understood one another.
I began the weekend by hiring a bike and riding around the walls of the town, which I assumed would be kind of cool, but nothing to special. Again, my idiocy was really highlighted as this was no normal bike ride. The height of the walls allowed for the most beautiful view of not just the city, but the mountains that surrounded the other side of the town. They were completely tree-lined, which gave the impression of being in some kind of botanic park, but also served to keep a lot of the heat out. I spent 2 solid hours riding around and around (the loop itself takes 30 minutes at best), finding different things to see each time.
After my little legs could pedal no more, I decided to show myself around the city by foot. Of course, every turn was more beautiful than the next, as I stumbled upon some of the most picturesque buildings, artworks and vintage stalls. Those who know me, know that I am an absolute market queen, so I was really in my element. Trawling through the various posters, dresses, books and homewares filled me with endless joy, and I decided at this point that I was never going to leave.
Once Ben made it home we had a really beautiful dinner outside and then wandered back to our seriously trendy Airbnb (see pics, I’d call it ‘industrial chic’/ too stylish for us). The next morning I raced back out to the streets to continue my love affair with the town, while masochist Ben continued his cycling stuff. I took myself out for breakfast (which meant a cream-filled croissant washed down with 2 shots of espresso) and pottered around the Botanic Gardens until Ben finished his ride, and I was allowed to eat my next meal again. Of course, lunch was incredible, which only fuelled the daydreams of someday buying a little house here and living happily ever after.
We reluctantly/grumpily caught the train back to Florence that afternoon, wondering if maybe we could squeeze in another trip back before we head off to London in just under 4 weeks. But I can safely say I will be back to visit Lucca, if not live there… one day!