Lucca is one of my favorite towns in all of Italy. Its most notable feature, and one of the things I love most about it, is the magnificent wall that surrounds the entire historical center of the town.
On top of the wall is a two-and-a-half-mile road lined with glorious chestnut, plane, and linden trees. Troops of soldiers are now replaced with people walking, running, strolling with friends, pushing babies in strollers, or sitting in one of the many parks, cafés, and restaurants that are dotted along the wall.
It is also the perfect vantage point to take in the sights of Lucca. From here you can see the spectacular Guinigi Tower topped with holm oaks, or the clock tower, remnants of the 250 tall towers that once graced Lucca, from a time when towers were built to show off wealth and power.
It’s also a place where you’ll find good-value real estate on offer. And now is a good time to buy in Lucca. The prices are lower than when I was looking 13 years ago.
I recently saw a beautifully renovated, two-bedroom apartment in the historical center selling for €250,000 ($280,300).
Another I came across was a two-bedroom, ground-floor apartment with an asking price of €130,000 ($145,750). You can also find a second-floor, two-bedroom apartment on the market for €180,000 ($201,800).
Unlike many Italian towns that cling like limpets to the sides of hills, Lucca is flat, making it easy to get around the cobblestone streets. It is big enough to have lots to see and do, and yet small enough to be easy to navigate. The climate is typical Mediterranean, with hot summers and cool, wet winters. Its winters can have clear, cool days with brilliant sunshine and blue skies.
Lucca was once home to 100 churches. Several magnificent buildings remain to be explored. In San Martino Cathedral, you will find the exquisite sarcophagus of Ilaria, the young bride who died in childbirth. San Frediano is adorned with Byzantine mosaics and has the tiny chapel where Saint Zita, patron saint of Lucca, lies in her glass case.
San Giovani has an excellent crypt which has been recently excavated. Almost every night the church hosts a concert in honor of Puccini, Lucca’s most famous musical son. Many of the old churches come to life with music at night…there is always something happening in the town. In summer, famous musicians from all over the world come to perform in Piazza Napoleone, named by his sister, Elisa, who was princess of Lucca in the early 1800s.
The shopping is good here, too. Via Filungo, the main street, winds its way through the center of the town. It is lined with brand-name stores, sitting beside family owned businesses that have been serving the residents for centuries. There are several excellent delicatessens, supplying delicious seasonal food, as well as a couple of new supermarkets. An ever-growing number of restaurants and cafes mean you will never go hungry in Lucca. Gelaterias are popping up all over as well.
A great place to join friends for a coffee, lunch, or dinner is the circular Piazza Anfiteatro. A Roman amphitheater once stood on the site. It is long gone, but the space remains, lined with apartments, shops, and cafés. There are regular festivals here, from a flower festival to honor Saint Zita, to displays of vintage cars.
Lucca is central to many interesting places. Florence is about an hour away by bus or train. In the other direction Pisa is just 12 miles away. There are miles of beaches along the Versilia Coast, just to the north of Pisa. From Viareggio to Portofino and the Cinque Terre, there’s a some great places to visit.
Anyone looking to live in a beautiful, convenient, and interesting Italian town should consider lovely Lucca.
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