Lucca, Italy as a base?

Oct 24th, 2012, 07:25 AM
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Lucca, Italy as a base?

DH & I are planning a return trip to Italy in September 2013. We have stayed in Pienza and San Gimignano. For this trip, we are considering Lucca as a home base for 4 nights.

In doing a search here, I found lukewarm reactions to Lucca. Is it really a 'boring', 'deadly dull' town as some feel? Are there any Lucca fans who can tell me why they liked it? Recommendations for hotels or B&B's within the walls (under 200€)? Is there a good selection of restaurants?

Thanks so much!
2010 is offline  
Oct 24th, 2012, 08:18 AM
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We love Lucca. It is a real Tuscan city with real people doing what they do, minus the tourist hordes.
REad your guide book for local sights, including, the famous city walls for biking and hiking.

I can suggest 2 hotels at different price points--The Palazzo Alexander is a good 4 star, and the Piccolo Puccini is a reasonable 3 star. Our favorite place to eat is Buca di San Antonio--not to be missed.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Oct 24th, 2012, 08:55 AM
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We used Lucca as a vacation from our vacation, staying at Piccolo Puccini for several days. It's inside the walls; we had a nice corner room there overlooking Puccini Square and his house. The PP had no breakfast; we went around town trying different places until we found a keeper.

I'm trying to remember where we parked our car. It was a big lot just inside the walls -- I think. We did one day trip by car to the Villa Marlia. (One of a number of villas visitable in the Lucca area.)

We did find Lucca a bit boring. And my memory is that it was difficult to do day trips by car from that parking lot. Using the train might work better.
Mimar is offline  
Oct 24th, 2012, 08:57 AM
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We very much enjoyed a stay in Lucca several years ago at Palazzo Alexander.

We also had a wonderful dinner at Buca di San Antonio.

Have a wonderful trip.

Byrd is offline  
Oct 24th, 2012, 09:05 AM
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I absolutely loved Lucca. Top 3 -4 on my list of all Italian cities. Try this Residenza d'epocha with a great location in a restored palazzo and a very nice breakfast.

Take a biking or walking tour on the medieval/Roman wall, enjoy the superb architecture (San Michele, etc);
there are many good restaurants, opera venues, etc.
enroute is offline  
Oct 24th, 2012, 09:07 AM
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We spent four wonderful days in Lucca a few years ago and highly recommend it. They have their own cuisine, wonderful restaurants, and riding bikes on the city walls is a must. We also stayed at the wonderful Palazzo Alexander.
HappyTrvlr is offline  
Oct 24th, 2012, 01:54 PM
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Thank you all for your replies. It sounds like Lucca will be a lovely reprieve from the other (more touristed) places on our itinerary. We like to balance cities & smaller towns. Lucca may just be the spot for us!

Also, thanks for the hotel & restaurant recommendations. I will be looking at these plus some of the local sights. We are also interested in exploring the area around Lucca.

You've all been most helpful!
2010 is offline  
Oct 24th, 2012, 02:19 PM
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I wasn't going to chime in because I did not love Lucca (disappointing after reading so many raves), and obviously that is just the personal observation of one couple. But I don't want you to have the idea that it is not heavily touristed. On the contrary, when I visited in May 2010, I found it rather crowded, full of bus tour visitors during the day and with too many chain stores. (The side streets were of course quite pleasant) Our dining experiences were also disappointing. The thing we did love was the bike riding--in addition to the walls, we took them outside of town for a long ride along a river. I think a lot depends on where else you will be on the trip, because our perception was most definitely colored by being in paradise the week prior to arriving in Lucca (on the coast at Lerici and in the mts at Barga). Just my 2cents and I hope your experience is like that of the Lucca fans, as there are many.
yorkshire is online now  
Oct 24th, 2012, 02:51 PM
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I did love Lucca and feel it is one of the dreamiest old-worldesque towns I have seen in Europe - the perfect walled town and one with an inordinate number of old medieval towns rich folks used to literally get above the fray and pestilence often raging below. Also an old roman arena built now into some houses - just a nice town - as nice to me as any town in Italy.

Collodi, just a few miles uphill from Lucca is known as the home town of Pinnochio and has adopted a Pinnochio theme to it.
PalenQ is online now  
Oct 24th, 2012, 09:35 PM
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Second Bobthenavigator's restaurant recommendation...the best of our two week trip. If you go, check out the incredible relic inside one of the churches...the preserved body of st Zitae, a young girl when she died. Very nice small town. We stayed at Hotel Universo...which we don't really recommend.
leslieq is offline  
Oct 24th, 2012, 09:57 PM
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yorkshire: Thanks for sharing your observations of Lucca. I appreciate your candidness.

It seems that we encountered fewer crowds in September than in May while traveling in Italy. We are hoping this will be the case in Lucca this coming fall.

I'm not a bike rider but would hope to walk on the town walls should we go!
2010 is offline  
Oct 25th, 2012, 12:10 AM
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I must cast my vote with yorkshire. We were in Lucca in April and we found it to be very commercial and crowded during the day. It is a nice place to visit but not to spend a few days...IMHO.

If you are looking to get away from the crowds you should consider Volterra. It may be challenging as a base. It is not easy to access by public of the reasons it is not too crowded...but if you are driving it would be a good option.
jim21 is offline  
Oct 25th, 2012, 08:24 AM
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Wow, there's a wide discrepancy between 'real Tuscan city with real people ... minus the tourist hordes', 'dreamiest old-worldesque towns' and 'commercial, crowded during the day', 'full of bus tour visitors'. Any thoughts?
2010 is offline  
Oct 25th, 2012, 08:53 AM
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I'd say that Lucca was more heavily touristed than I'd expected, but still well worth visiting anyway. We enjoyed a couple of days there, and used it as a base to visit Pisa (by bus). I'm not 100% sure I'd recommend 4 nights there, though.

We enjoyed our stay at Hotel Palazzo Busdraghi, inside the city walls. And our best meal there was at nearby Osteria Baralla... good, rustic local fare and not too expensive.

Here's our trip report from (almost exactly) a year ago:

And here are our Lucca photos:

Hope that helps!
mr_go is offline  
Oct 25th, 2012, 09:06 AM
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2010, the different descriptions about towns are often, literally, night and day. Crowded with tourists during the day and pleasantly quiet in the evenings. (If you're off exploring every day, do you care if it's crowded?) Opinions may also vary based on whether one stayed inside the town walls or just outside.

FWIW, I haven't spent as much time in Lucca as many here, but I wasn't charmed.

Whether Volterra is a good alternative base depends on where you want to explore during your 4 days. We enjoyed the town a lot and would like to re-visit on a future trip. There's much to see both inside and outside the town walls, and it's in a beautiful part of Tuscany for exploring small towns (just not ones you've likely heard of).

If you're looking for a place 'minus the tourist hordes,' have you considered Chianti?
Jean is offline  
Oct 25th, 2012, 09:08 AM
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Lucca is solely about tourism and it is probably the model for every other town in Tuscany that wanted to develop its historic center for modern tourism and yet not look "too touristy." There is actually a school in Lucca for students who want to study touristic development as a career, and how to do it in a way that is a crowd-pleaser rather than a turn-off.

By an accident of history, Lucca didn't tear down its defensive walls or modernize for the indistrial age when other important Italian cities did when their local economies, based on handcraft, began to go into a decline at the advent of the industrial revolution. Much to its surprise, Lucca found it could develop a new economy based on the fact it hadn't changed its appearance. Today, Lucca has some of the strictest ant-development laws in Italy (for instance, you can no longer open up a restaurant in town that doesn't serve Lucchese cooking (a very heavy cuisine I don't particularly care for).

The controlling bodies of Lucca have put a great deal of thought into how to deliver a pleasant experience of their historic town for tourists, and you can tell by the reaction that many people are very much pleased by it. One should ask where else they enjoy going in Italy if they have been other places, and if the answer is "the Amalfi Coast, Venice, Lago di Como and the Dolomiti", it is a pretty good clue that places highly developed for tourism don't bother them in the slightest.

Personally I find Lucca static and dull, with a real shortage of things to do if the weather is unpleasant, and would not make it a "base." But it has many unique features and details, and its lack of motor traffic in the flat city center and atop its walls, makes it a serene place to walk and study its archecture.

Since the Pinocchio park was mentioned above, I direct everybody's attention to recent reports on TripAdvisor that revile the park. I don't believe it should be recommended unless someone as been there very recently and can vouch it is an enjoyable place for today's chidren.

I also want to disagree with remark that basing in Volterra instead of Lucca is a solution to the problem of getting away from touristic development, especially since the advent of the Twilight television series. Like Lucca, it has many unique features worth studying, but for Tuscan towns that have scarcely felt the breath of mass-marketed tourism, Pistoia and Pietrasanta, or Pescia, are very rewarding places to go and even base, with good markets and highly regarded local restaurants.
pizzocchieri is offline  
Oct 25th, 2012, 09:21 AM
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"Jean" and I were posting at the same time. I think she maybe she was being humorous with her suggestion of Chianti as an area of Tuscany 'minus the tourist hordes." For many years now it has had the name of "Chiantshire" in recognition of the huge number of English-speaking tourists who overwhelm its small towns. In fact, much of the val d'Orcia was developed for tourism in a conscious effort to deter the kind of tourists that Chianti attracts. One can probably find a tiny place here or there that have been spared, and of course the scenery is still lovely, but you'd need to research very carefully and make sure the recommendations were coming from people who truly avoid touristy towns.

Arezzo is a terrific small art city in Tuscany, about the size of Lucca, but with a robust life of its own totally independent of tourism. If want to see Tuscans living today's Tuscan life in an historic Tuscan town, this is a place to do it. Arezzo also has a great deal more artistic interest than Lucca and things to do indoors. Its restaurants are less touristic. Because it has significant works or art and architecture and an important ceramics museum, tourists do find their way there. Arezzo also has a whopper of an open air antiques on a regular basis, so that too draws crowds, but they are mainly Italians, hunting for antiques. It is possible from Arezzo to use the train to visit Florence and Chiusi, and buses to visit enchanting small towns largely unknown to tourists like Lucignano or Loro Ciuffena, but if you want to see Pisa and le Cinque Terre, it is not well-situated for that.
pizzocchieri is offline  
Oct 25th, 2012, 10:41 AM
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It seems everyone is wrong---the contrarian is back.

I suspect the differences regrading Lucca speak to time of year.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Oct 25th, 2012, 12:38 PM
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I was not being humorous in my suggestion of Chianti. Although we travel in October rather than September, we have experienced little traffic on the smaller roads in Chianti and few tourists in any of the towns. But I'll admit it's all relative -- when we visited Panzano, the tourists (6) outnumbered the locals (3 + 1 dog) we encountered in the historical center.

But this thread has now turned into a debate over where the tourists are. Is the OP looking for a place "minus the tourist hordes" or a pleasant place to stay that is geographically convenient to what they want to see/do?
Jean is offline  

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