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His Majesty, Lucca from Tuscany

Wilson Jone |
They say - and they swear! - that people may die when they see the beauty of Tuscany. Indeed, the beauty of that Italian region is something everyone should experince at least once in a lifetime. We will show you just a part of that impressive region: Lucca.

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The city of Lucca was founded in ancient times by the Etruscans and its city wall, defended by 126 canons, just in case, dates back to the 16th-17th centuries. But what is impressive here is its preservation: Lucca is a true time travel experience, with all buildings, walls and gardens excellenty preserved. Particularly evocative is its old town, intact in its medieval appearance with typical narrow streets and piazzas overlooked by stone towers, tower-houses and brick houses with arcades.

Lucca is not a huge city, so it's perfect for going around on foot or bike, entering it through one of its six gates, going through ancient trees and lush vegetation. The center is ideal for spending time in its natural theater and vast spaces that host shows and artistic events such as Murabilia in September, an exhibition of flowers and gardening. In its very centre, there is the 19th century Botanical Garden with a museum and a library. Climb 230 stairs of the Guinigi tower - with trees on the top! - for the view over this gorgeous city.

In dark medieval times throughout Tuscany, it made sense for every wealthy family to have their own defensive tower and many Tuscan towns set building limits on height and style of the towers to put tower building mania under control. The Lucca 13th-century 50 meters tall clock tower, is the tallest and one of few remaining towers within the city walls from which you can enjoy the view of the history below and city's 12m-high and 4.2km long walls, a favorite location for the passeggiata, traditional evening stroll locals enjoy.

Piazza dell’ Anfiteatro, once a Roman amphitheater, is one of its most famous landmarks, nearly as famous as its walls. Described as one of the most beautiful squares in Italy, this lively piazza is full of all kinds of shops, cafes and restaurants. Lucca is full of great examples of architecture. Villa di Paolo Guinigi from the 15th century looks like its original owner will step out every moment. Palazzo Mansi is home of Lucca's second National Museum, and the 17th-century Palazzo Moriconi-Pfanner is an example of Lucchese Baroque, surrounded by a spectacular garden.

Religious architecture is of particular importance here and that's why Lucca is called city of 100 churches. The Duomo di San Martino is there with its magnificent facade and interiors full with precious artworks, the Duomo Museum ouses paintings, sculptures and liturgical furnishings, and the Church of San Michele in Foro is a unique example of Pisan-Lucchese architecture. But the central point of your architecture visit is for sure the splendid Basilica of San Frediano, built with richly-carved white marble inside.

Among all cozy streets, Via Fillungo stands out, surrounded by old buildings and ancient towers like the famous Torre delle Ore. When building this charming city through ages, the builders paid great attention to nature. Significant villas have equally significant gardens offering protection from the brilliant Tuscany sun. If you don't have much time and can include only one historical garden on your itinerary, we suggest Villa Reale di Marlia where even great Niccolò Paganini came to play his violin in "theater of verdure".

The gastronomy of Lucca is rooted in ancient traditions, with soups as an important part of every meal. So, we'd suggest the garmucia - a soup with artichokes, peas, broad beans and asparagus - followed with roasted pork or lamb with olives, and for a desert buccellato, a typical doughnut-shaped dessert, and Montecarlo wine. But we must be fair and say that's our choice: Lucca is full of delicious recipes and if you have no idea what to order, just let locals choose for you, you'll be in seventh heaven, we guarantee. Bread is very salty, take care!

When to come to Lucca? In the summer, there is the music Summer Festival in the square Piazza Napoleone, while in late October the Lucca Comics festival is full of heroes and monsters. However, if you choose to come some quieter time, you'll do well: There is hardly better place to regain your senses than Tuscany. If you have more time, stroll around the town, visit surrounding hills, taste local wines, and enjoy peaceful surroundings. Lucca is decribed as "overflowing with everything" and that's true and don't be surprised if you find yourself thinking about staying here forever.

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