I had most been looking forward to our visit to Lucca, as I have had a second hand experience of the city from my godmother’s blog, and my mother’s visit with Panini Girl a couple of years ago. I already knew I would love the city based on everyone’s stories and reviews, so it was no surprise when I fell in love with this beautiful and historical walled town. So much so, that it upset me to leave it behind.
One of the most special things about Lucca is that it is surrounded by a city wall, remaining from the early Roman times. But this city wall is different from others I’m Italy, as you can walk along the top of it, around the entire city. Sissy and I did this one morning, and got great views of the inside of the walls, as well as a little exercise after nearly seven straight days of eating pasta and driving a Fiat around Tuscany. We particularly loved peering into the Pfanner Gardens, filled with flowers, plants and old statues of mythological Gods. We later paid admission to visit inside the gardens and the old Pfanner Palace, preserved for historical purposes. Because Lucca is still a walled city, the cars are very restricted to certain roads, which makes the town great for walking and exploring little hidden piazzas and alley ways. Tough, be sure to step aside when you hear the occasional car or Vespa coming from behind!
But the real draw to Lucca is all the incredible Tuscan food. Though Sissy and I were quite sure every night before dinner that there was no way we could have another bowl of pasta, we always found it to be the most appealing thing on the menu and gave in without much fuss. The antipasti in this city is also something to note. There are tons of little shops displaying case after case of several dozen different types of Pecorino, cured meat, and other little appetizers. We picked up some spicy salami, prosciutto, finocchio, two types of Pecorino and a baguette on our second day, to be enjoyed at home before going out for the night (though, I was utterly disappointed to find that our hosts kitchen had no olive oil for the bread! An Italian woman with no olive oil? REALLY?). We were able to make this spread last two nights, and thoroughly enjoyed it in our air conditioned apartment while sipping on Campari spritzers and watching Italian music videos.
Our first meal was at Gli Orti di Via Elisa, on the western edge of the wall. We sat outside on the patio, fighting off the heat and Mosquitos, with a bottle of Prosecco. We shared a pizza with eggplant and spicy salumi and a maccheroni pasta (not tubes, but large flat squares) with porcini mushrooms and pecorino in a light butter sauce. We also shared a pine nut flavored Gelato (a Lucchese specialty) for dessert. The meal was quite good, but I was looking forward to the next evening when we would visit Panini Girl’s favorite restaurant, Gigi Trattoria.
But before I get to that, I must tell you dear readers about the most amazing pizza that we encountered in all of Italy, at the famed Pizza da Felice. Another recommendation from Panini Girl, we walked in around 11:45am on our second day in Lucca, already starving after a morning of walking the wall and exploring the town. We each ordered two slices (prosciutto and plain), which we devoured immediately. It was so delicious, that we had to order another slice of salami. We ate the slices right at the counter, with a light Italian beer. The owner was pulling whole pies out of the oven and slicing them to order, adding the meat toppings right on each individual slice. It was a slice of heaven, and not to be missed by anyone visiting Lucca.
That evening, we planned to dine at Gigi Trattoria – located in Piazza Carmine, a small plaza just near one of the main streets, Via Filungo. We stumbled upon it earlier in the day when we were looking for the grocery store and pasticceria that Panini Girl suggests (unfortunately Pasticceria Buralli is closed on Mondays, but we were able to visit the next day). We popped our heads in to make a reservation for that evening, which was not a problem but I do suggest making a reservation in advance if you can. We arrived around 10pm and sat outside at a candlelit table under a tarp of sorts. We were both craving a simple green salad to start, but did not find anything like that on the menu. Not to worry, they whipped one up for us with no problem! Sissy ordered the ragu and I asked for the pasta with tomatoes and shrimp, spicy if you please. The shrimp were a mix of jumbo with head on (my favorite), and smaller prawns. Both pastas were rather light, and we had no trouble finishing! We also ordered a liter of their house tap red wine, which we agreed was pretty great for only €10 per liter. Though we decided to skip dessert, the waiter offered us some Limoncello on the house, which we happily accepted. Other than the pizza, this was my favorite meal in Lucca.
We had plans to go to a restaurant by the Western wall on our last night, but when we arrived they seemed understaffed and not able to accommodate us. So instead we wandered back towards our apartment and decided to check out Osteria San Giorgio, a place we had noted previously for its charming outdoor garden. While the service was a little slow (apparently it was a busy night for the whole city because of the nearby concert series), they were very friendly and accommodating. We both weren’t starving and had planned on getting something a little lighter, until we saw the two pasta dishes that we settled on: both tagliatelle; one with lobster tails, and one with a Vongole sauce (white sauce with clams). Both were light and delicious and while slightly similar, possessed different flavors in the seafood. We also shared a bottle of sparkling wine, which we were pleasantly surprised by and which was much cheaper than their Prosecco. It was a wonderful last meal in Lucca, and I look forward to returning again and visiting other restaurants, as well as some new favorites.