June 2: Lucca
Luca, Kurt and I left the house at around 9:30, luggage in tow. We left the bike boxes and clothing we wouldn't need for the second half of our trip at Luca's house, so our luggage was much lighter. Luca was only going to Lucca for a night, so his bag was very light. After a brief repast at a pasticceria in Ferrara, and a quick visit to Luca's mom's, we hit the autostrada for Lucca.
Micol, Luca's daughter, wasn't able to come on the trip as originally planned because she was coming down with a cold. Luca had to shorten his stay because he had a big proposal due on Monday (such is the life of a professor).
Lucca sits very near the west coast of Italy, just north of Pisa. Our drive would take us through Bologna and Firenze before eventually reaching Lucca.
The traffic was heavy, as this was a holiday weekend and we were heading towards Firenze and then towards the sea, all which made for very slow going. On top of this, there was also roadwork on the autostrada, as well as an incidente along the way. Keep in mind that the autostrada here is only two lanes in either direction.
Eventually we reached Lucca in the mid-afternoon. Lucca is an old walled city, and our hotel was just inside the city walls on a relatively quiet and narrow street. Our hotel, the Palazzo Alexander, was a recently opened hotel in a building that used to be apartments. The hotel and our rooms were exquisite; easily the nicest place we stayed in. The staff were extremely friendly and helpful.
After settling into our rooms, we went to get a bite to eat. Walking through Lucca, we were struck by the number of beautiful old churches and buildings, and wonderful piazzas. We had an unexpectedly expensive lunch in an outdoor cafe in one of the piazzas, and then toured the city on foot.
We took a tour of the city, as described in the Michelin Green Guide to Tuscany. We admired the chiesa S. Michele in the Piazza San Michele. This is a beautiful gothic church, just around the corner from our hotel. We visited the Palazzo Pfanner, which had a display of opera costumes from the 19th century, and a beautiful garden adjacent to the city walls. We walked further and ran into the Piazza Anfiteatro, an oval piazza surrounded by buildings arranged in an oval. This piazza used to be where the ampitheatre was.
Lucca is very dense with beautiful piazzas with beautiful churches. It seemed like every 100 meters we'd run into another piazza with another interesting church to explore.
After exploring the city, we returned to our hotel for a brief rest, and then went out to a mediocre pizza dinner. Luca was appalled. We made up for the dinner with some decent gelato afterwards.