Lucca – Tuscany, Italy

The Hometown That Inspired Puccini

Blessedly bypassed by mass tourism and protected within its perfectly pre­served Renaissance walls, this is the archetypal Tuscan hill town—minus the hill. Lucca is actually quite flat, all the better to grab a bike and coast around its timeless cobblestone side streets and to visit the ancient palazzi that today house handsome antiques shops and food stores.

Of its dozens of medieval churches, the most important are the elaborate San Michele in Foro (begun in 1143) and the stately 11th-century Duomo. Relax with a gelato in the atmospheric wood-paneled Antico Caffe Simo, where Giacomo Puccini, Lucca’s most famous son, once whiled away his afternoons.

And don’t even think about leaving town without having lunch at the deservedly popular trattoria Da Giulio in Pelleria, one of Tuscany’s most authentic and beloved eating destinations. Later, jump back on your wheels and follow the 3-mile oak- shaded path atop the city walls for a bird’s-eye view of the ancient groves of olive trees that unfold beyond the town’s centra storico: the lucchesia area gives the world its finest olio di oliva.

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