Lucca is just 90 minutes from Florence’s Santa Maria Novella main station. The new and comfortable regional trains have only (superb) 2nd class seating and clean bathrooms, all for a round trip ticket costing around 16 Euros without the autostrada hassle.
You will pass through the cities of Pistoia and Montecatini to name just two on this multi-stop ride. But the time passes quickly and there are occasional views of lovely hillside towns, Tuscan fields and olive groves.
Once in Lucca, it is an easy walk from the station through the ancient wall surrounding the city completely, and into the town center. The duomo is worth a stop as is the home/museum of opera composer Giacomo Puccini; or visit one of the colorful markets and walk along a picturesque canal running through the town center.
Shopping ranges from designer boutiques to bargain stands on the streets, and the locals are helpful to all tourists who ask politely.
On a recent one day jaunt to Lucca we asked a lovely young native to suggest a restaurant where she and others who live there might go for the substantial mid-day “pranzo.” She directed us to Gli Orti di Via Elisa, on Via Elisa 17 in Lucca’s center. The atmosphere was characteristic, the delicious food classic and also original, and the staff attentive and accommodating. The first and second courses for 2 adults, a shared dessert and 1/4 litre of the house white wine plus mineral water totaled 82 Euros, service and cover included. Samuele Cosentino and family deserve the success of this eatery, two others, and their Hotel Ilaria, all in Lucca.
After walking the winding ancient streets and shopping at several interesting boutiques we headed back to Florence. We had no problem finding two good seats despite the fact that regional trains have no reserved seats. All this on a sunny day at the very end of June, the height of the tourist season in Tuscany.
Visit Lucca when you can, and taste its signature olive oil while there. Historically, architecturally, gastronomically and socially it makes a marvelous short escape from Florence and one that is highly affordable.
As always, “Buon viaggio!”