Posted by: gmelvin | June 7, 2014

Travels in Lucca

Walkway into Lucca

One of the many entrance walkways into the walled city of Lucca, Italy

You don’t find these temperatures in Alaska.


A good train ride drains the soul of any energy to stay awake. No matter how hard I try, I cannot remain physically alert. Whether the sound of rolling wheels along the train track, or the gentle rocking back ‘n forth motion of the car? Not sure – train rides just make me sleepy.

The ride to Lucca was no different. I took the earliest train possible that Saturday so I could get a head start on sightseeing. This was the better choice, especially as the hotel (named Hotel Rex) allowed me to check-in early. They spoke English, and the breakfast being served that morning had yet to end when I arrived. My luck – breakfast it was.

Located just a few hundred feet to the right of Lucca’s train station entrance, Hotel Rex employs a very relaxed hotel staff. I recall seeing an elderly gentleman doing a few, small bits of work around the lobby. He was the manager…and I enjoyed talking with him (wish I knew Italian). I then walked into my room – which was as tight as a large closet. But it was comfortable. It happened to have a second level that held a king sized bed, along with plenty of shelving space and a small satellite television. Now, the bottom floor had a bathroom about half the size of my living room (which doesn’t say much), and a similar tv set as from the second floor. Overall, it was the best room I’ve had on the trip.

Not necessarily a comfortable staircase to climb

Bell Tower climb in Lucca – took a few breaths to make it to the top

My first objective was to get a feel of Lucca.

Lucca is a small town in Italy whose major attraction is a wall. The “original wall” that dates back to the 11th-12th century. It remains intact around the city, and tourists are allowed to ride their bikes or take slow strolls on top as they please. Lucca still adheres to original Italy traditions, and is a small enough town that I would highly recommend to anyone who wants to avoid the city. Even still, there is much to do here.

I first journeyed into the local cathedral and purchased a ticket that covered additional access to the museum and duomo. Awe-inspiring architecture and size epitomizes many churches in Renaissance Italy, and Lucca’s cathedral was no different. After the cathedral, I found the duomo. This particular duomo had an underground area that contained old stone relics and mosaics dating as far back as 2a.d. – 3a.d. But perhaps the highlight of this duomo was their bell tower. As I browsed around, I noticed a small side room without any restriction to access. So…I checked it out.

To my surprise, I found myself gazing up at an ole metal staircase whose height extended quite high into the air. Loosely speaking…I believe…someone had nailed a staircase into the old inner stonewall of the bell tower…and furthermore, welded that staircase frame-by-frame onto the support (pardon the punctuation usage). Great place for a fright flight. I took it.

This staircase ended with a 10ft metal ladder to the top – which hosted the best view in the city.

I toured the museum afterwards. I recall viewing elaborate gold clothing fixtures for priests, several plastered head sculptures of John’s head on a platter, and gold-lined priestly garments. Great artifacts. I then walked back to my room and rested for a few minutes. Next, I checked out a bicycle (free rental for those staying at Hotel Rex), and took a ride out to the Italian countryside. This was another reason for visiting Lucca. Other than biking on top of the wall, there are a number of trails outside the city that take you deep into the countryside. And the weather during the entire trip couldn’t have been any better.

Hungry for lasagne?

Hungry for lasagne?

I finished the day with a lasagna dinner and a cup of cappuccino. The restaurant is called “Old Charlie,” and is located in the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro. I didn’t do much the following day, for I had to take a train back to Florence and meet up with the group.

So, as usual, the train ride to Florence hit me like a pill of Tylenol PM. But before I finish writing, there’s one more story to tell.

Earlier, I had received general directions to the place I would stay in Florence…but it wasn’t until I arrived in Florence that I realized I forgot to look up the specific location online. Great. The place – a hostel – was located somewhere near Hotel Giorgio (but I didn’t know from which direction). I then took the risk of asking an elderly couple (who happened to be walking by) for directions to the hostel in Italian.

Fiume Serchio

I biked on a small trail that kept close to the Fiume Serchio – a flowing stream just north of Lucca

The good news – they understood my question. The bad news – I did not understand their answer. As they realized my confusion, the couple did something that I did not expect.

They pointed to the back of their car, and directed me to place my luggage inside.

They were offering a drive me to the hostel. Now to everyone reading this post, I DO NOT recommend that you repeat my next, upcoming response. I accepted their offer. I did have a gut feeling they were true to their intentions (not just because they were old); so, I placed my luggage inside and hopped into the car. In one minute, I was at the hostel. A young girl was just going inside, and had the door unlocked. She understood some English, and directed me to the check-in desk on the fourth floor. The elderly couple wouldn’t accept any compensation when I left, and drove off with the feeling of doing a good deed. When I arrived at the check-in lobby, my professor just happened to be sitting nearby on a sofa. Feeling quite relieved to see someone I knew, I immediately thanked the Lord for getting me there safely.

My trip to Lucca had ended, and now the week in Florence just started. If you would like more pictures from the Lucca side-trip, see this Facebook link.

And now for a few, unordered pictures of my time in Lucca.

Depictions of John the Baptist - I cannot think of a good reason for the re-creation of this event

Depictions of John the Baptist – I cannot think of a good reason for the re-creation of this event

Broken piece found under the duomo

Broken piece found under the duomo

View on top of the bell tower connected to Lucca's duomo

View on top of the bell tower connected to Lucca’s duomo


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