We went on a fantastic Flavors of Lucca food tour in Italy last month.
The short review: It was super comprehensive and we made so many stops for tastings, viewings, etc. We thought the tour was only supposed to last about 2.5 hours, but it lasted an entire 4 hours, full of delicious tastings that included a typical breakfast in Lucca, pizza, meats, cheeses, wine! I highly recommend doing this tour if you’re ever in Lucca. Now that I’ve done a number of food tours, I would say this one ranks up there — not as high as the food tour we did in Bangkok (which was so well organized and abundantly rich in info and surprising food offerings), but definitely way higher than the one we did just days before in Nice.
Longer review: We thoroughly enjoyed walking and eating our way through Lucca with our guide, Chiara. We started outside of the city’s old wall at ten a.m., with a brief overview of the history of the city and the story behind its famous Renaissance walls, which span around the entire city. Chiara’s a local, so she was super knowledgeable and passionate about the city’s rich history. [Side note: I think food tours should only be led by locals (or transplants who’ve been around for at least a decade), so I was relieved to meet Chiara.]
Then, we made our way inside Lucca’s walls, meandering through its small streets and stopping in front of various landmarks. I’d been wanting to visit this city for over a decade, so I’m so grateful I finally got to go! It was bigger than I’d expected, and it was also a lot more down-to-earth and relaxed than I’d imagined. Since it’s Puccini’s birthplace, I guess I expected a place more hoighty-toighty than what we found.
Our first tasting was at a café where we had a typical Italian breakfast of sweets + coffee. Chiara explained to me that, for an Italian, the thought of eating something salty first thing in the morning (like eggs and bacon) is absolutely revolting. Haha! I have no problem with a breakfast burrito 😉
The morning specialty in Lucca is il buccellato, which is a slice of Italian bread topped with pistachio paste and fresh jam. With a hot drink, it was perfect dose of carbs. They say you haven’t been to Lucca unless you’ve had il buccellato. I only wished that this had come earlier in the morning (or that I’d eaten a bigger breakfast at our hotel), because I was ready to faint by the time we reached this café, an hour into the tour!
We next went through the city’s main quarters, stopping at artisanal shops for pastas, oils, chocolates, etc. We had pizza and amazing chickpea flatbread at the famous pizzeria, Da Felice. This place is bumping all day, and I know why! We actually went back later in the day for more pizza 😉
We finished with a really wonderful tasting of meats, cheeses and wine inside the city’s ancient anfiteatro, once the site of gladiator battles, now filled with cafes and restaurants. I was truly stuffed by the end of the tour. And Chiara was super engaging and it was fun to chat about how to stay fit despite an undying love of carbs. I wished I could spend an entire day with her, talking about life in Italy, travels, etc.
But alas, the rest of Lucca beckoned. And since we only had two nights there, these are some of the other things we did:
- Walked around the circumference of the city wall. The top of the wall is wide enough for people to bike, promenade, sunbathe, etc. It’s a fun spot to people watch and get some exercise and sun. It’s like the High Line in NYC or the Promenade Plantee in Paris. Loved it.
- Watched an opera of Puccini’s highlights. Beautiful arias from Madame Butterfly, Tosca, etc.
- Ate at a FANTASTIC restaurant, Da Giulio. A number of locals told us it was their favorite restaurant, so we went there both evenings for dinner. It was SO GOOD. Their homemade pastas inspired me to gush to the waiter in botched Italian that it was the best pasta ever. And even their vegetable soup was SO DELICIOUS. And incredibly, a large plate of pasta was approx $10. Really charming wait staff. Both locals and tourists love this place. A total gem.