Pillar, Heart and Spiritual Home of Italian Cycling
Lucca's kept hidden because mystery intrigues. But the Lucchesi know about it. They foster and appreciate a cycling culture unlike any other. It's where professionals and serious cyclists roam, where Strava segments are prized possessions and where hours pass like minutes.
The full 360-degree radius outside the 4.4km original city walls is all cycling territory. From Monte Serra, which can be summited, not one, but three ways to the other end of the valley, Pizzorne, for additional pain and punishment. The Giro d’Italia isn’t considered the hardest race in the world for nothing, riding in Italy puts you to the test.
The narrow, twisty roads were designed with cyclists, Vespa's and Piaggio Ape's in mind. They take you through olive groves, vineyards, and ancient Tuscan farmhouses. A little effort can reap great reward.
Not only will the lay of the land stun you, it'll undoubtedly be love at first sight. If not, your first cappuccino is on me. Nobody makes coffee like the Italians do.
Beyond the Lucchesia, proper Apennine climbs like Abetone, Passo delle Radici, and San Pellegrino shall not be overlooked. Or, one of my all-time favorites, Passo Croce, in the Apuane mountains. There you'll die and be born again.
Originally known as Luca, "illuminated glade," for its marshy terrain, the town became a Roman colony in 180 BC. The Cathedral of San Martino was an important stop along Via Francigena, a spiritual journey from Rome to Canterbury in the Early Middle Ages.
At the end of the 12th century, merchants and luxury artisans flourished inside Lucca's walls thanks to the prosperous silk trade and these treasure shops can still be browsed today.
Wandering inside the historic city center, imagine yourself alive during the Roman Times, into the Middle Ages, the Napoleonic Era and through the Renaissance. How little the original medieval architecture has changed, but how much we humans perceive the world differently.
Piazza dell'Anfiteatro shows the outline of an ancient arena while the defense walls dating back to the 17th century are now a pedestrian promenade. Among the piazza's, alleyways, churches, cafe's, and shops, let the smallness of your worries fade away and the moment lead you.
Why not combine your trip with a visit to the Leaning Tower of Pisa (also by bike), the jaw dropping Cinque Terre, and Florence? Have a look at TrenItalia for train schedules.
The best airport for Lucca is Pisa Galileo Galilei Airport, a 33km drive or 70km is Florence Amerigo Vespucci Airport.