Lucca: The Walled City of Cycling

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The top of the wall in Lucca

The top of the wall in Lucca

 

An ancient hamlet nestled into the hills of Tuscany, Lucca was once a bustling town that prospered from its rich banking business as well as its silk trade.  Housing churches of great importance and beauty, it was the perfect stopping point for pilgrims throughout Europe.

Today, it is still the perfect stopping point for tourists.  One of the best parts of Lucca for tourists is that ironically, it is not loaded with tourists. It has a gentle, meandering essence to it that you won’t find anywhere else.  This is why it lends itself to being the perfect cycling city.

 

This beautiful little town encapsulates all of the quintessential aspects of “The Perfect Small Italian City.”   It contains All Things Italian.  It starts with cycling.  That’s right.  I am not beginning with art, churches, wine or food.

 

Do I have your attention, bike lovers?  It appeals to cyclists because in fact, the outer wall is really a track of sorts for both casual strollers and bicycle enthusiasts.  The wall is the perfect way to see the city.  Tourists and locals alike spend the day on the wall, cycling and walking, eating gelato.  It’s a beautiful vantage point; it allows you to see the entire city from the perimeter.  Each steeple and tower is at the perfect level for photographs.

 

The bike ride itself will become one of your favorite souvenirs as you can relive it in your heart forever.  You can bring your own bicycle, and it is extremely easy to rent bicycles for the afternoon, the day, an hour or the week. There are bike shops everywhere, and the bikes themselves have little sign emblems on their spokes to advertise as well.  Follow one back to the shop.  I should say shops, as this small town has more bike shops than La Bella Roma.  Everyone rides bikes everywhere.

 

Be prepared, if you love cycling like the Italians love cycling, you may never get out of the shops to actually ride.  There are things for sale here you won’t see anywhere else….think pink Bianchi.  (If you are a cyclist aficonionado, I’ve already peaked your interest.)

 

See.  I told you.

 

Here is a list of some shops…I have added the websites when one is available.  Noleggio, so you know, is the Italian word for “charter” which means they have rentals. Most of the shops have them whether or not it is in the title of the shop.  Just look for the word, “noleggio.”  Happy riding!

 

  • Berutto Nedo di Franceschi Riccardo

Via De Gasperi 83/A – 55100 S. Anna

http://www.beruttonedo.com/Home.html

 

  • Biciclette Poli

Piazza Santa Maria, 42

http://www.biciclettepoli.com

 

  • Bike Passion: Vendita, Accessorio, Riparazione e Noleggio

Via Pisana, 54

 

  • Chrono’Bike di Paladino Meschi

Corso Garibaldi, 93

http://www.chronobikes.com/en/info

 

  • Cicli Bizzarri

Piazza Santa Maria, 32

http://www.ciclibizzarri.net

 

  • Cicli Max di Pumilia Massimiliano Riparazione e Vendita

45, Via Civitali Vincenzo

 

  • Ciclidea di Cini Giacomo

Via Borgo Giannotti, 361

 

  • Cini Roberto: Ciclidea Riparazione Vendita

Via Borgo Giannotti, 317

 

  • Fast and Furious SRL

186, Via S. Donato

http://www.fastandfuriousbike.it

 

  • Franceschi SRL

502, Via Pesciatina

http://www.ciclifranceschi.it

 

  • Mercatone Uno

Viale Giacomo Puccini 1718

 

  • Orsucci Bike Vendita, Riparazione e Noleggio

Via Orsucci, 50

 

  • Punto Bici

8, Via Del Crocifisso

http://www.puntobici.lucca.it

 

 

 

Siena: A Shopping Secret

Siena: Neighborhood flag guarding its territory
Window sills overlooking Siena

Window sills overlooking Siena

Siena is The Quintessential Medieval City.  Shouldered between Florence and Rome, she is the quiet, elegant sister who needs no introduction.  Each year, thousands of people shimmy themselves into her walls to get a glimpse at the famous horse race, Il Palio.  Two days a year, July 2nd and August 16th, she is like a rock star, and then the rest of the year, she is a monarch, perched upon her hilly throne, regal and beautiful.  She beckons you to discover her secrets, because once you think you have discovered her, there is something else that you never knew.  Each alleyway brings you to an entirely new section of the town.  At once, it is crowded and deserted.  There are times when you literally will not see another soul.

Window display in Siena

Window display in Siena

This is when you are able to find the most unique Things To Buy.  On the Via Della Sapienza, there is a tiny little wine shop, La Cantina Del Brunello.  It sells the most amazing…

 

Cycling Jerseys.

It’s true.  You would never expect to see this, but there it is.  The jerseys have the Gallo Nero (Black Rooster) on them, indicating a true Chianti.

If you are a cycling fan, then Italy is your long lost home.  If you are a wine lover, well, Italy is your long lost home, too.  So there we were, a cyclist and a wine lover.  We had to go in.  The most adorable, quintessential little old Italian man was at the register.  We greeted him, (remember what I said about shopping in Italy.)  He was about 5 feet even.  My husband is 6’3″.  As this beautiful man flitted about him like a tiny bird trying to find the correct size jersey, my husband begged me not to take his picture.  I obliged him out of love, but can I tell you, it was a spectacular moment.  We had found The Most Beautiful Cycling Jersey….in a wine shop!

The man spoke very little English, but we knew from his mumbling that he could not find an XL.  His face lit up as he lifted his finger to us, and took the jersey right off the mannequin.  We purchased the jersey, of course, but honestly, I can’t remember if we even bought any wine.  He was so gracious and kind to this oversized giant American with a heart for cycling as big as his own.  He smiled and smiled  and took both of my hands.  Then he offered us some olive oil in tiny precious bottles.  “Un assaggio” he advised me.  (A taste.)  We took the tiny bottle with us and savored it with some bread after we had returned home to the States.  Long after the olive oil was gone, the memory is still so rich.

That’s the way it is window shopping in Siena.  You feel as if you are browsing for a new long lost friend.  They are so gracious, and they are thrilled when you try to speak a bit of Italian to them.  You feel comfortable trying because they are so encouraging and delighted.  It’s like taking your first steps or something the way they cheer you on with each phrase.  Of course, some things cross language barriers; handshakes and smiles, of course, but eye contact, and knowing that “Il Campionissimo”  was Fausto Coppi.  If you are a cycling lover, you know what I’m talking about.

Neighborhood flag guarding its territory

Neighborhood flag guarding its territory