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

 

 

 

The Basilica of San Domenico and Saint Catherine of Siena

Basilica of San Domenico with the head of Saint Catherine of Siena

Basilica of San Domenico with the head of Saint Catherine of Siena

One of the major draws of Siena is the church that houses the head of Saint Catherine of Siena.  She is a patron saint of Italy, a patroness of Europe, and she is one of a handful of women who were named Doctors of the Catholic Church. (Saint Therese of Lisieux and Saint Teresa of Avila are two others.)

It’s confusing when you are walking through the city because there is a magnificent basilica made in pink, blue and white marble.  It is spectacular and breath taking.  It’s the Duomo of Siena.

That’s not it.

If you ask someone where St. Catherine’s church is, you will become more confused.  They will answer, “Domenico” because they are being helpful.  However, my Italian is not fantastic, so when I was listening for  “Caterina” all I heard was “Domenica.”  This word means Sunday.  Wha???  Is it closed?  Do we wait until Sunday?

This is where it pays to do your homework, my babies.  The Church WITH Saint Catherine is The Basilica of San Domenico.  Oooohh.  That’s why I can’t find it. Via Campo Regio is the nearest street.  While it is sometimes called, “Cateriniana” this Gothic church was built starting sometime around 1226.  Saint Catherine did not die until April 29, 1380, and it was some time after that her head was returned to Siena.

So.  In order to view the head of this amazing woman, you need to say, “Dove’ Basilica di San Domenico.”  Like all of the roads in Italy, they tease you into insanity.  Via Campo Regio.  Say it with me, now!  It’s confusing and nothing seems to go straight left or right.  The roads kind of bump up against a building and then vanish into a piazza.  This road is the closest to the building, but if you try and put the church into a GPS it will tell you “Piazza San Domenico.”

Whew, you made it!!!  An aside.  Before you go in, there’s always a bunch of vendors nearby selling beautiful scarves.  You won’t know you need it until you see it.  The dress code here requires arms and legs covered so you can rationalize buying said scarf.

It is here that one can find the side altar, Cappelle della Volte, which is the melodious Italian name for The Chapel of the Head (Face.)  Ever the macabre ones, the Italians managed to smuggle her head out of Rome and return her to her home town.  They could only get the head….and a thumb.

The rest of her is buried in Santa Maria Sopra Minerva.  This is Italian for Saint Mary’s Over Minerva.  When the Roman Empire converted to Christianity under Constantine, the Roman gods, well, were ruined.  They put Saint Mary’s OVER Minerva.  That’s what “sopra” means, above, on top of,that sort of thing. (That’s another church for another day.)

In this beautiful church, you can feel a tangible connection to Catherine.  This woman overcame sickness and death, marriage and heartache to become one of the greatest vessels the world has known to carry The Gospel.