When I've been in Lucca before, I've only ventured outside the walls of the city to walk to the train station. So on my recent trip, I wanted to see what was beyond the imposing walls constructed in the 15th and 16th centuries - especially after I tasted a dessert from a pasticceria in the Borgo Giannotti neighborhood. (Pastry is a powerful motivator!)
The historic center of Lucca is within the walls, which were built to defend the city and remain intact today. The walls are essentially a 4-kilometer-long (almost 2.5-mile) park for residents and visitors alike. Biking, walking, jogging, sitting and watching other people bike, walk and jog - it all takes place on the walls.
Heading out the northern Porta Santa Maria exit from the historic center, there is an underground passageway to Borgo Giannotti, a typical Italian neighborhood with tiny restaurants, bakeries, a flower shop, butcher and other small businesses lining the main street.
It's an easy and interesting walk along a road that is heavily trafficked by cars - something that does not happen inside the walls of Lucca because cars are only allowed in certain areas and often only for certain reasons such as loading and unloading.
The destination on the walk Joanne and I took near the end of our December 2016/January 2017 trip to Lucca was Pasticceria Sandra, L'Angolo Dolce. Friends had brought us a cream-and-raspberry torta from there earlier in the week (read all about it in Joanne's earlier post, Pranzo con Amici).
The pasticceria is small. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in creativity and culinary craftsmanship. A glass display case in the center of the shop holds dozens of delectable delights, including cakes, cupcakes, miniature pastries, panini (sandwiches) and more. Each one has been created as a unique piece of edible art. At the back of the shop is a coffee bar. Joanne and I each ordered a mid-morning cornetto con crema and cappuccino. The cornetti (that's the plural of cornetto, which is like a croissant) were perfectly flaky and buttery and filled in the center with a soft cream that was not too rich but sufficiently sweet.
Fortified by coffee and sugar, we hit the road again, following it through Borgo Giannotti to the River Serchio, which flows toward the Ligurian Sea. Walking/biking paths run alongside the river and on a clear day like we had, there is a nice view of the Tuscan hills in the distance. I love to explore, and this easy walk through Borgo Giannotti was a nice way to spend part of a day. I spied a church on a hill to the north of the river, and now I'm looking forward to exploring it on my next visit!
-post by JG