Lucca is the perfect size Italian city to explore by foot (not much choice since cars are pretty much not allowed in the old city). I did find it a bit frustrating to not understand what I was looking at and what the real history of many of the churches and palaces was. On my last day there I found an excellent map at the tourist center. Turns out it was actually done by an American surveyor who fell in love with Lucca. You can buy it online at:
Its worth the $10 if you plan to spend a couple of days exploring Lucca.
The "Parco Fluviale"
In the part of banks of the Serchio river between Monte San Quirico Bridge (at the begining of Borgo Giannotti) and San Pietro Bridge a park has been estabilished. This park, called Parco Fluviale, is a circuit 11 Km long skirting the two opposite banks of the river.
This track is often haunted by runners or bikers because is much more training and county-tasting than the City Walls. It is also possible to rent a horse and have a ride along the river.
In this area there are also a lot of benches and tables simply to have a rest and breathe some riverside air.
Explore Lucca on foot
With approximately 85.000 inhabitants, Lucca is relatively small. So especially the walled Old Town with its many narrow alleys and the beautiful squares is best explored on foot. If you wear comfy shoes, I would recommend to take a walk along the complete city walls.
Journeying through the Lucca countryside
Journeying on to Kucca through the Tuscan countryside: Pisa and other delightful towns dot the road to Pisa where who are guested of the Agostini family Villa di Corliano. The family - and 2 resident ghosts - still welcome guest at the Villa, much as it they were at the height of its fame in the 1770’s. The Villa http://www.villacorliano.it has hosted many illustrious guests such as Gustavus III of Sweden, Christian II of Denmark, the Royal Family of Great Britain, Benedict Stuart Cardinal of York, General Murat, Luigi Buonaparte, Paolina Borghese, Carlo Alberto of Savoy, the poets Byron and Shelley, and various other personages from the history books. The area of the Pisa hills was already an attraction for enlightened travellers in the first half of the 1700s with the growth of the thermal spa of San Giuliano, which became a fashionable spot for the well-off classes. The mansions on the road along the hills, already renowned as places of gentle idleness and relaxation in the heart of the countryside and also for their small industrial facilities for the transformation of agricultural products, soon assumed the characteristics of true leisure resorts, just like those narrated by Carlo Goldoni and which we can continue to enjoy today.
The Relais dell’ Ussero at the Villa Agostini della Seta di Corliano is on the road which runs along the foot of the hills from Pisa to Lucca, passing through the small town of San Giuliano Terme. The Villa is a historical fifteenth century mansion surrounded by a centuries old park. It is a property of great charm in which the owners offer, in 12 rooms and 2 suites, a relaxing stay immersed in the beauties of the local countryside.
Guests, if they like, can join in the day to day activities of the villa. They can have relaxing strolls in the park, potter around in the gardens, chat or have dinner with the owners in the farmhouse of the villa – today a high class restaurant http://www.ladycarlotta.it/
San Michele Church
In the homonym square there is this beautiful church (about 12th century).
The facade, in Romanesque style, is much higher than the rest of the church and has marble column different one by each others. Another particular feature of the facade is that all the marbe head that you can see represent some migthy or important men of their age, instead of biblical charachters.
On the top of the facade there is a statue of archangel Michele, it has two noticeable property. First his wings are mobile, infact in the past during the celebrations for San Michele, two men were used to go on the top of the facade (look to the rear of the facade itself and you will see the stairs!!!) and let the statue "fly" using two poles. For the other particularity...go to my off-the-beaten-path tips :).
The interior of the church is a little bit dark and not so fascinating as the exterior. Notwithstanding you can find some beautiful piece of art inside.