Italy is one of the most beautiful and culturally rich countries in Europe, if not the world. Each city has plenty of attractions and history to explore, however, due to its increasing popularity, it may be more difficult to experience the charm of authentic rural Italian inspired by books and films. This doesn’t mean that the languid state you dreamed of doesn’t exist anymore – on the contrary, it is just waiting to be uncovered. One way to experience the country’s authentic culture is on a cycling holiday in Italy – when you can leave the crowds and discover more hidden gems.
Lucca, described by Hilaire Belloc as ‘the world’s most fly-in-amber small town’, is the perfect place to start your cycling holiday in Italy. Its relative serenity – a scream away from the crowds of nearby Pisa – will captivate you with an invitation to discover its secrets, whether you choose to start with the impressive architecture of the centro storico (historical center) or embark on an exploration of the surrounding Tuscan countryside.
Lucca’s locals cycle everywhere, both in and around town, so you’ll feel right at home here during your cycling holiday in Italy. A simple jaunt around the city will give you a great opportunity to enjoy the cobbled streets and four kilometers of high Renaissance era city walls. A great place to officially start your tour is the Cattedrale di San Martino. Outside of Pisa, the Duomo di San Martino is considered the finest example of the Pisan style. One of the treasures that the Duomo holds is the Volto Santo, a wooden image of the crucified Christ said to accurately depict the face of Jesus. Carved by Nicodemus, it is a revered sacred relic and is the center of the procession every September. (The procession itself is a pain, but the festival as a whole is quite a fiesta!) Piazza Michele, featuring Chiesa di San Michele di Foro, is another important site to include in your itinerary for your cycling holiday in Italy around Lucca. The white marble Roman church holds the honor of being Lucca’s ‘most beautiful sight’ – definitely an impressive title considering how pretty the entire city is.
There are two excellent ways to see the stunning countryside around Lucca. The first is to climb one of its many towers, such as 14th-century Torre Guinigi, for bird-watching views of the surrounding landscape and beyond – all the way to the Tyrrhenian Sea. The second way is to get on a bike and head to the surrounding hills to explore. As well as Lucca’s lush natural beauty, there are also a number of historically significant homes in the area to explore, such as the Villa Reale (just seven kilometers from Lucca and easy to reach by bicycle). It was once home to Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister, Elisa, who also held the titles Princess Lucca and Piombino, and Grand Duchess of Tuscany.