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Pisa and Lucca

Pisa

Famous for its "Leaning" Belltower, one of several attractions at the Piazza dei Miracoli ("Piazza of Miracles"), this town used to be a major sea power (or Maritime Republic).  Certainly worth a short day trip, especially because many trains change here anyway.

Sights

  • To get to the Piazza dei Miracoli from the train station, take a taxi (~€6) or bus (LAM Rossa, #4, or #21, get off at Piazza Manin) or walk (~25-45 min, depending on if you take the direct route or Rick Steve's walking tour).
  • If you want to climb the Campanile ("Leaning Tower")buy a €15 ticket for a 30-min appointment at the ticket office...or for an extra €2 book it online (at least 15 days in advance).  Apparently in the summer the wait is usually about 2 hours between buying a ticket and getting an appointment, but less if you go early or late in the day (or during the off-season).  Hours vary according to the season (e.g. 8:30-8 from April to Sept, with even later closing at 11 Jun to Aug).
    • Watch your step! Not only is the tower leaning, but also the marble is uneven.
  • Seeing the other monuments costs different amounts.  Most people would at most want to see the Duomo (Cathedral, €2, cool Pisano sculptures), Battistero (Baptistry, €5, a Pisano pulpit and awesome echo acoustics—a guard sings every half hour), or both (€6).  (Even art buff Rick Steves says the other piazza museums aren't worth it.)  Cheapskates can check out the Cathedral during Mass (M-Sat 8 & 9:30, Sun 8, 9:30, 11, noon, and 5 [6 pm in summer], or other holy days), or come in the winter (Nov-Feb) when it's free.
  • In the historic center, there is a food market at Piazza delle Vettovaglie every day but Sunday from ~7-6, just north of the Ponte di Mezzo (along Rick Steve's walking tour from the train station to the Piazza dei Miracoli)

Restaurants

  • Osteria Dei Cavalieri - Via San Frediano 16, just S of Piazza dei Cavalieri in the historic center, "recommended by just about everybody", baccala alla Pisana rec'd.  rec'd by chowhounds, Fred Plotkin,  Popular for lunch—get a reservation. ...but a couple chowhounds think it has gone downhill? 
  • Il Campano (di Mugnai Piero) - just east of via S. Frediano, between Ponte di Mezzo and Piazza dei Cavalieri, rec'd by several sources
  • Osteria La Mescita - near food market, rec'd by many on tripadvisor
  • Osteria del Porton Rosso - also near food market, rec'd by Michelin
  • Ristorante La Clessidra - E of Piazza dei Cavalieri, rec'd by Michelin
  • Cagliostro [closed and replaced by La Clessidra?] -  Via Del Castello 26/30 (S of Piazza dei Cavalieri),  050-575-413, 050-580-900, 050-971-1199, 338-123-9677, glowing reviews on chowhound.
  • Spaghetteria Alle Bandierine - Via Mercante, near Ponte di Mezzo.  Fresh-made spaghetti  rec'd by The Independent
  • Trattoria da Bruno - near p. dei miracoli, rec'd by The Independent for zuppa and baccalà.
  • [La Pergoletta? NE of ponte di mezzo]
  • Vineria di Piazza - Piazza delle Vettovoglie 13, closed Sun, Fred Plotkin rec's soups & braised meats, but says to skip the pasta
  • Pastries: Salza cafe, at Via Borgo Stretto 44, rec'd by Slow Food
    Outside of town: one chowhound rec's Cecca and Le Terme
  • Chocolate: DeBondt - Lungarno Pacinotti, 5; 050-316-0073; rec'd by the NY Times.
  • Gelato: Bottega del Gelato - Pizza Garibaldi 11, rec'd by many (some say "the best in Italy!") including chowhounds, especially for fruit flavors
  • Other sources: http://www.behindthetower.com/en/pisa/city/restaurants-pisa

Lucca

A fiercely independent town not far from Pisa, Lucca is famous for its huge Renaissance-era defensive wall, built 30 meters thick at its base (so it could withstand cannon fire).  You can walk, jog, or bike on top of the now-picturesque wall, and also check out other sights such as San Martino Cathedral's "Holy Face of Lucca" (Volto Santo di Lucca), a crucifix allegedly created by Nicodemus (although the one on display is apparently a 13th century copy).  Lucca also hosts a summer festival every year, with popular musicians (2011 features Blink 182, Elton John, Amy Winehouse, Arcade Fire, and Jamiroquai, among others).  New York Times writer Mark Bittman calls the food in Lucca "certainly the best in Tuscany" with such signature dishses as tortelli lucchese (rich egg pasta stuffed with meat, usually served in a meat ragù).  Check out the Piazza Anfiteatro, which gets its shape from—you guessed it—an ancient Roman amphitheater.  Join the "long line" of Lucchese on via Fillungo, taking a passagiata and window shopping.  You can get a great view of the town from several towers, such as the Clock Tower (Torre delle Ore) or the Torre Guinigi (the latter has trees at the top, but has a great view of the Piazza Anfiteatro).

Hotels

  • Alla Dolce Vita - rec'd by Rick Steves
  • Le Violette - rec'd by Rick Steves
  • La Magnolia - rec'd by Rick Steves
  • B&B La Torre - 
  • ...and for cheap lodging, see the Let's Go Lucca Accommodations.

Restaurants

  • Ristorante Giglio - chowhounds, NY Times and Frommers rec's
  • Da Francesco - trattoria rec'd by NY Times
  • Buralli - NY Times says it is "established favorite"
  • La Mora - a ways out of town, NY Times likes their innovative twist on Lucchese cuisine
  • Santini - NY Times rec'd gelateria
  • da Leo? - rec'd by Frommers
  • Gli Oriti di via Elisa - via Elisa 17, 058-349-1241, closed Wed evening, Sunday, local cuisine simply done but well, rec'd by Espresso, Michelin, and Frommers, ~€22-29, or light lunch ~€10=18.
  • Villa Bongi?
  • All'Olivo - Piazza San Quirico 1 (S of Piazza Anfiteatro), 058-349-6264, open every day, specializes in seafood but also has land food, nice but family-style osteria, rec'd by Gambero Rosso, Espresso, Michelin, and TCI.  ~€45-70.
  • Antica Locanda di Sesto - Via Ludovica 1660 (11 km north of Lucca center), 058-357-8181, closed Sat, "a real, old fashioned trattoria" says Alice, also rec'd by Michelin and TCI, ~€38-40, with fixed price menu for €30.
  • Cantine Bernardini - via del Suffragio 7 (also via dell'Arancio, S of Piazza Anfiteatro), 058-349-4336, closed Mon lunch, Sun, old 16th-century palace with good wine and food in the Lucchese tradition, ~€30-35
  • Gigi - Piazza del Carmine 7 (immediately S of Piazza Anfiteatro), 058-346-7266, closed Mon dinner, Sun lunch, trattoria in historic center, near old market, rec'd by Alice and NY Times (who raves about crostini with lardo and anchovies), ~€25-30, or €15 for lunch.
  • Buca di Sant’Antonio - via della Cervia 1/3 (north of S. Romano), 058-355-881, closed Mon, Sun dinner, famous restaurant known for its baccalà and other Lucchese favorites, rec'd by Gambero Rosso, Espresso, Michelin, TCI, Frommers, and NY Times, ~€35-40, or lunch ~€20
  • La Pecora Nera - Piazza San Francesco 4, 058-346-9738, closed Mon, Tues evening, Sunday lunch, nice place with traditional food of the region, ~€20-25, or ~€10 for lunch, rec'd by Slow Food Osterie d'Italia.

Wine Bars/Cafes/Gelaterie

  • Pult - 3:30-11 pm, sample cured meats, cheese, and wine
  • Caffe Fellini - I'm not sure if the famous Italian director has a connection here, but it's in a beautiful spot tucked away behind a church off the via Fillungo—one of those magic places that seems on an isolated island even though it's 20 yards from the main drag.
  • Gelateria Vaneta - Via Vittorio Veneto 74, near the southern gate (Porta San Pietro), south of Piazza Napoleone OR Chiasso Barletti 23, just NE of Piazza San Michele, website says open 10 AM - 1 AM every day except closed Nov-Feb BUT that wasn't true in April of 2011 (they closed before 11), one chowhound writes "it was so good, there was no reason to try anywhere else"
  • Antico Caffè di Simo - via Fillungo 58, Frommer's says this has good gelato, but mostly come here for the old-schol atmopshere: this has been a popular spot since the 19th century, when Puccini used to hang out here.
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