Pisa and Lucca
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.
- 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)
- 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, 2018 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia. Popular for lunch—get a reservation...but may have gone downhill?
- Were recommended in ~2011, not sure now:
- 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:
- Re di Puglia - S of main centro storico, rec'd 2018 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
- Pasta e Vino - in Cascina, rec'd 2018 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
- Chocolate: DeBondt - Lungarno Pacinotti, 5; 050-316-0073; rec'd by the NY Times.
- De’ Coltelli - in 2017 Dissapore named it the #7 gelateria in all Italy, organic/natural, interesting flavors like ginger, also rec'd Lonely Planet
- 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
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). It's near the Serchio river, so it's relatively flat—it's a bit like a "hill town without a hill". This blogpost gives a detailed description (with lots of photos) of a walking tour; this blogpost is lighter on words but also has a bunch of photos.
- Explore the Wall - You can walk, jog, or bike on top of the now-picturesque defensive wall around the city
- San Martino Cathedral - has the "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).
- Climb Towers - 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).
- Piazza Anfiteatro - gets its shape from—you guessed it—an ancient Roman amphitheater
- Shopping/Strolling - Join the "long line" of Lucchese on via Fillungo, taking a passagiata and window shopping.
- Summer Festival - Lucca hosts a summer festival every year, with popular musicians (2011 featured Blink 182, Elton John, Amy Winehouse, Arcade Fire, and Jamiroquai, among others)
- 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 -
- B&B Antica Corte dei Principi - looks like nice location/prices
- Popular with Locals
- ? In Pasta, Cibo e Convivio - vegetarian (with several vegan options), informal/fairly inexpensive (also does takeaway), as the name suggests specializes in fresh pasta (only "primi") , also does homemade desserts, organic/biodynamic ingredients, fairly inexpensive, looks nice! (very Instagram-able), popular on Google/TripAdvisor, opened in 2016, rec'd this site
- ? Osteria Miranda - apparently popular with locals and cyclists (near the northern edge of the wall), looks nice! ...various "in the know" folks like this blogger seem to really like it (also this site's #1 restaurant in Lucca), rec'd this Italian blog, Petit Futé
- Gli Orti di Via Elisa - traditional Lucchese dishes plus pizza, apparently popular with locals, good Google reviews but some detractors on TripAdvisor, see this (Italian) blogpost for description
- Allosteria (di Momo) - creative takes on traditional Tuscan food (e.g. they have bistecca fiorentina but also give you an amuse bouche and have fancy cheesecake), popular on Google/TripAdvisor, rec'd this blog and ticonsigliounposticino
- Innovative/Creative Places
- # Punto Officina del Gusto - quirky restaurant with a changing menu and innovative cooking, "hip"; rec'd Passione Gourmet, TCI, Golosario, Gambero Rosso, this blogpost, was named one of the "best trattorias of the year" in 2018 by Espresso, also rec'd by Espresso in 2019
- # L'Imbuto - expensive/haute cuisine place (although they have some slightly less-expensive tasting menus) in an art museum that won a Michelin star in 2019 (?), see this blogpost for a description, Passione Gourmet (in Italian), Golosario, TCI, Gambero Rosso, Scatti di Gusto, Dissapore, this Dissapore interviewee's favorite restaurants in the world...the same celebrity chef (Cristiano Tomei) also has a more informal place called Satura (although it doesn't get as glowing reviews)
- Il Grammofono - somewhat expensive (5 course tasting menu is €65-70 but you can also get a la carte), innovative/fusion Tuscan/Italian cuisine with Asian influences, very popular on TripAdvisor, this (Italian) blogpost calls it "a jewel", this blogpost also very positive
- La Parte degli Angeli (The Angels' Share) - rec'd Lonely Planet for drinks and "creative Tuscan" food, popular on Google/TripAdvisor, in Alle Corte degli Angeli hotel, also rec'd ticonsigliounposticino, this blog
- Ristorante Casa Puccini - popular on Google/TripAdvisor, not much information online, looks like a more "innovative" place
- Osteria Da Pasquale (Pasqualino Gubitosa) - one of the most popular restaurants on Google/TripAdvisor, chef is from Southern Italy so it's a mix of Southern & Tuscan food, rec'd this blog and TCI
- All'Olivo - rec'd Michelin, Frommers, Golosario, TCI, land & seafood, can be expensive
- Traditional Places
- ? Il Mecenate - has biodynamic wines, rec'd 2018 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia, Michelin, TCI, this blogpost, chowhound report, scatti di gusto (in 2012), Golosario
- ? Ristorante Giglio - 1 Michelin star but not super-expensive, also rec'd Lonely Planet (for "traditional Tuscan with a modern twist"), NY Times (in 2006), Conde Nast Traveller, the culture trip, Gambero Rosso, Luciano Pignataro, Passione Gourmet, TCI ...sister restaurant to more traditional Buca di Sant'Antonio (below)
- Buca di Sant’Antonio - via della Cervia 1/3 (north of S. Romano), 058-355-881, closed Mon, Sun dinner, old, famous restaurant known for its baccalà and other Lucchese favorites, rec'd by Gambero Rosso, Espresso, Michelin, Lonely Planet, TCI, Frommers, Golosario, Food & Wine, Conde Nast Traveller, the culture trip, Time Out, and NY Times
- Locanda Buatino - rec'd 2018 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia, TCI, Time Out, just N of walled city, old-school, relatively simple homestyle dishes, inexpensive, 19th century building, some nights has live jazz
- Trattoria Da Leo - old-school, no credit cards, some singing waiters?, rec'd Frommers, Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveller, the culture trip, Time Out, TCI
- Osteria San Giorgio - traditional dishes, including seafood, rec'd Frommers, Food & Wine
- Gigi Trattoria - Piazza del Carmine 7 (immediately S of Piazza Anfiteatro), 058-346-7266, closed Mon dinner, Sun lunch, old school/somewhat rustic trattoria in historic center, near old market, rec'd by Alice, Time Out, and at one time by the NY Times (who raved about crostini with lardo and anchovies)
- Osteria Baralla - rec'd Golosario, TCI, traditional food, has kids menu
- Trattoria Da Giulio (in Pelleria) - via delle Conce 45, old school (open since 1945), rec'd the culture trip, TCI, Golosario, Food & Wine (who like their mixed appetizer)
- Cantine Bernardini (1586) - 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, popular on TripAdvisor, this person says they do a very good job of labeling vegan/vegetarian/gluten free choices, rec'd Lonely Planet
- Trattoria Baffardello - seafood specialists, good prices, rec'd Scatti di Gusto (strange: most websites say "da Rosolo" but Google Maps says "da Andrea"—they seem to be the same place though?)
- La Bottega di Anna e Leo - relatively traditional Lucchese/Garfagnana, simply-prepared dishes, popular on Google/TripAdvisor, rec'd TCI
- L'isola che non c'era - looks like pretty nice/high-quality but simple/traditional dishes, fairly short menu, rec'd this blog and this one (in Italian), popular on Google/TripAdvisor
- # Pizzarium Bonci - a branch of the celebrated Rome-based creative pizza-by-the-slice place, rec'd Scatti di Gusto, Gambero Rosso
- # Pizzeria da Felice - popular with locals, rec'd Time Out, the culture trip, Gambero Rosso, also makes gluten free pizza and "cecina"
- Sandra & L'Angolo Dolce - bakery/pastry shop (that also has sandwiches) rec'd Golosario, Gambero Rosso, this blog
- Forno a Vapore Amedeo Giusti - popular bakery/focaccia/pizza place rec'd Lonely Planet, very good Google/TripAdvisor reviews
- Strabuono Street Food - sandwich places very popular on TripAdvisor/Google, looks like pretty good ingredients
- Pan di Strada - sandwich place very popular on TripAdvisor/Google, rec'd the culture trip, ticonsigliounposticino, hole in the wall, not quite as fancy ingredients as Strabuono but very popular
- La Tana del Boia - sandwich shop, popular on Google/TripAdvisor, seems to specialize in cured meats, the culture trip, this blogpost gives some ideas
- Le Delicatezze - rec'd Golosario
- Paniko Bakery - popular on Google/TripAdvisor, rec'd ticonsigliounposticino
- Pane e Vino - enoteca rec'd Time Out
- La Cantina di Lucca - enoteca popular on TripAdvisor
- Ciclo Divino - wine bar
- Local Food Market - hidden deli with courtyard rec'd Lonely Planet
- Surfer Joe Diner Lucca - American-style breakfasts/diner, rec'd Lonely Planet
- (Gluten free bakeries: Mamey Lucca, Starbene Bakery, see this page for more GF ideas)
- ### Gelateria De' Coltelli Lucca - Via S. Paolino, 10 branch of the celebrated Pisa gelateria, organic ingredients
- Gustevole - rec'd Lonely Planet, Golosario
- Gelateria Vaneta - Via Vittorio Veneto 74, near the southern gate (Porta San Pietro), south of Piazza Napoleone ...and a location at Chiasso Barletti 23, just NE of Piazza San Michele
- Bottega di Gelato? - great Google & TA reviews, natural/organic?
- Il Gelato di Piero?
- Gelateria Paniko? - great Google & TA reviews
- Cremeria Opera - rec'd Golosario, Food & Wine
- Gelateria Fontana - old-school place founded in 1927, rec'd Golosario
- Grom - it's a chain but it's high quality
- (Chiardicrema - natural/organic??)
- (Matta and Le Bonta get good TA reviews...?)
- Outside town:
- # 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, highly rec'd by Frommer's, also rec'd by Michelin (Bib Gourmand), the culture trip, Golosario and TCI
- # Ristorante Butterfly - in Marlia (~8 km north of Lucca center) rec'd TCI, beautiful garden, locavore, one Michelin star, also rec'd Gambero Rosso, expensive, popular on TripAdvisor & Google
- Ristorante Gatta Ci Cova - just outside the walls to the NE, funky/hip place with innovative dishes, cozy atmosphere, one of the tables has "swings" for chairs (they're suspended from the ceiling), good value, popular on TripAdvisor, the culture trip, see this (Italian) blogpost for a feel, rec'd ticonsigliounposticino
- Antica Osteria di Meati - just SW of central Lucca, rec'd 2018 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia, looks fresh, nice outdoor seating area, relatively inexpensive, this older review from 2006 gives an idea as does this Italian blog from 2010
- Ristorante Villa Bongi - SW of central Lucca, rec'd Lonely Planet, the culture trip
- Al Tambellini 1870 - rec'd Golosario, TCI, north of main town, also a wine shop
- Pesce Briaco - rec'd Golosario, Gambero Rosso, north of main town
- La Griglia di Varrone - rec'd Golosario, TCI, south of main town, steakhouse
- Albergo Celide - inexpensive
- Fabbrica di San Martino - biodynamic wines/olive oil, rec'd NY Times
- in Capannori:
- # Cucina Dello Scompiglio - in the hills, biodynamic farm, looks very nice, this blogpost has photos/description
- # I Diavoletti - run by two women in a beautiful old house, rec'd 2018 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia, Michelin Bib Gourmand, TCI, Scatti di Gusto (who says it's a very good deal)
- Osteria da Mi Pa' - rec'd 2018 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
- Al Covo - fish specialists? Conde Nast Traveller
- Ristorante La Cecca - rec'd Michelin, apparently popular with Lucca natives, nice outdoor area
- in Bagni di Lucca:
- Buca di Baldabò - no menus, only what's fresh, rec'd Lonely Planet
- Circolo dei Forestieri - rec'd Lonely Planet, re-opened with new owners in 2015