I’m just back from the most wonderful holiday in Italy and thought I would share my experience and a few travel tips with my lovely readers. Italy has been on my travel list for a while. Before travelling there I could just tell it was somewhere I needed to go. I love the food and I love italian wine, and it is safe to say after spending a week in Italy I’m seriously wondering why it took so long in the first place.
Rewind to two months ago to May. Having been on holiday in Easter we were looking to try and make our money stretch a little bit further for our summer holiday. Due to my job it can be difficult for us to get a cheap deal as I am restricted to school holidays. First tip I can suggest, if you’re in the same boat when it comes to when you can go on holiday, is head south for your flight. Especially in the first two weeks of the summer holidays in Scotland as English schools haven’t broken up yet. Also, I have family in the East Midlands so this is quite often our aiport of choice, meaning we can head down a day or two before flying to spend time with loved ones. With this in mind I popped onto sky scanner and clicked the “anyhwere” option to check out the cheapest options. After a bit of shopping around we bagged a great deal on flights to Pisa. At £25 for East Midlands to Pisa and £88 on the way back we snapped up our flights for just £113. Bearing in mind, this was without baggage added on, but as we are always looking for a bargain we will quite often only travel with hand luggage.
The only thing that will often put me off traveling without hold luggage is the liquid restriction, but I’ve got a tip for getting round that too. I always fill that tiny liquid bag with my more expensive make-up and skin care products (they’re almost always less than 100ml). When it comes to cheaper toiletries such as shower gel and toothpaste and even suncream, I leave those behind and buy them once I get past security. You could probably also get them at your destination, but buying them in the airport uses up some of that wasted time spent waiting to board.
On the day of our flight I was very excited. We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to get through security, pop to Superdrug for those liquids that I had not packed and then enjoyed some breakfast.
Travelling from the U.K. to our final destination Lucca was super simple. When we arrived at Pisa airport we found the train ticket desk relatively easily, bought our tickets and then followed the signs for the “Pisamover,” which is the shuttle that takes you from the airport to Pisa Centrale train station. The next part made me more nervous. Getting on the correct train to Lucca. Again, surprisingly it was quite straightforward. We looked a the screens displaying departures and found the platform the train would be departing from. I had been prewarned by both friends who had visited Italy before and the ticket lady to make sure we stamp our tickets before boarding the train. Again something I was nervous about but was yet again a peice of cake. I am quite possibly the least chilled out traveller – but I do try my best.
By 5:30 in the evening we were getting off the train in Lucca and taking a 15 minute walk to our airbnb. Our host was there to meet us and gave us a quick run down on the apartment and suggested some local eateries.
We had left the house at 8am that morning, so instead of heading out and exploring, we decided to pop to the supermarket accross the road for supplies and then make use of our wonderful airbnb. I know the thought of cooking on holiday fills some people with dread, me included, but it was actually rather pleasant. I boiled some pasta then mixed through some pesto and sprinkled with grand padano. Popped a foccacia in the oven. Laid out some olives, prosciutto, green leaves and more cheese. It was so simple, elegant and most importantly, delicious. We drank a bottle of Tuscan red wine called Rèmole. In the end, I think this was my favourite of all the supermarket wines we tried.
After a perfect nights sleep in our delightful airbnb I woke up feeling fresh and ready for exploring. However, it was 6am and my travel companion is not so much an early riser as I am. I am grateful for this though, as it usually means I can relax with a cup of coffee and read a book.
A couple of hours later, after a quick and delicious breakfast of toast and jam (the most incredible jam I have ever tasted by the way), more prosciutto and a babybel, we were energised and ready for a day of exploring Lucca.
Our apartment for the week was a ten minute walk from the walls of Lucca. We opted to stay just outside as the price difference was quite vast. I would probably do the same next time too. After the quick stroll to the Porta Elisa entrance, which was our closest, we were soon up on the city walls and making our way round. This became a daily ritual for us, starting our day with the 2.5 mile walk around the walls. We would then follow this up with a cappucino and more wandering before stopping off somewhere for lunch.
Lunch on day one was not adventurous in the slightest but it was absolute perfection. An Aperol Spritz was well deserved after hours of wandering in the scorching hot sun. My pizza, toppped with buffalo mozzarella and tomatoes hit the spot. Although this is something I could have quite easily found in Glasgow, there was something blissful about sitting down and enjoying this moment in the middle of Plazza Anfiteatro. We ate at Pizzicheria La Grotta. Over the course of the week a lunch similar to this cost around 35-40 Euros.
After lunch we continued to wander. I pride myself on my sense of direction. Give me a quick peek an old fashioned map (but most of the time the map on my phone) and I’ll get myself from A-Z. However, my internal compass was completely off the whole time we were in Lucca. I just could not get myself anywhere without looking at the map before I turned a corner. For that reason, I cannot confidently say I covered every street of Lucca on our many wanders. We gave it a good go though.
Later on that evening, we returned to Plazza Anfiteatro for more pizza, pasta and Aperol Spritz. After that we headed back to our apartment to try our next bottle of local wine from the supermarket.
The next day, with our walk around the wall complete and morning cappuccino consumed, we made our way to Guinigi tower. The one with the trees at the top – how cool? The views of the city from the top were stunning.
We opted for pizza on the go for lunch on day two. Again, simple easy food that I could probably get at home but it tastes EVEN better on Italian soil.
We planned to head to Florence the following day, so that evening we stayed in with another bottle of red, more foccaccia and pasta. I love going out as I love the whole process of getting ready and dressed up but equally I love a night in, especially when its in a beautiful apartment.
On Wednesday we woke up to thunder. By the time we were marching to the station (yes marching, incase the heavens opened), it was looking a wee bit brighter. The train journey from Lucca to Florence takes about an hour and twenty minutes and costs 14euros for a return ticket.
The day we spent in Florence was a scorcher. The city was beautiful. There was so much to take in. Compared to Lucca it was extremely busy, but I can totally understand why. We did our usual and meandered about, stopped for coffee, lunch and even gelato. It was a blistering hot day so when it was time for lunch I cooled down with a cool Greek salad and refreshing Aperol spritz. Afterwards we went on the hunt for some gelato. It was tasty however, when the weather is that hot, its probably better to go for a tub. I spent twenty minutes walking around afterwards, with very sticky hands. Yes, instagram makes life look perfect, but after all these stunning ice cream cone shots there must be a lot of people wandering around with sticky hands.
That evening we headed back to the apartment in Lucca, to freshen up, before heading back out for more pizza and red wine. We proceeded to spend the following two days to continue exploring the streets of Lucca.
On Thursday we stumbled upon a nice row of bars/cafes and picked one at random to sit down at which turned out to be a little place called Piccola. David suggested we order the meat and cheese board for two, this was definitely one of his best ideas. I enjoyed all of the meats as the board came with a variety of prosciutto and salami. In particular, I enjoyed the one that kind of looked like chorizo. It wasn’t spicy at all like chorizo and had quite a nutty taste. We enjoyed this so much, we returned the very next day to have the same again.
Most evenings I had a few hours or so to relax on our apartment’s balcony. I loved this time as I could relax with my book and almost always a glass of wine. On Thursday evening we went to Gli Orti for dinner as it had been recommended to us by our host. I had promised myself when we booked the trip that I would try out the local cuisine. No, that does not include pizza. Tordelli Lucchesi. Think ravioli stuffed with a seasoned meat filling, then drizzled in sage and butter. It was delicious. The pasta was perfectly cooked, something that I personally feel incapable of.
On our final day we rented bikes to cycle round the wall. This was so much fun, until two minutes in and my chain came off. We were both useless. In the end I had to balance on my bike whilst David cycled his and pushed me at the same time. Other people around us must have thought I didn’t understand how to ride a bike… Eventually order was restored by me swapping my bike and promising not to change gears too quickly. We were soon zooming around the walls of Lucca.
We ended our trip the way it had begun. The same bottle of wine and a very similar mix of food. We loved the airbnb so much, and would absolutely love to stay here again.
My only regret… Waiting so long to take this trip. I loved Lucca and now we have explored most of it, I would happily spend another few days here just chilling out.
What do you think? Is Italy somewhere you would like to go? Where should we head to next? We are thinking city break in Europe in October. Feel free to leave any suggestions in the comments below.
For now, thanks again for popping by.