Lucca is a gorgeous little medieval town in Tuscany. It was founded by the Etruscans (800 B.C. – 350 B.C.) and taken over by the Romans in 180 B.C.

The city center still reflects the Roman street plan, the ancient forum is now the site of Piazza San Michele, and the Roman amphitheater became the current Piazza dell’ Antifeatro. In 56 B.C Julius Caesar, Pompey and Crassus were there at the Lucca Conference reaffirming their political alliance, known as the First Triumverate.

A gorgeous place to base your Tuscan vacation, Lucca is also a fabulous day trip from nearby Florence (roughly an hour by train), Genoa, the Italian Riviera, Pisa, the Tuscan beach towns around Viareggio – lots of great holiday spots in Tuscany and Liguria.

Should you take the time to visit Lucca be sure to buy the local (world famous) olive oil and the local wines, but also make sure you don’t miss these 10 things:

10 Things You Absolutely MUST Do In Lucca

Visit The Cathedral

How do you stand out in the city of 100 churches? San Martino, the Lucca Cathedral, is one of the first sites you will see if you arrive by train.

lucca cathedral

image via Discover Tuscany

 

 

Built in the 6th century and consecrated in 1070 by Pope Alexander II, the current exterior was built in the 1200’s. At first it seems an odd place to put the cathedral, off to the side at the edge of town, but the center of town was already overcrowded when building began. San Martino stands in a large piazza of the same name, almost as an afterthought, but if you sit anywhere in the piazza and take in the façade you will feel the beautiful tranquility emanating from it.

I particularly love the ceilings inside the cathedral, and also Tintoretto’s Last Supper.

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Basilica of San Frediano

Another stand out basilica that you  must see is the Basilica of San Frediano. It is tucked away a little, so you pretty much have to be on a mission to find it or you could easily pass by.

San Frediano, Lucca

Founded by Saint Fredianus, Lucca’s bishop from 560 to 588, this is one of the oldest churches in Lucca.

Inside the church you will find beautiful frescos from the 1500’s and a 12th century baptismal font with reliefs telling the stories of Moses and also of the Apostles.

But what I love most about this basilica are the mosaics on the exterior. They date back to the 13th century, and are incredibly rare for Tuscany, the only other mosaic façade in the region is at St Miniato al Monte in Florence.

San Frediano, Lucca

They tell the story of Christ the Redeemer ascending into heaven. The apostles are below him but Mary is missing, having been replaced by a window.

If you get there at the right time of day the sun dances off the mosaics, making them look truly ethereal. (but largely unphotographable!)

The Church Of San Michele In Foro

Another must see church in Lucca is San Michele in Foro. Easy to find in the heart of town, this basilica was built over the ancient Roman Forum. First mentioned in 795, the current building was commissioned by Pope Alexander II in 1070. (busy year for him!)

San Michele In Foro, Lucca

The four levels of loggias on the exterior are truly remarkable. On top of them stands the 4 meter tall statue of St Micheal the Archangel defeating the dragon, flanked by 2 angels. On a sunny day you can see a green sparkle on the statue, which legend says is an emerald planted somewhere in or on it, but it has never been found.

San Michele In Foro, Lucca

From every angle this church is spectacular, so take the time to walk around it and to view it from different places in the piazza.

San Michele In Foro, Lucca

RELATED POST: 10 THINGS YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST DO IN FLORENCE

Piazza San Michele In Foro

Lucca Piazza San Michele In Foro

Dwarfed by the basilica and it’s loggia, the piazza of the same name is a must see. Flanked by restaurants and bars you can enjoy coffee, wine, or a meal with a view. On one corner, (via Vittorio Veneto) you will find the Palazzo Pretorio with the clock on the façade and its loggia where you will often find art exhibits or musicians playing.

On Sundays market stalls set up in the piazza, street musicians are playing on the corners, and it is just fabulous!

Climb Torre Guinigi

Look out across the skyline of Lucca (from the wall) and you will see the city’s most important tower, easily identifiable from the rest. The 14th century Guigini tower has a rooftop garden with trees growing on it!

Guigini Tower Lucca

The floor below the garden was the kitchen, from where the chefs and cooks could go upstairs to pick their produce and herbs. Now the tower is open for those strong of thigh to climb. The 360 degree views of the city are spectacular, especially on a clear day.

Guigini Tower Lucca

At one time there were around 250 towers in Lucca, but now there are only 9. These were defendable homes during a time of constant raids and also considered a place to hide during the plagues.

Guigini was a wealthy silk merchant who at one time ruled Lucca. He built the tower attached to his palazzo as a sign of his wealth and power.

See Piazza Antifeatro

This bustling piazza was built on the ruins of a Roman amphitheater. The amphitheater was built in the 1st century, its 18 rows of seats being able to hold 10,000 people. It was the heart of entertainment in Lucca. At some point around the 6th century during the Gothic wars the site was fortified, after which houses and even a prison were built on the ruins.

Piazza Antifeatro Lucca

Centuries later it became a piazza, notable for its huge elliptical shape. You are aware of the size and shape when you walk into the piazza from any of the four entrances, but it is best appreciated from above.

Piazza Antifeatro Lucca

Piazza Antifeatro is ringed with eateries and is a great place to enjoy lunch as well as being one of the nightlife hubs of the city.

Piazza Antifeatro Lucca

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Relax In Piazza Napoleone

Also known as Piazza Grande, Piazza Napoleone is a large, open air, tree lined square that is a lovely place to cool off in the hot summer months, or ice skate at Christmas time.

Lined with wonderful restaurants and eateries you can enjoy a Tuscan lunch or a glass of wine with a beautiful view.

Piazza Napoleone Lucca

Eat Buccellato

Buccellato is a local sweet bread/cake product with raisins.

buccellato from Lucca

Traditionally it comes in a ring like a cake, but you can also find it in individual bars/buns at local bakeries.

buccellato Lucca

Lovely as an afternoon snack after a long day of walking and climbing, buccellato is also a great breakfast food paired with a steaming hot cappuccino.

Walk or Bike The Wall

Of course one of the most famous things to do in Lucca is to enjoy walking or biking along the top of the wall!

Lucca Wall

Tuscany has many walled towns and cities but the Lucca wall is perhaps the most renowned. What makes it so remarkable is its width (or breadth?) It is as wide as a road and is beautifully tree lined, making it a perfect escape from the summer heat.

Lucca Wall

At any time of year you will see locals walking and biking the wall, and as a visitor this is a must! The wall is 4km circumference, ideal for a late afternoon stroll or bike ride. (You can rent bikes inside the wall at the edge of town.)

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Wander Without an Agenda

Corinna B Lucca

Lucca is a town best explored by wandering aimlessly.

Lucca Streets

There is so much to discover down the little side streets, away from the main tourist sites.

Lucca StreetsStreets in Lucca

The town is small, and is ringed by the wall, so you really can’t get lost! Make sure you allow yourself plenty of time to discover the magic of Lucca on foot.

Lucca streets

Do you worry about bed bugs when you travel? Are you traveling this summer? Bed bugs are insidious. Not only will they leave you covered in bites, but they will make their way home with you, infesting your house. Whether you travel for work or for pleasure, you need to use these 5 steps to prevent getting bed bugs while you are away.

 

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Eco Raider Bed Bug Killer

I often get asked if I’m scared of terrorism when I travel. The answer is absolutely not. Not even slightly scared. The chances of being in that place at that time are actually very slim. You are far more likely to come undone on the freeway on your way to work. But do you want to know what does scare me when I travel? Actually it terrifies me. Bed Bugs. They not only give me the creeps, but the thought of bringing them into my home after a trip is just horrifying. A bed bug infestation in  your house is difficult and expensive fix, and just the thought of it is grotesque.

RELATED POST: MEGHAN MARKLE’S SECRET TO HEALTHY TRAVEL

During the years that New York hotels were suffering bed bug infestations  I turned down makeup jobs in the Big Apple – I didn’t like the odds of getting a bed bug hotel. During that time one of my flight attendant friends had an overnight layover in New York and woke during the night thinking she was on fire, but instead her back was covered in bed bug bites!

I heard another story recently about a mother and daughter on their international flight home seeing bedbugs crawling out of the seat in front of them. The flight was full, so they couldn’t be moved, and hence came home covered with bites and with bedbugs.

One of my best friends took her family to Hawaii for a vacation a couple of years ago and got bedbugs. Getting the little devils out of their clothes, luggage and home was a long, difficult and expensive procedure.

Allowing for the fact that I can’t travel and sleep in a hazmat suit I have to be a little more proactive re bedbugs.

RELATED POST: THE NEW SCAM TO BE AWARE OF IN EUROPE THIS SUMMER

Eco Raider bed Bug Killer

5 Steps To Prevent Bedbugs

1.Pull back the bedding

Pull the sheets back off the bed and inspect the mattress. Look for little red or black spots on the mattress (also on the bedding).

2. Look along the mattress seams

Apparently these critters like the seams and joins of mattresses, so look there for bug carcasses. They may look like black dots or ground pepper.

***** if you see any, get your luggage out of the room and go to the front desk. You need to have your room changed or go stay somewhere else.******

3. No bags on the bed.

Use the luggage rack. Don’t put your suitcase on the floor or on the bed.

4. Use A Trap

If you are worried that there may be bedbugs bring a bedbug trap like this one from Ortho. In less than an hour you will know if they are there. Find the Ortho Bed Bug Trap  on Amazon.com here

ortho bed bug trap

5. Use A Spray

Use a spray. I have Eco Raider Bed Bug Killer from Amazon.com. I haven’t actually ever had to use it, but it does give me a little peace of mind. It is non toxic, non pesticide and 100% child and pet friendly. I have it in 2 fluid ounce bottles, one goes on the plane with me (after hearing the story about bedbugs on the plane I have to have something on hand!) and one goes in my suitcase.Bed Bug Killer by EcoRaider is available here at Amazon.com


AllianzTravelInsurance.com

 

 

Chances are you will fly somewhere this summer. Hopefully it’s for fun and you’re going somewhere fabulous! Regardless of why you’re flying or where you are going, there is a decent chance that you will have a longer layover than expected, or that you will experience airport delays. Weather, more people flying, Murphy’s law all play into it.

A few summers ago I got stuck in Chicago O’Hare airport for hours because United Airlines didn’t bother to send the plane! (I have never flown United since.) While on the subject of United Airlines, if you will be flying with musical instruments or pets, just choose another airline. Google it to find out more…

I buy travel insurance for all my international travels, and sometimes for domestic travel. I base it on how much I stand to lose if my flight gets cancelled or my bags get lost. Normally my domestic flights are either for work or I’m going to see friends, so I don’t need insurance. If I were going to a vacation somewhere here in the USA I would buy travel insurance, because a missed or delayed flight will still have accommodation costs, rental car excess fees – all kids of extra expenses.

I use Allianz for all my travel insurance needs, and have done for years and years. They periodically email me blog posts with travel tips, and I thought this one would be helpful to most of my travel readers.

 

 

How to Feel Right at Home During Airport Layovers

Allianz - feel at home during airport layovers

Most of us don’t plan for extended airport layovers. Instead, what was supposed to be a quick 20 minutes of downtime in between two flights grows into a lengthy travel time-out caused by inclement weather, engine trouble or some other undisclosed minor emergency.

But there are globetrotting, budget-minded travelers who purposely take extended breaks in airport terminals and lounges during layovers. They know how to stay safe, maintain a semi-healthy diet and even rest comfortably when the odds and airport security are stacked against them.

So whether you’re hoping for brief layovers or counting on long ones, here are some travel tips and advice to make sure your extended stay manageable – and even enjoyable.

Protecting Yourself (And Your Bags) From Theft

Safety and security should be your chief concern during long airport layovers.

If you’re a savvy traveler, you already know the basic rules: keep your bags close by, keep your money and valuables even closer – “traveler’s money pouch” sounds much better than “fanny pouch” – and be wary of suspicious folks and even friendly strangers, especially when you’re tired or spending a lot of time at the bar. (Note: If you choose to drink on your layover, balance out the alcohol with water to stay hydrated).

One potential threat you may not expect comes from airport personnel. In recent years, there have been a number of luggage thefts committed by everyone from baggage handlers to TSA agents. There are a few steps you can take to protect yourself from this threat within, including securing your bags with TSA-approved locks, heading directly to the baggage claim after your final flight, and even choosing brightly colored bags, which have proven to be a theft deterrent.1

Protecting yourself and your property during long layovers is more about common sense than sophisticated security protocol. But this becomes more difficult when you’re travel weary – and almost impossible when you’re sleeping in a stiff terminal chair.

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Finding Comfort and Zzzs During Long Layovers

Airports circling the globe have done a better job of meeting the needs of today’s tech-savvy travelers. Phone charging stations and Wi-Fi access are the rule more than the exception.

But airports are incredibly inconsistent when it comes to acknowledging and providing for travelers with onsite accommodations for a cat nap or a comfy overnight slumber. Some roll out the cots, and others roll out security personnel to ensure fliers aren’t closing their eyes in a reclined position. No joke.

SleepingInAirports.net is a site dedicated to the global community of travelers who intentionally make slumbering in airport terminals part of their travel plans. They offer well informed advice: a bit of Vick’s Vapor Rub under the nose can cover up smelly terminals, sunglasses are important for airports that ban napping travelers, and disinfectant wipes are critical for clearing off your space before stretching out. The site also ranks the best and worst airports at accommodating sleeping fliers. Singapore Changi airport wins top honors for the 17th straight year with specially designed relaxation zones featuring cushioned and reclined seating, a movie theater, 24-hour massage and spa facilities, and even warm showers to help prep the body for extended rest.

And the worst? Italy’s Bergamo Orio al Serio is notorious for being cold, overcrowded and booting sleeping travelers when the cleaning crew arrives in the middle of the night.2

Here is one more tip: If you can’t find a safe and comfortable place to rest or even sleep, look for a chapel, which most airports have. Also, unbeknownst to many fliers, many airline clubs offer one-day passes that give you access to comfortable seating, showers, food, drink and Wi-Fi.3

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Don’t Leave Your Diet Up In the Air

Airports make it easy to grab a bite when all you care about is getting something quick and easy. But when your layover, planned or otherwise, takes place over the course of several meal times, fast food and salty snacks can play havoc with your body.

The good news is that 76 percent of restaurants at the nation’s 18 busiest airports offer at least one healthy, plant-based meal, according to The Physicians Committee’s 13th annual Airport Food Review. This is up dramatically over the past decade plus; only 57-percent of airports offered this healthy option in 2001. Denver is ranked as the top airport offering healthy dining options, while Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport ranks last and Las Vegas McCarran International airport took a dive from second to 12th.4

Once you hone in on the best options, don’t be afraid to ask for some extra veggies for that sandwich and try to eat several small meals rather than a few big, dense meals.5

With the right planning and solid on-the-fly decision-making, you can make extended airport layovers safe, comfortable and healthy. After all, you don’t just want to simply arrive safely at your final destination; you want to arrive well rested and rejuvenated, satiated and with everything you began the flight with.


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