Returning to Lucca – Dolly Travels

Author: , May 5th, 2018

Lucca - Dolly Travels

Good morning, Everyone.

Today I am remembering Lucca. Lucca is another of my favorite cities in Tuscany. To get to Lucca, I usually take a train from Florence and enjoy the city as a day trip. The older part of the city is enclosed within ancient Roman stone walls. One walks from the train station, across a busy boulevard, then on a path that takes you through an archway in the wall, up a few steps and you are in a totally different world.

This is part of one of my tour groups, my “ducklings”, as we walk up the path to go through the wall up to the old city.

Once inside the walls, the city is full of parks, pretty piazze and lovely little sidewalk cafes.

Churches are abundant. For the most part, there are no tacky sidewalk vendors or beggars. This old town is as popular with the locals as it is with tourists, for many fine businesses flourish on the inner streets. Via Fillulungo is one street with expensive stores; I only window shop on that street. However, there is a wonderful pasticerria on that street, so sometimes I do have to stop in there and get a delicious treat.

For me, of the most fun things to do in Lucca is to rent bicycles and ride around the top of the old wall, the ramparts. The path is about two and a half miles around, completely encircling the old town. There are two bicycle rental places within the walls, and one outside, near the train station. I don’t ride a bike, but I love to walk this path, as it is pretty, and I have a great view of the inner part of the city. From there, I can decide where I want to go next.

I don’t think I would ride a bike down one of the exits off the ramparts that leads to the old city, for even walking down was a bit treacherous. There are easier ways to get down. One important item to remember, is which exit to take back to the city, for there are four main “porte”, or exits. If you go down the wrong one, you may have a long walk back to the train station. The exit closest to the station, for your information, is Porta San Pietro. Remember that, if you go to Lucca.

Another fun thing to do is to climb Guinigi Tower. This tower, a remnant of the 15th century, A.D., has a garden with full size trees growing up on top. To get to the top is a bit of a strenuous hike; there are 227 steps. However, once you emerge onto that garden, you will have a stupendous view, not only of the old city, but the surrounding countryside.

Lucca

Lucca sits in the foothills of the Apuan Alps, or Alpi Apuane, as they are known in Italy. Over those mountains in the background, not too far away, are the more famous Carrara Mountains, known for its fantastic marble quarries.

The Piazza dell’ Anfiteatro is one of the largest in Lucca. I have been there when an auto show was taking place. Wow! Some of the most beautiful cars in the world are in Italy, and I think they all gathered in Lucca that day.

Or you can relax at one of the many small cafes that are on the fringes of Piazza San Michele. Usually, there are children playing soccer in the piazza. (I will insert a little side note here: children in Italy rarely throw a ball; they kick it.).

As with all the Italian towns, there is so much more to discover than I have seen; therefore, I need to go back and find some more wonderful sights. I still have not seen Puccini’s house, although he is one of my favorite composers, and he is a native of Lucca. I would like to stay overnight in Lucca one of these times, for every night there is a concert. I know I would enjoy that.

I am looking forward to going to Lucca once more time.

I will post more pictures of Lucca when I am actually there, in just a few short weeks. Until then,

Ciao for now,
Dolly

By Dolly Goolsby – Full Story at Dolly Travels

Lucca Gay Travel Resources

Firenze and Lucca

Author: , May 15th, 2013

Lucca AmphitheaterOur dear friend, Bella (Dolly Goolsby) is on the go again, this time in Italy. She has graciously allowed us to republish her travel blogs. Enjoy!

As you know, we are now in Florence. We are going and going. Seems like we are moving all the time. Just trying to remember all the places we have been, and put them into some sort of order, is our biggest problem. Now, don’t you wish you had come along with us? What a fabulous adventure so far, and we are far from being finished. OMG. Where else in the world would you be discussing whether your building is 400 year old or 600 years old? Or whether Villa d’Este was in Rome, Tivoli or Sorrento? (The correct answer is Tivoli).

Yes, Cindy, we are all together in Florence. I love these 2 persons as much as you do, so I will not lose them. What a wonderful item time we are having.

We had a lovely 2 nights in Orvieto. You have seen the blog from there already, so I won’t elaborate on that, except to tell you, if you come to the Tuscany/Umbria region, be sure to go to Orvieto.

On Sunday, we tried to go to Mass at the Cathedral in Orvieto , but we had to leave early, as we had to catch the train to Florence.

We arrived in the early afternoon in Florence. First order of the day was to get to the apartment then up to Piazzale Michelangelo, to see the finish of the Giro d’Italia…

Well, I passed on that, as not more than 5 minutes after we had gotten into the apartment, the rain started, and fell in bucketsful, but Kiri, Patrick and Suzanna were determined to see the finish of the bike race up at the Piazzale Michalangelo. I don’t know who was happier to see the race end…the bikers or my friends.

Monday morning we woke up to sunny skies. No clouds anywhere. . Our big adventure for that day was going to the San Ambrogio mercato. I showed everyone my favorite places to buy meat, chicken, fruits and vegetables. Then we brought all our “goodies” home, and set off for the street market at San Lorenzo. And then a tour though the Straw Market, to the Porcellino…the Good Luck Pig…if you rub his nose, tradition says that you will return to Florence. I make sure I always rub his nose.

That night, we cooked up the wonderful pork roast with roasted potatoes. I am in heaven! There is nothing I love more than preparing the delicious, natural foods from the mercato. We had brought one of the gigantic lemons from Sorrento, so now we made the fantastic lemon- lettuce salad that we could only enjoy with this wonderful Cedric lemon from Sorrento.

Today we went to Lucca. Rain is predicted for most of the rest of the week. And I wanted to be certain that we got to Lucca on a nice day, so everyone would have a chance to either bike or walk the ramparts. The old wall around the old city of Lucca. And we had a marvelous time.
We arranged a meeting time, as I was the only one who didn’t want to bike. But I wanted to explore some of the old favorite places, and I found new favorites. The kids climbed up to the top of Torre Guinigi, where trees have been growing for ever so many years, and no one knows how they can live, with very little soil..amazing.

After we got back home. (And this apartment feels like home to me), we did some grocery shopping, had a Happy Hour drink at the OK Bar, then made dinner here. Risotto, sausages with peppers and onions, and the last of our lemon salad. I am sad. We will never be able to have that salad again until we return to Sorrento and get more Cedric lemons.

Tomorrow we are going to San Gimignano. And then another dinner here in the apartment. I love cooking here. The food we buy is so fresh and tasteful. I love that I have to scrub real dirt off the potatoes. And know that all the fresh food is organic. Not because it is labeled that way, just because that is the way the food is grown.

Would I move to Italy? Probably not, because my family is not here, but I love Italy. Being here brings me the greatest pleasure. I am more relaxed, I am so happy here. But I love showing off my Italy to others. Won’t you come along with me next time?

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Tuscany Day Three: Lucca and the Rain

Author: , July 3rd, 2012

Lucca's WallWe woke up excited today after a much needed sleep – today’s the day we meet our friend Bella for dinner!

We started the day with another delicious breakfast at Il Poggiolo delle Rose – and I tried two new things – green apple yogurt (continuing the theme) and vanilla tea – both really good, by the way.

After breakfast, we sat down with our hosts to plan out visits to the Accademia and Uffizio later this week. It’s all a bit complicated.

Lucca TowerWe can either pay for them a la carte, which costs about 30 Euro plus bus fares, which requires reservations in advance to guarantee getting in, and which must be made by midnight tonight (Saturday) because the ticket office by phone is closed Sunday and Monday.

Or we can buy a 72 hour pass to all the museums, which costs 50 Euro, and lets us get into any of the museums without a wait or reservations. But we have to buy it before 7 tonight when that office closes,and we won’t arrive in central Florence until maybe 6:30 PM.

Lucca, ItalyOr we can wait until after dinner – from 9 PM until 2 AM, the museums are free – it’s a once-in-a-while thing.. But there are likely to be thousands of tourists waiting to get in.

The three day pass seemed best, until we learned that both the Uffizi and Academia are closed on Mondays – it’s a common thing here.

Vedremo – we will see.

Riding a Bicycle, Lucca-StyleWe arrived in Lucca around 11:30, and, per fortuna, found parking right away. We set off down one of the streets of this beautiful walled city.

On the way, we spotted these two boys riding a bicycle together in a rather Cirque-du-Soliel fashion – bumping up and down on the cobblestones without losing their balance.  And the kid in the back even has a can of soda in his hand!  Amazing.  Oh, to be young and stupid again.

Amatuer Photographers in LuccaWe also ran across several groups of students using an old-fashioned camera to take photos of the city – we guess it must have been part of some class project. Must be a great way to learn the basics of how photography works.

Anfiteatro, LuccaWe intended to take it slow today, to fare una passaggiata – just walk and wander. But Marco insisted that we visit a few choice sites first, and he was proven right when the rain came later in the day.

First up, we found our way to the Anfiteatro, the site of an old Roman forum that’s now the centro storico’s largest piazza. The piazza is ringed with restaurants with outdoor seating and cute little shops, and its circular shape makes for some beautiful photos.

Top of the Torre GuinigiNext, we visited one of Lucca’s many towers, the Torre Giungi. This tower is distinguished by the oak trees that grow from planters atop the tower, and costs just 4 Euro to climb.

Lucca from the TowerThe ascent is a little shorter than the towers we visited in Siena and San Gimignano, but the views are gorgeous, looking out over historic Lucca and the countryside beyond.

Italian Marco and climbed the tower for some photos while Mark and Fabry waited below.  Even in the grey weather, the city of Lucca was beautiful below us.

Basilica di S.Frediano, LuccaBy now, it was apparent that the rains were on the way as the sky began to look more leaden and oppressive. We hurried on to the Basilica di S.Frediano, took a quick peek inside, and headed back the way we’d come.  There was also a big swap-meet style open air market in front of the Basilica.

Lucca AnfiteatroWe reached the Anfiteatro and Marco went on for the umbrellas from the car, while the three of us found a cute little restaurant to order some gelato – this was to be our only lunch, as we had plans for a huge meal with our friend Bella that night.

Lucca LaundryBut hunger got the better of us, and we ordered a little more. Not too much – we split a margherita pizza between the four of us, one slice each, along with a few french fries, and them some gelato. We sat at a cute red and white checkered table, feeling very Italian, and I took the opportunity to play with the single color setting on our camera. 🙂

As we ate, the rain came down, sparingly at first, but by the time we finished eating, it was coming down full-force.

Grateful for the umbrellas, we hurried back to the car, chased out of Lucca by rain… again.

Exploring Sacramento’s Gay Side: Where to Eat

Author: , November 4th, 2011

Sacramento’s Midtown has some outstanding gay friendly and gay owned restaurants, and here are a few of our most favorite:

Lucca Restaurant SacramentoLucca
1615 J St, Sacramento, CA
1 916 669-5300
http://www.luccarestaurant.com/

One of our favorite restaurants anywhere, Lucca offers fantastic Italian food, a warm, inviting atmosphere, and a very friendly wait-staff.
The owners are HUGELY gay friendly, hosting a number of gay-supportive events during the year, including the VIP party next week for the huge No on 8 Rally being held in Sacramento on 2/16.

Lucca Restaurant SacramentoThe restaurant also has the distinction (depending on how you look at it) of being one of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s favorite restaurants in Sacramento, so you may catch a glimpse of him there.

Formely a museum, Lucca’s exposed brick walls and comfortable booth seating contribute to the warm, welcoming ambiance of the place, but the patio is the true star here. Open year-round, with heaters in the winter and a great backdrop of green bushes and trickling fountains, it’s the perfect place to enjoy lunch or dinner al fresco.

Lucca Restaurant SacramentoOur favorites include the gnocchi (made with ricotta in a delicious red sauce – ask for basil instead of spinach) and the Chicken Saltimbocca. For dessert, the creme de brulet is fantastic – three small dishes with different flavors (try the hazelnut!) but everything is fantastic.

Ask for Lauren and tell her Mark and Scott sent you – you can’t go wrong here. Lucca is just a couple small blocks from the Convention Center, and just six small blocks from the Capitol Building on J Street – on the map, just a little to the right and above the Capitol grounds.

Zocalo Restaurant, SacramentoZocalo
1801 Capitol Ave
1 916 441-0303
http://www.zocalosacramento.com

Another great, also very gay friendly and supportive restaurant, Zocalo is the place to go in Sacramento for great, innovative Mexican food. Like Lucca, everything is good here.

Located in an old car dealership from the 1920’s, Zocalo has a modern, upbeat feeling, with huge indoor palm trees, comfortable booths, and an innovative decor.

Standouts here include the Enchiladas Guanajuato (to die for), the Empanadas, and the Pera salad. But everything here is good, even the cilantro rice that comes as a side with your meal.

Zocalo Restaurant, SacramentoLike Lucca, Zocalo has an outdoor eating area, although it’s not usable in really cool or rainy weather. Still, when the weather is nice, this is a great place to enjoy lunch and people watch.

Zocalo becomes a nightclub late at night after the diners clear out, and although it’s not a gay spot, per se, it is a very friendly place, and has a young crowd late at night. At 16th and Capitol, it’s just two blocks from the edge of the Capitol grounds, and just three blocks from the convention center. Zocalo’s in the heart of a booming area of downtown, and is credited with helping jump-start the revitalization of this area.

On the map, it’s just to the right of the Capitol grounds. Main picture courtesy of the Zocalo website.

Pizza Rock, SacramentoPizza Rock
1020 K St.
916-737-5777
http://pizzarocksacramento.com/

A new favorite is Pizza Rock – at 10th and K – Chef Tony Gemignani is an American Chef who has won prizes in Naples, Italy for his pizzas – served five different ways, evey one we’ve had here has been fantastic. And the baked formaggio as an appetizer is to die for. Decorated in a funky, cool way with God handing Adam a rock guitar on the ceiling, Pizza Rock has a cool but casual atmosphere (though the music can be a little loud at times). Plus, it’s right across the street from the Crest Theater, one of two local art-house theaters in downtown Sac.

Pizza Rock, SacramentoPizza Rock, SacramentoPizza Rock, Sacramento

Parking is free (with validation from the Crest or Pizza Rock) at the garage around the corner at 10th and L Streets. This area, while up and coming, is a little sketchy, so be prepared – it’s well worth the visit. These guys also own Dive Bar next door, where you can see live mermaids (male and female) swimming in their acquarium.

Masullo Pizza, SacramentoMasullo Pizza, just south of the downtown grid, is another great pizza place with a cute Italian waiter; or try Hot Italian on 16th for authentic Italian pizza in a funky, modern atmosphere. The photo at right was taken at a dinner with friends at Masullo Pizza.

Other favorites include Aioli, just up the street on 18th on the same block as Zocalo, a cute Tapas place that’s usually crazy-busy at night, and serves a wonderful selection of small-plate dishes to share with your friends for an unusual meal.

Paesano's, SacramentoPaesano’s Pizzeria, across the street from Zocalo, is also usually fairly good, and it has a warm, friendly, inviting atmosphere to go with its simple Italian dishes.

For a good gay-owned place, try Hot Rod’s Burgers, just around the corner from the gay bars. It’s basically a diner, but a cute one, and the food’s actually really good, perfect for lunch or a late night snack in between bar-hopping – open until 1 am (2 am Friday/Saturday).

The Grange, SacramentoIf you’re staying at the Citizen Hotel or if you’re at The Crest, another dining option is The Grange, the Citizen’s in-house restaurant, with great street watching and a classy, comfortable decor.

And for something sweet, try Ginger Elizabeth (below middle), a desert spot just around the corner from Zocalo that sells divine chocolates, all created by the former dessert chef from Masque, a wonderful 5 star restaurant in our own town of El Dorado Hills that was forced to close by the bad economy and increased competition.

Try the Giuanduja (chocolate and raspberry cake) for a taste of Masque’s former glory.

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Dolly Travels: Florence, Siena, and Lucca

Author: , May 22nd, 2011

Gay Friendly Tuscany Bed and Breakfasts, Hotels, and Vacation Rentals

Our dear friend, Bella (Dolly Goolsby) is on the go again, this time starting in Paris. She has graciously allowed us to republish her travel blogs. Enjoy!


It has been a busy week for the two travelers. Sharon arrived Sunday night to join me here in Florence for 2 weeks. We just walked around Florence on Monday, letting Sharon get her bearings, and reliving some of the memories of previous visits.

Since the weather was still pretty nice, on Tuesday we took the bus to Siena, a new adventure for her. We started with lunch at one of the many restaurants on Il Campo, the went to the Duomo.

I have been to the Duomo several times, but it is another one of many sights I never tire of seeing. After wandering in the little streets and alleys for a while (as I was lost but didn’t want to admit it), it was time to catch the bus back to Florence.

We spent Wednesday going to San Marco museum, then took the bus up to the little town of Fiesole, that gave us a great view of Florence.

We had lunch there, came back to Florence, and later in the late afternoon, we gathered up some stale bread and went to a park to feed the ducks. I got yelled at by a woman who told me the pieces of bread I was throwing to the ducks, were too big. I didn’t understand everything she was saying, but she indicated that big pieces of bread would choke the ducks.

If you have never had the experience of trying to break up 5 day old Tuscan bread, you simply will not understand that it is impossible to break with your hands… The task is much like trying to break up a brick. I had already done the best I could with it before we went to the duck pond, by cutting and banging it against the counter at home. So now I had to put the pieces on the ground and stomp on them to please the bread Nazi lady. I was afraid not to!

After I had stomped the bread to smithereens, some little kids came running up, wanting to feed the ducks, so I ended up giving the pieces to them as it is always fun to watch kids doing things like that.

After that pleasant experience we came back home, had a quiet dinner and retired for the night.

Today we took the train to Lucca. We had a great time, walking on the wall around the city, going to the amphitheater, looking in the shops. We had a very nice lunch, then waddled our way back to the train to return to Florence.

We are hoping the good weather continues, as we are planning to go to Viareggio on Saturday, then Cinque Terre Monday and Tuesday. We are having a good time, seeing the sights, eating and drinking well, and just enjoying being in Italy.

So, Ciao for now, and I will write again soon.

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Postcards From An Italian Adventure – Florence & Fiesole

Author: , June 16th, 2010

Our dear friend, Bella (Dolly Goolsby) is on an extended adventure in Italy. She has graciously agreed to let us republish her travel logs. Enjoy!

May 26th, 2010

Fiesole, ItalyBuon giorno,

Today is Wednesday already! How time flies when you are having fun!

Saturday was beautiful, so the ladies all went to the markets to do their last a minute shopping and to see more of Florence. I, of course, took everyone to San Ambrogio market in the morning.

We discovered the most wonderful hardware store ever… it had a little bit of everything in it. Tucked between the insoles for shoes was the kitchen appliances, some linens, actual Hardware items, like screwdrivers, light bulbs, but the store just kept going… there was a downstairs with a Christmas tree, among other things. It was better than going to Home Depot!

At Bella's TableAcross the street from that was a fabric store, and home decorating items. Eventually, we got over to the market to do our weekend grocery shopping. I was tired after that, so the ladies had to go to the street market without me.

That evening we had another good meal here at the apartment. We made panna cotta for dessert. Sunday again was a beautiful sunny day, so after our leisurely breakfast, some of us went up to Fiesole (picture above)  for the most wonderful view of Florence from a city that is even older than Florence.

No flat ground there, I can tell you, but the view was worth it. Two of the gals stayed in Florence and were finally able to get into the Bargello museum and see the other sights that we had not been able to see earlier.

Biking in LuccaAlthough three of the travelers had early flights on Tuesday and needed to pack, we nevertheless hopped on the train to Lucca early Monday morning.

Some of us walked the walls of the city and Thera rented bicycles and biked around.

We had a lovely lunch and came home to Florence around 6 p.m.

For our last evening together, we went to ZaZa restaurant.

Pasta from Magda and MassimoEarly Tuesday 4 of the ladies left us, Kristie and Ruth went to Pisa, Susan and I cleaned house. Massimo and Magda, our gracious Landlord and lady, came to dinner in the evening, and they even brought the main course, a wonderful clam pasta made with small clams from Viareggio, and they also brought sparkling wine go with the meal.

We had a great visit. I had made dessert, a plum clafoutis, which is French, sorry! But very good and not too sweet, to end our eating frenzy!,

Bella with her paperNow I am waiting for Christine and Kathy to arrive to make up our next journey. We will leave Friday for a three day stay in Venice, then up to Verona, then the Dolomites. Unfortunately, the weather forecast is not favorable, but we are going anyway.

My other computer crashed this morning so we are going to have a funeral for it later. Thank goodness I was finally able to access the internet with the iPad this morning.

love to all…

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