Italian rental properties, Tuscany, Villas in Tuscany, Lucca Villa Rentals
GENERAL INFORMATION ON THE AREA
Banks open from 08.30-13.30 and from 14.30-15.45 (but again this varies from bank to bank).All banks may not be open on Saturday morning.
There are very many banks all over the Lucca area, so much so that it is locally reffered to as the city of banks and churches, so just keep your eyes open for the one nearest you, mostly on any main road and town.
As well as often having phones, bars also double up as tobacconists. There is a large letter T on a blue background for bars (and grocery shops) which sell stamps, bus tickets and matches, salt and alcohool.
In the bars in towns, there are two sets of prices for drinks, pastries etc. One price for standing up at the counter and another (usually double) for sitting down with waiter service. One normally pays on leaving. Nearly all bars have toilets.
Beaches operate on a pay system, which means that one pays for the day (or sometimes half-day) spent on the beach. The prices vary according to the beach and their facilities and also at what period of the season it is. If you wish to go to the beach, approach the management hut and they will tell you the price and direct you to the deckchairs and umbrella. The least crowded beaches are around the far right hand end of Lido di Camaiore. The beach at the Ariston hotel is excellent and there is a superb casual restaurant for mid day meals. Typical beach charges for an umbrella, two deck chairs and a sun bed are 30 euros per day.
Push bike hire by the hour, day, and week are available from several shops in the Piazza Santa Maria.
Tickets must be bought in advance - usually obtainable from bars or from Piazzale Verdi, where the Lazzi and Clap Bus Companies offices are situated and from where the buses depart. If you wish to go to Florence, it is better and quicker to go by bus - which, by the way, are air-conditioned. The buses are taken from the central bus station (just inside the Lucca walls as you drive there from here) in Piazzale Verdi. Buses go about every 60 minutes - make sure you ask for the Diretto, otherwise you could end up calling at every village between here and Florence!.
Piazzale Verde and Piazza Santa Maria both have parking inside the walls. Parking between blue stripes is pay parking, yellow stripes residents only and white stripes free(only outside the walls).
There is a local car hire company, called Pittore and is situated in Piazza Santa Maria (immediately through the Santa Maria gate, which is opposite Borgo Giannotti). Hertz, Avis and Europcar have offices in Lucca.
There is a sign on the front door of every chemist showing which chemist is open for that night. The largest and best furnished is at the train station and is open 24 hours.All main roads and Towns should have one.
We have a good doctor, called Aldo Morotti, who speaks passable English and who is very capable and pleasant. His surgery is about 20 minutes' drive away in Via Fillungo.
Our dentist is Roger Staal on 0583 953633. He speaks fluent English.
Petrol stations observe the normal siesta time - they close between 12.30 and around 15.30 and then close again at around 19.30. They are almost all closed all day on Sunday. There are now quite a few 24-hour stations where you insert bank notes for petrol. On the toll motorways, petrol stations are open 24 hours a day.
Zebra crossings do exist here but do NOT assume that cars will stop for you. Although people have been trying for a long time to stop cars driving through the very centre of Lucca, they still do. So please, especially if you have children, always expect to see a car, even on the narrowest streets. Mopeds and bicycles drive the wrong way down one way streets both inside and outside the Lucca walls, so again, be prepared!
Lucca Hospital is signposted on the ring road around the walls. Turn left when you get to the walls and keep going until you see the signs.The emergency call number is 118, it will get you ambulances and or police, just state the nature of your needs.
Very few newsagents sell English newspapers but there is one called Brancoli on the street between Piazza Napoleone and Piazza San Michele. There is also a small one in Piazza Napoleone and on the road into the center from the bus station called via San Paolino.
Tipping is not obligatory, because the service charge is normally included in the bill. We normally round up the bill, if the waiter has been particularly helpful.
SAGRAS (Village Festivals)
Every year, almost every village in the area has a series of village parties. These are usually on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday night; they are sometimes for a week or a month at a time and they are sometimes on 2, 3 or 4 weekends running! Anyway, suffice it to say that they are an absolute must if you want to get the full local flavour.
Basically, you will see signs along the road wherever you drive. They are usually small square posters attached to a tree or bright phosforecent saying "Sagra della ": the "..." is usually connected with food e.g. sagra of fagioli (beans) or penne (pasta) or zuppe (heavy Tuscan soup). So, if you go to a 'fagioli' sagra, there will definitely be some dishes with beans in - a soup, a pasta dish and/or a side salad or vegetable dish. The food is always reasonably good and reasonably hot but the main thing is the experience!
The whole village gets involved e.g. the local butchers cook the barbecue, others distribute food or wine or raffle tickets etc. The aim is to raise money for a new church roof or some local cause. They take over a local field (often a sports ground or park) and fill it with food stalls and tables and benches. There is always a dance floor and a band (to which the locals do the tango, waltz etc) - it's lovely! There are usually swings, slides etc and sometimes even carousels and fairground stalls.
You arrive at around 8 p.m., grab a table and then go to the stall where they take your order and you pay for the food (a menu is written on a board). They give you a ticket and then you either sit at your table and wave your ticket at a passing waiter or you go to the various stalls where they hand out your food.
In Lucca, and in fact in most large towns in this area, including Florence and Pisa, most shops are closed on Monday mornings. Most shops are closed on Sundays. Shop opening hours vary but generally they open from 09.00-12.30/13.00 and from 15.30/16.00-19.30/20.00. Supermarkets are open throughout every day until around 8.00 pm except Sundays, when they are closed. Some supermarkets are open on the third Sunday of the month. At the coast you will find some open on all Sundays thruout summer. Other small food shops close Wednesday afternoons.The larger and more furnished chains are: Esselunga, Coop, Pam, SMA, Crai and are abundunt aroun the city of Lucca and larger towns, some have an ATM.
SHOPS - Bread
Many people find Italian bread a little hard on the teeth - no matter how "morbido" (soft) you ask for your bread to be. We have three favourite bread shops: one is called Panificio, which is a tiny shop on the right hand side on the via Sarzanese, just before the Viareggio motorway sign on the way into Lucca. Better still is Il Fornaio, which is half way down Borgo Giannotti on the left (Borgo Giannotti is a well-known street of shops, which leads down to the city walls from the river and Camaiore road). This shop is worth finding because all its bread and cakes are divine and it sells good wholemeal bread also (pane integrale). Finally, whenever you are in the centre of Lucca in Piazza San Michele (the main square) go to Via S. Lucia 18-20. one minute's walk away, to Giusti, where always available is the most delicious freshly baked foccaccia you will ever have tasted. Foccaccia is a flat salted, oiled bread, also available studded with olives. Ask anyone if you can't find the shop -it's very well known, as it is said to be the best bread shop in Lucca.
SHOPS - Clothes
If you want to see the best clothes, shoes, etc that Lucca has to offer you should walk down Via Fillungo (just off the main square inside Lucca) around 6 p.m. on a Saturday the whole of Lucca goes there for their "passeggiata" - to see and to be seen by all their friends. Please note that all non-food shops, museums etc are closed on a Monday morning.
SHOPS - Fish
There is a fresh fish shop, "Mercatino del Pesce", situated on the left where the motorway sign to Viareggio is situated half way down the via Sarzanese. COOP and PAM supermarkets also have fresh fish counters.
SHOPS - Markets
Markets in this area are very good value, especially for clothes and shoes. Lucca market is situated next to the stadium and takes place on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. This market is good for silk flowers, men's shirts, women's leggings/tops and table linen - look out for one stall which sells old lace VERY cheaply. Viareggio market is bigger and better than Lucca. Don't miss the central section under cover which has a very large selection of shoes. This market is situated near the sea front - just ask anyone for directions. Some stalls are open every day but the main day is Thursday.
Another large and excellent market is in Forte dei Marmi about 45 minutes drive from here - go to Lido di Camaiore, turn right and travel along the coast road for about 10 minutes. This market takes place on Wednesday mornings, with sometimes in summer mostly a condensed version on Sunday mornings. The other advantage to Forte dei Marmi is that it's a lovely town situated right next to the beach with fabulous shops and seafood restaurants to visit as well as the market. Please bear in mind that market hours are . 8.30 – 12.30.
Obviously Tuscany and Umbria are crowded with places to see - the obvious ones being Florence (1 hour's drive), Siena (2 hours') and San Gimignano (2 hours'). Also well worth a trip is to follow the Piero della Francesca trail (as in John Mortimer's book Summer Lease) which you can start in Arezzo (beautiful city, 1.5 hours' drive from here) and continue to nearby San Sepolcro and Monterchi, to see other examples of his stunning fresco work. If you have time when in that area, Assisi and Perugia are also well worth a visit. Volterra is a beautiful hilltop town well worth a visit and let's not forget Vinci where Leonardo had his home, Pontedera where there is a Piaggio museum, San Miniato, Lari, Monteriggione and the stunnung Certaldo are all lovely day trips. Also the surrounding hills and mountains in the northern Lucchesia offer uncontaminated hill villages and breathtaking views, nature walks, caves, lakes, parks and are certainly worth the visit.
Closer to home, of course, are Viareggio (famous for its boat building at the port) and Forte dei Marmi, both very attractive seaside towns. You can also visit Lerici on the coast, a pretty place, from which you can get a short boat trip to Portavenere and enjoy the lovely seafood restaurants there. Again on the coast are the Cinque Terre, five lovely coastal villages all connected by car, train, boat or foot and well worth a visit.
If you want a short trip, it is worth going to elegant Montecatini (on the road to Florence, about 30 minutes from here) a spa town (but don't wear shorts as you won't be allowed into the baths). You can take the railway or bus or a short drive on the motorway, also the old hilltop village which is very pretty. An alternative place for lunch is Montecarlo (20 minutes from here) or Vinci which, in addition to some very good restaurants, has a fascinating museum with scaled down models of all his inventions and posters of his works.
Telephone any of the following numbers for the taxi stands: 492691 /494989 /494190 /950623 581305. Please prefix all numbers with 0583. We also use Marco on 3337957962
There are telephones in most bars. If you wish to make a call, there are pay phones, but there could also be a "scatti" system in operation. You make the call normally and the counter clocks up the number of digits (or "scatti") that the call has lasted. The bar management will tell you the total at the end of the call. There are also card phones commonly available now. The dialling code for England is 00 44, and America 00 1 followed by the STD code minus the O. To call all local numbers you must always use the prefix when dialing in Italy.
Please do not leave any valuables in the house since, unfortunately, there are a number of burglaries especially during the summer tourist months. Please ensure that whenever you go out all doors/windows are closed and locked. Some of the houses may offer a safe facility, enquire with the individual house manager.
The main tourist office is near the Porta San Donato on the piazzale Verdi, tel:0583 419689. It is open daily and the office also hires out bicycles. There is also one in Piazza Santa Maria.
There are several very attractive villas outside Lucca, which if you particularly like gardens and historical architecture are worth a visit.
The Villa Reale at Marlia is surrounded by magnificent gardens. Viewing by guided tour.
The Villa Torrigiani to the south of Segromigno is a 16th Century villa converted into a summer residence in the 17th Century and it stands at the end of a long tree lined avenue.
The Villa Mansi at Segromigno. The Villa is a superb 16th Century building situated in the middle of a huge park, with a walkway lined with statues leading to a large lake.
There are also many others which can be viewed by the public and are worth a visit, for more detailed info it is best to go into the nearest tourist info as hours and days may vary.
This is all right to drink, unless 'Non Potable' is written near the tap. If you prefer to buy bottled water for drinking, it is available in any food shop as "still" (acqua naturale) or fizzy (acqua gassata or frizzante).
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