When we decided to go to Italy for a month, we thought that staying in one place for the entire time would be a good opportunity to really see what life would be like if we lived there. We wanted to become locals, to experience daily life there instead of just sweeping through and hitting all the tourist spots. We chose Florence for a few reasons: it was a main city but also small enough to walk around, close to other beautiful places if we wanted to get out and explore, and of course because we fell in love with it last time we visited and have been waiting to go back ever since. We pretty quickly realized that Florence probably wasn’t the place for our family as it was too busy, loud, and crowded. The tiny streets combined with the zooming vespas had us constantly worrying for our son’s safety, and we had to walk pretty far to get to the closest playground. We decided to escape the city and visit Lucca for a night…but once we were there we realized this was the place where we should have been for our month in Italy, and we extended our stay for three more days.
It’s only an hour and a half train ride from Florence, and I think it was under 10 euro for the trip. Right when we stepped off the train it was already a stark contrast to Florence. Once we entered the ancient walls my wife and I looked at each other and said “ya, this is what we wanted.” There are basically no cars driving through the streets, and no Vespas for that matter. The streets are a walker’s paradise and you don’t need to stick to the sidewalks because there is hardly any traffic. This also allowed our toddler to walk and run around freely without worry.
Because the town of Lucca is so old and they were resistant to modernization until recently, it still feels like the Italy that you want when you visit Italy. It’s got all the Tuscan colors, old brick, bikes, and nonnas. But it also has reliable cell service and all the amenities you need. And the best part about being there with kids is the wall that wraps around the whole city.
It’s a little under 3 miles all the way around and there is a ton of grass and a few playgrounds every 1/2 mile or so! You can rent bikes or pedal cars too.
There are also A BUNCH of toy stores. More than in Florence, I think. And our kid likes to just go in and play with the toys and leave. Which is amazing. There are also a bunch of clothing stores and a nice selection of menswear too. And no shortage of gelato! Oh, and it’s only a 15 minute train ride to the beach!
We stayed in this amazing apartment called Il Sasso sul Cipresso. It was RIGHT in the center of everything and was like $80 a night. Crazy. There are a bunch of other places you can stay too. So if you’re heading to Italy with kids, or even without, DEFINITELY check out Lucca!