Looking out over the aqua blue water of the Ligurian Sea, while standing in the ruins of an ancient castle, took my breath away and made me feel insignificant. Nothing can compare to the glorious feats of mother nature and the Roman empire. I was surprised at the gorgeous diversity of the landscape of Italy. Within just an hour or two of Florence is the Ligurian Sea, the majestic Alps, and the beloved wine region of Tuscany. I’ll always cherish the beautiful trifecta of Lucca, Florence, and Puerto Venere Italy.
Lucca is best known for its giant wall that is five kilometers long, about 20 something feet tall, and more than 20 feet thick, and surrounds the oldest part of the town. The wall was built by the Romans to protect its occupants from invasion but it still stands proudly today. Tourists and residents alike enjoy walking, biking, and jogging along the wall. Alongside it are great restaurants, food vendors, shops, and a vast variety of fascinating sculptures. The wall really is the heart of the city.
Aside from the wall, Lucca has so much rich history it’s hard to know where to begin. Since it is a small town with only a population of 87,000, walking tours are popular. I really enjoyed seeing the San Frediano Church, which holds the mummified body of Saint Zita in in the Fatinelli Chapel. Not far from that is Piazza Anfiteatro. Originally a Roman amphitheater, it’s now a popular town square and place for old men to gather and play chess, a romantic destination for young lovers, and a favorite place to shop and dine for both tourists and locals alike. Also, don’t forget to visit St. Michele, which is a stunningly beautiful church that dates back to 800 AD but was re built in the twelfth century.
There is so much to see and do in Florence, and unfortunately I only had one afternoon, but I fell in love with it anyway. For me, the highlight was definitely The Duomo, Florence’s famous cathedral. You can’t miss it because it looms high above the city and there are hundreds of tourists standing in front of it staring in awe at the opulent details that adorn every square inch of it. I did not go in, as the line was too long and would have taken up my entire afternoon, but I hear that the interior is every bit as impressive as the exterior. I spent the rest of my time in Florence wandering through the impressive art galleries, charming artisan shops, and indulging in Italian flavorful treats, like lasagna, Chianti, cappuccino, and an amazing chocolate filled cannoli.
Puerto Venere was definitely the highlight of my trip to the area. It is absolutely stunning! The colorful buildings nestled among the ancient ruins, situated next to the gorgeous turquoise waters of the Ligurian coast, made it look like a cover to a travel magazine. The most famous attraction is St. Pietro, a charming and small gothic era church, and some amazing ancient Roman ruins are right next to it. It’s located right on the edge of the sea and has one of the most spectacular views I’ve ever experienced. Puerto Venere was really was an extraordinary experience.
I couldn’t help but fall in love with Italy. The varied terrain, delicious cuisine, rich history, and the passionate and fun loving people create an atmosphere that I think is unique to Italy. I look forward to returning someday to visit some of the other areas and continue my new found love affair with the incredible country and Italian people.