I do not recall such a long hot summer like this one in 2022, the heatwaves have followed one after the other one from the end of May, breaking records and leaving people weak and tired.
Some days it felt like a survival challenge! While on one hand, you expect it to be hot, sticky, and humid, on the other hand when you will be here in person, you will immediately understand you might have to revise your plans.
Eventually, you will start your conversation every day, like an Italian, saying: “Even today, it’s hot!” (you will need to sigh at the same time).
As we secretly think that complaining about another scorching day as hell, could be of some sort of help or relief!
Very likely travel patterns will change in the near future, but in the meantime, these tips from an experienced tour guide can help you also to visit less known places to find some shade and still enjoy your vacation.
Parks and gardens
Lucca does not lack in parks and gardens. The renaissance walls surrounding the city is the place where you can cool down during nap time (or if you prefer to call it siesta…).
Some of the centuries-old trees up on top offer large shady areas where you can roll out your towel, read a book, listen to a podcast or just chill and recharge for the evening thanks to the breeze.
If you like what you see from San Regolo bastion, go down and head over to the Botanical Garden – opened in 1820 – small but very precious.
The king tree is the Lebanon cedar nearby the entrance, climb the small mountain through the spiral path to learn about the local vegetation of the Pisan mountains and the Apuan Alps, and then go down to discover the shrubs, plants, and flowers that the rich noble Lucchese families required in their villas as they were considered exotic and new.
Do not forget to mirror yourself in the pond as Narcissus but beware Lucida Mansi ghost can catch you and drag you down into hell!
Check also if the festival The Singing of the Trees (Il Canto degli Alberi) is on. Usually, every Thursday/Friday night in July and August you can buy a combined ticket to visit the garden and then go later in the evening to a concert in the green nurseries.
A short drive or bus ride (n 59 leaving from Piazzale Verdi) will lead you to a stunning place to be discovered slowly as it is so rich and full of surprises in the Spanish or Italian garden, the Green theatre, the lake, the fountains, and the art-deco swimming pool. Keep an eye on their event section.
In the summertime, there are Michelin-starred picnics, special barbecue nights, art performances, re-enactments, and concerts.
Why don’t you go out for an easy hike to the so-called Golden Words?
Just walking around the city you will feel the cool air coming out from the basements of the massive palaces, I wish more of these could be open to visitors as very often it is down there you can see the remains of Lucca as a city founded by the Romans.
Luckily there is someone who has decided to turn in it into a museum.
Also, the walls have some underground rooms, generally called the dungeons, that I really recommend you to visit.
It might take you some time to find the entrance (so book a tour with me!) as there isn’t any sign to indicate how to go under the walls or most of the time people end up there because they have just arrived in the city and they do not realize where they are.
However, according to weather conditions and general safety, you can explore three dungeons at the moment: Saint Paolino, Santa Croce and Saint Martin.
Here you will understand the importance of this fortification and just imagine how long it has taken to build everything. Besides, you will admire some of the beautiful paper art statues made by international artists for the Lucca biennale event.
In the city you have to go underground, especially if you are a wine lover: Enoteca Vanni is quite a unique wine store, run by the same family since 1969. In this maze of corridors, you will be impressed by their collection, and of course, you can have here a special wine tasting.
Eating and drinking
The experience tour guide and travel planner will advise you to book a morning tour and to avoid the hottest hours, especially if you are traveling with kids and elderly people.
Then, I know you have the dream of an Italian lunch at al fresco… but really, it is not that cool and pleasant in the shade in July and August outdoor in the city.
Some restaurants now have these big misting fans…however, make your dream come true for breakfast or for dinner.
Then choose wisely from the menu: salads with vegetables, rice or farro (spelt) and what about panzanella? Bread salad, typical of Tuscany. It is made with leftover bread marinated in vinegar and then sweet tomatoes, red onions, cucumbers, and basil. ln the list, I have to include the always ever-present Caprese salad or the combo ham and melon.
Gelato is predictable and quite obvious.
Anyway, you can go heavy with it any time of the day, but if you are ready for a change in Lucca there are amazing granita (vaguely similar to a shaved ice, slushie, snow cone… )
My favorite are: watermelon, melon, almond, lemon and chocolate. Then if I am super thirsty at the end of a tour, I go straight forward for a fruit sorbet popsicle: lemon, coconut, pineapple, melon and more… natural, cool, fresh!
A refreshing dip in the water
Just north of the city, there is the Serchio river park.
You can walk or cycle there. Honestly, I do not usually go there unless I need to go for a long-distance run and so I have noticed people there sunbathing and cooling in the waters.
Recently many sports and outdoor activities are available like canyoning, sup, river-trekking and they are very popular among young people and families.
Then, there are some swimming pools nearby the city, but if you have a car and you would like to spend a day exploring also quite a nice village, you should definitely add a visit to Bagni di Lucca.
At this pool, I learned to swim and I have great summer memories!!
There are three pools (kids, diving and a big one to swim), a large pool deck with umbrellas, sunchairs/beds, and a bar up on the terrace. You will have a great time there surrounded by the green mountains!