“A pair of elegant 16th-century apartments for 2, in the beautiful medieval centre of Lucca”
We stayed in the gorgeous Guinigi apartment, which is the slightly larger of the two. In the huge open-plan living area, deep red comfy sofas, bright modern art canvases, thick burgundy curtains and patterned rugs add homely warmth to the antique grandeur. Tall windows look out past tiled roofs to the Guinigi Tower - what a privilege, in such a dense medieval city, to have views like this. A huge (and we mean huge) flatcreen TV, satellite channels, DVD player, iPod dock and WiFi provide all the creature comforts for a cosy night in. In one corner is a dining table for 4 and, behind a partition, a well-equipped kitchen.
Reached via double doors, the bedroom is a real show-stopper. A kingsize bed and chaise longue are dwarfed by soft 18th-century frescoes adorning walls and ceiling - not overpoweringly so, but it really adds a romantic sense of theatre to your stay. Ample storage space is cleverly concealed behind a partition wall - notice how nothing touches the walls, in order to protect the frescoes. Beautiful wrought-iron radiators and antique dressers show the TLC (and cash) lavished by Paola during the restoration. In the corner is a sparklingly clean, bright blue bathroom, with shower, sink, bidet and washing machine (cleverly concealed).
We haven't seen the Mordini apartment yet, but will report back when we do. It's a smidgeon smaller at 83 sq.m., and a little cheaper too, but still a truly spoiling hideaway for a couple. Looking over a colonnaded courtyard, the living and dining rooms have a similar mix of antiques (beamed cotto ceiling) and mod cons (huge TV, fast WiFi), while the internal-facing bedroom is whisperingly quiet. Here too, the beauty is that you really feel as if you're staying in a home, not a hotel.
Guinigi's compact but well-equipped kitchen is sectioned off from the living area, while Mordini's is open-plan. Both are jam-packed with all the utensils you could need: Nespresso machine and filter coffee jug, dishwasher, fridge-freezer, oven with electric induction hob, microwave, toaster, kettle... not to mention iron and hairdryer in the bathroom.
A small starter pack of milk, juice, jam, water, tea and coffee is provided; after that you'll need to buy ingredients, but that's no hardship. Mingle with the locals buying the freshest of produce at the morning mercato, a few minutes’ walk away; or lie in and raid the supermarkets and grocers stores (a little further). Paola can arrange a private chef if you want to celebrate something special a casa, and a pre-arrival shop if you're arriving late.
You have an endless supply of excellent restaurants on your doorstep, and Paola details the best of the bunch in her information pack. Caffè del Mercato is a good option for a light breakfast, offering great coffee, local pastries and sandwiches. L’Olivo ("Since 1944") has 3 elegantly furnished dining rooms, one of them a designated smoking area, and a beautiful covered veranda (heated in winter) overlooking Piazza San Quirico. The menu combines trad Tuscan dishes and fresh seafood (which arrives directly from the fishermen in Viareggio every morning), plus some "revisited" Lucca specialties such as zuppa alla frantoiana (spelt soup). Expect to pay €40-50 pp, more if you're eating fish.