Lucca Boutique Apartments

Lucca, Tuscany, Italy Book from Eur106

Reviewed by Ben Reed
A pair of elegant 16th-century apartments for 2, in the beautiful medieval centre of Lucca
Unlike its more famous Tuscan neighbours, the stunning medieval city of Lucca still retains a refreshing authenticity. Locals shop in the mercato by morning, jog and cycle the city walls at weekends; families stroll the piazzas eating gelato by night. Your postcards may show the Leaning Tower or the Duomo, but your memories will be of Lucca.

Tucked away on peaceful residential streets in the city's historic heart, these 2 apartments are both located in grand 16th-century townhouses (one on via Guinigi, the other on via Mordini). Sympathetically renovated by the owners of the gorgeous Palazzetta del Vescovo, they exude a sense of grandeur from the moment you open the door. In Guinigi, double-height oak beamed ceilings crown the comfy open-plan lounge, while tall windows provide plenty of light and unimpeded views of the Guinigi tower, famously sprouting oak trees from its roof. Walk through double doors to the bedroom and there's another surprise: original frescoes adorn every inch of wall and ceiling, their pastel colours creating the illusion of sleeping under a theatrical canopy. There's also a well-equipped kitchen for self-catering, free WiFi and a handy washing machine for longer stays.

Highs

  • The Guinigi apartment is stylish, full of light and beautifully appointed - a great place to wow your loved one
  • They offer exceptional value for money considering the space provided
  • Lucca itself: a medieval gem which, hidden between the tourist honeypots of Pisa and Florence, is full of art, history and dolce vita - but not of tourists
  • The centre is pedestrianised: everything is walkable, fine restaurants abound, there are no beeping horns, and a good night’s sleep is guaranteed
  • Being just 30 mins' drive from Pisa airport, you could come for a long weekend (the normal minimum stay is 4 nights, but they may accept 3-night requests)

Lows

  • The apartments are on the 1st floor (Mordini) or 2nd floor (Guinigi), with no elevator - so won't suit those with mobility issues
  • Driving in the centre is very tricky, and the nearest parking is outside the walls
  • The owners don't live on site, but the caretaker offers a thorough meet-and-greet, and is only a phone call away if needed
  • Check-in hours are normally restricted to 4-7pm, which is awkward if you are on a late Pisa flight (but they can arrange late check-in for a supplement)
  • No children are allowed
  • We haven't seen the Mordini apartment in person yet - it was only completed in March 2016

Best time to go

Lucca is the kind of place you could visit at any time of year - the apartment has air-con for summer and central heating for winter - and each season has its charms. Winter is the time to live like a local for a week or more; Paola can put you in touch with Italian language or cookery tutors if that interests you. Spring and autumn are magical, with snow on the distant peaks until April, and warm autumnal hues in early-mid October. Summer can be hot - you're almost at sea-level - but it is the busiest time culturally.

Our top tips

If you're flexible on dates, try and coincide with one of these festivals:
  • March (first 3 weekends): Camelia Show at Pieve and S.Andrea di Compito
  • End March-start of April: Verdemura open-air garden show and market held along the city walls
  • April: Wineries on the Square (Montecarlo) and St. Zita Flower Show (around the 27th)
  • May (typically 5th-8th): Wine Festival (Montecarlo)
  • July: Lucca Summer Festival, with major international jazz and rock bands and artists
  • Great for...

    City Style
    Honeymoon
    • = Recommended
    • = Best in region
    • = World favourite
    • Boutique apartment
    • 1-bedroom apartment
    • Self-catering, restaurants nearby
    • Not suitable
    • Open all year
    • Pool
    • Spa Treatments
    • WiFi
    • Pet Friendly
    • Disabled Access
    • Beach Nearby
    • Off-street Parking
    • Restaurants Nearby
    • Air Conditioning
    • Guest Lounge
    • Terrace
    • Garden
    • Gym
    • Daily Maid Service
    • Towels & Bedlinen
    • Laundry Service
    • Maid service every 5 days
    Room: Via Mordini Apartment

    Rooms

    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.

    Features include:

    • Air conditioning
    • Cd player
    • Central heating
    • Coffee maker
    • Dishwasher
    • Dvd player
    • Fan
    • Fridge
    • Hairdryer
    • Hob stove
    • Ipod dock
    • Iron
    • Kitchenette
    • Microwave
    • Mosquito net
    • Oven
    • Phone (local calls only)
    • Radio
    • Satellite tv
    • Toaster
    • Tumble dryer
    • Washing machine
    • WiFi
    • Wifi internet

    Eating

    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.

    Features include:

    • Chef on request
    • Coffee maker
    • Cooking classes
    • Fridge
    • Hob stove
    • Kitchenette
    • Microwave
    • Oven
    • Restaurants nearby
    • Toaster
    Eating: Via Guinigi Apartment
    Activity:

    Activities

    • Wander the pedestrian streets of Lucca's medieval centre, culminating in the perfectly preserved Roman oval of the Piazza dell'Anfiteatro
    • Renowned composer Giacomo Puccini was born in Lucca, and the city attracts many students to its music schools; look out for concerts in cathedrals, squares and street corners
    • Lucca's summer festival in July draws some of the biggest bands in the world (from Nick Cave to Diana Krall) to the outdoor setting of Piazza Napoleone
    • Check out the antique market every 3rd weekend of the month in the streets around the cathedral
    • Hire a bike from one of the many rental outfits in town, and cycle (or jog) atop the broad, tree-lined city walls - especially popular with locals at the weekend
    • There are a couple of golf courses nearby, and horse riding can be organised
    • Fans of Baroque architecture should arrange visits to the elegant summer villas around the city, such as Villa Torrigiani, with its lovely landscaped gardens
    • If you're using it as a base, Pisa is 30 mins' drive, Florence 50 mins, Siena and the beaches of Viareggio and Forte dei Marmi about an hour (though bear in mind the difficulties of driving and parking in pedestrianised Lucca)
    • The dramatic peaks and wooded valleys of the Garfagnana and the Apuan Alps are a short drive north, with hiking routes including the historic Via Francigena

    Activities on site or nearby include:

    • Cooking classes
    • Cycling
    • Golf
    • Hiking
    • Historical sites
    • Horse-riding
    • Language courses
    • Museums / galleries
    • Music concerts
    • Plantlife / flora
    • Private guided tours
    • Shopping / markets
    • Summer festivals

    Kids

    Unfortunately, neither apartment is suitable for children under 16.

    Kid Friendly: Via Guinigi Apartment

    Our guests' ratings...

    10/
    Rooms
    10/
    Food
    9/
    Service
    10/
    Value
    10/
    Overall

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