A simple life. A slower pace. A sense of security. These are attributes that often define life in Tuscany.
In my travels over the years through Italy, I have spent several occasions in the town of Lucca and have brought back with me this feeling of a simpler lifestyle. Can we really learn from other locations in the world how to live simpler? How to slow down? How to create a sense of security in our own neighborhoods? These are all questions I challenge myself while traveling to locations I find I could live.
These are the 5 attributes of Lucca that make this one of my favorite towns in Tuscany.
1. There are no cars inside the walled city of Lucca.
Bicycles are everywhere. The cobblestone streets are filled with bikes, old and new. I’m not talking about the latest racing bike that will cost you upwards of a thousand dollars, I’m referring to bikes with comfy seats and baskets to carry your daily needs. The fact that there are no cars pushing you to the side of the road or car exhaust, makes walking through Lucca a delightful experience.
2. Lucca has a great sense of community.
I believe our desire to feel part of a group or community is high for many of us. The piazzas (public squares where people gather) are small, quaint and filled each day with locals sharing their daily lives. One of my favorite ways to experience small towns in Italy is to find a cafe that locals frequent and simply observe people coming and going. People move about slower here in Italy. There are no drive-through Starbucks in Lucca. Those that are rushing around are typically the tourists trying to fit in all the things on the list that Trip Advisor told them were a “must see”.
Near the end of each day, there is a time that the locals all come out. It is called “la passeggiata“. As the day comes to an end, the main streets virtually fill up with activity as a large part of the town’s people get together for an evening stroll or conversation. People of all ages, dressed well, intent on seeing and being seen, chatter while keeping an eye on everything and everyone. Women will walk arm in arm, young families with bambini in tow, young kids walk back and forth, while the older generations generally observe. Then, all of a sudden, the passeggiata is over. The streets empty, the shop shutters close and it’s time for dinner.
Now, I live in a rather large community in the United States. People come out in the evening to walk their dogs, pick up mail or to help their dinner settle for the evening. But, I often think to myself what it would be like to incorporate this idea into our American communities. Would we get a chance to really get to know our neighbors on a new level? A chance to share ideas unlike our own. An opportunity to hear stories and tell our own stories. Even better, a chance to wish your neighbor well at the end of a long day.
3. People eat fresh and move.
Fresh, locally-grown foods are part of everyday Tuscan life. People buy local and eat local. Early morning markets are busy with locals purchasing fresh produce for the evening meal and the butcher’s shop is always a popular place for local meats.
People move. Everywhere you go, locals are walking or bicycling their way through town. Lucca is surrounded by a large 16th century wall. On top of the wall there is a large path that is popular for bicycles, walkers and strollers. Benches are scattered along the path which creates another location for locals to sit and visit with their neighbors, further emphasizing their sense of community.
4. People hang out their laundry in Lucca.
I have never quite understood why we need entire rooms dedicated to our dirty socks. Not long ago, hanging laundry in the backyard was not only a bit of exercise, but an opportunity to chat across the fence with our neighbors.
Hanging out laundry simply brings me back to simpler times.
5. Small homes and budgets that make sense.
Life feels simple here in Lucca. What sparks my interest is not what Tuscan people choose to live with, but what they choose to live without. A new acquisition means time to Tuscans. Time spent earning the money. A portion of their life. In many ways they are not just giving money, but what it took to earn it along the way.
A simple lifestyle, a safer neighborhood and all at a slower pace. Lucca provides these attributes on a variety of levels. The Tuscan people have a way of looking at life that I can appreciate. One does not have to move to Lucca to develop a simple lifestyle or live at a slower pace. However, living in a town with no cars may be a bit of a challenge for most of us.
I still believe that one of our greatest gifts in life is each other’s company.