Lucca, City of Bicycles












The 2013 Bicyclists UCI Road World Championships took place in TuscanyItaly, September 21 and 22,  2013 right after my Italy Retreat for Women group left Lucca.

The Championships consisted of 12 events for elite, under-23 and junior cyclists. It was the 86th Road World Championships, the 13th in Italy and the first time that the event took place in Tuscany. The different events took place in FlorencePistoiaPoggio a CaianoCarmignanoLuccaFiesole and Montecatini Terme.

Bike riding and bike racing are popular activities in Italy, especially in Lucca.  Of course, our group did not participate in the championship bicycle race, but we sure had fun riding bicycles on top of the 3 mile wall, and throughout the city center, along with the local Lucchese. Bikes are easily rented near Porta San Pietro, Porta Santa Maria, and other entrances to Lucca for 4-5 euros per hour. You can easily spot the rental stores because all the bikes are lined up outside.

During The Italy Retreats for Women that I lead, I focus on fresh air and outdoor activities. This balances out any gelato and pasta that we indulge in, as seen in my other posts!

I love seeing everyone of all ages riding bikes throughout the town. They inspire  all of the tourists to step it up and get more active. I’ve found that one challenge that some travelers’ experience is jet lag. Usually with short vacations, we don’t have time to wait until we’re completely over it before we start exploring. One simple travel tip to alleviate jet lag is to exercise. Walk a lot in the fresh air or ride a bicycle. Secondly, do not nap during the day, but get right into your day (even though it really is your night time at home). The wall around Lucca just invites us to ride on top, through tree-lined parks and breathtaking views of the mountains.

Riding bikes is the choice of transportation

Riding bikes is the choice of transportation

Some of the Women at the Retreat '"biking the wall" in Lucca










Pam on the Lucca Wall

Pam on the Lucca Wall


More bikes and green door

More bikes and green doors




Section of the wall around Lucca, Le Mura.

Section of the wall (le mura) around Lucca






















Italy September 2013 - 1 047-1

Thermal Springs,Terme in Italy




Thermal waters pool

Thermal waters pool

After a week of hiking in Cinque Terre and biking in Lucca, we trim down to the basics of living the sweet life at a thermal springs outside of Lucca. We change into white robes as we enter the caves of Grotta Giusti in Monsumanno, Italy.  My mind and body crave this gentle ‘steam bath’ to relax, and release toxins.

This is a surreal passage into another time, as less than a dozen of us enter a beautiful series of softly-lit caves. The temperature is a warm 93 degrees Farenheit, 34 degrees Celcius, (lower than our 98.6  body temperature). To my surprise, it is odor-free. We silently walk into different sections of the caves, called Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell. We sit in deck chairs in this mysterious other worldly womb of the earth, surrounded by ceilings and walls of beautiful minerals and rock formations.

Away from our normal routine of life, we relax into the silence to RETREAT, REPLENISH and REJUVENATE.

Next, we change into our bathing suits and walk outside to immerse in the large mineral rich thermal pool, where we swim and float, then make our way over to the underwater hydro-massage seats inside the edges of the pool. Like the caves, the temperature is a steady 93 degrees Fahrenheit, 34 degrees Celcius.  We move in and out of the pool, sit poolside on the lounge chairs, and enjoy delicious food and drinks at the poolside restaurant.

Grotta Giusti was discovered in 1849 when some miners saw hot steam rising from the ground while working on the Giusti Family land. The thermal waters contain bicarbonate, sulphate, chloride, calcium and magnesium.  The water feels soft, smooth and like the cave, odor-free. Surrounded by beautiful hillsides, I close my eyes and float on my back. Another  beautiful spot in Italy that nourishes.

I arrived in Monsumanno from Lucca. The train ride from Lucca to Montacatini Terme takes 25 minutes. Outside the train station, I use my cell phone to call a taxi that costs 20 Euros for a 10 minute ride to Grotta Giusti in Monsummano. The phone number is posted on a sign in front of the station. Although not always at convenient times, Grotta Giusti Spa sends a van to the train station at designated times 3 times a day for pickups and departures from the spa.

What spas have you visited in Italy? Want to join me in September, 2013 for my Italy Retreat for Women?

Note: I have not included photos of Grotta Giusti Spa as they do not allow photos taken of their pool and cave area. Please see their website for photos.


Italy Travel Tips for Women

Small carry on plus personal item (backpack that matches carry-on)

Each time I travel to Italy for a month, I learn more about making it easier and simpler.

1.) Pack lightly. The photo above is actually luggage for 3 women staying for 9 nights in Italy during my Italy Retreat for Women to Live La Dolce Vita. This is not easy for most women, and it was not easy for me, but I have learned to do it and it is such freedom.  International size for a carry-on suitcase is 22″x14″x9″. You are also allowed  a personal item that must fit under your seat.  Be sure you have a strap that connects this to your carry on with wheels, so you can save your shoulders. Having the weight lower on the carry-on lightens your load moreso than placing your personal item on top of your carry-on.

You can bring a folded bag or duffel inside your carry on, for souvenirs on the return trip.  Or buy a small suitcase in Italy, and check it on the way home, but again, take heed if you will be on a train hauling your luggage.  There are no porters, and the steep flights of steps at the train stations (and often your hotel) are daunting, even if you are in shape. In addition, you have to lift your luggage above your head to store in overhead shelves on the trains and planes.

2.)  Traveling with Money:  Traveler’s checks are no longer used.  You cannot spend them!  Best to use an ATM card. I cover the screen (in case there’s a camera sneakily installed by a thief) when I punch in my password, while making sure no one is looking over my shoulder or across the street.  Tell your bank and credit card company that you will be traveling to Italy and any other country, and the dates, so you will not be blocked.

Padua, Italy

Some hotels and restaurants will not accept credit cards, and American Express, is not always accepted either.

3.)  Be flexible.  The food, beds, culture are different than what you are used to.  If you are in Italy, enjoy the food!  You don’t want to be looking for American, Mexican or Indian cuisine. One reason to travel is to experience other cultures.  Ingesting and enjoying their food is a perfect way to imbibe their culture and customs.

I see so many travelers lugging 70 pound suitcases that they literally cannot lift up the steps. Remember, in the train station you may have to traverse up and down 2-4 flights of stairs as you change trains, sometimes running to catch the next one!

(Since I teach a transformational workshop during my Italy Retreat For Women, I see the metaphor being the same for ‘emotional baggage’, stories we tell ourselves, anger or resentments, that keep us in turmoil.  Dissolve what is weighing us down. The steps to happiness and peace may be as simple as ‘traveling lighter’ by changing the beliefs or thoughts that cause the unhappiness!)

4.) Learn a few phrases in Italian.  Buy a phrase book as most of them are color coded by word category.  Italians love it if you try to communicate in their language.

Packing is a time to “think small”

 5.) Public bathrooms: Carry tissues so you can always have toilet paper because I have found that lacking in public bathrooms in Italy, and other countries.  Most of the time you need to pay to use the toilet, so have some coins with you at all times .50 and 1 euro.  Also, when you see a public toilet, use it then, even if you don’t think you need to, because they are not so easy to find.

6.)  Liquids:  The hotels provide lovely shampoos, conditioners and lotions, and you can purchase toothpaste when you arrive in Italy. I travel with powdered toothpaste. In addition, It’s easy to wash your clothes in the sink, using shampoo provided. Remember, all liquid containers for carry-on can only be 3 ounces or less, and must fit into a 1 quart-size baggie.

For other travel tip posts on this blog, please go here and here for previous words of travel wisdom.

During any travel experience, enjoy the adventure and be well prepared.  Do you have any tips you’d like to share?

Photo credit for cartoon