Travel Tip for Lucca, Italy

There is a small but lovely immigration museum in Lucca, that was fascinating to visit, especially since all four of my grandparents were immigrants from Italy. The Paolo Cresci Foundation for the History of Italian Emigration museum is located on Via Vittoria Emmanuele in Palazzo Ducale.

As I struggle with learning to speak the Italian language, I can only imagine how hard it was for them to take the stressful journey to America and other foreign countries without knowing how to speak another language.

This picture below is from the Immigration Museum and shows a cross section of the kind of ships they traveled on. My husband is pointing to the area of bunk beds right above the cargo area of the ship. The men were separated from their wives and children, the ocean created rough travel resulting in many people getting seasick for most of the journey. (If you would like to see a documentary of their journey and entry into the US in the early 1900’s, watch this movie on Netflix called The Golden Door.

Cross section of the ships taken to America and other ports

Cross section of the ships taken to America and other ports

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s many Italians immigrated to America in search of “The American Dream”.  Between 1880 and 1920 almost 4 million people had come to America from Italy.  There were many Italians who worked for awhile in America and then returned to Italy with enough money to buy land.

Poverty and political hardship were the main reasons for immigrating. For 80% of Italians, agriculture was their livelihood. Mostly the farmers lived in harsh conditions, in one-room houses with no plumbing. They worked in a feudal system where a wealthy landowner allowed them to live on his land, farm it, and receive some of the crops in return for his work. They were basically starving.

This is a small museum in Lucca, but there are wonderful photos, videos, and information in an easy-to-view set up. As a descendent of Italian immigrants, I am very grateful for the museum and for the courage of my grandparents to take the risk of leaving their homeland and other family behind, to forge a brighter future for them and all their descendants, such as  me!

And now I return to Italy every year to learn more about their mother country, one I am in awe of, having become an Italian citizen myself, coming full circle.


My Top 43 Books & Movies about Italy

Italy bookshelves

I sent this list of books and movies about Italy to the group of women joining me in September on my Italy Retreat For Women, so I thought you might be interested also. If you have time, have some fun and read a few books about Italy, then watch Italian movies! This list, of course, is not complete, but it is a taste of la dolce vita, the sweet life. I admit, some of the movies are not the best, but I love the Italian scenery, so I ignore the content!

1.) Enchanted April (Movie and Book)  in English.  Four British women leave cold wet England for a month in an Italian Villa not too far from the Cinque Terre, in Portofino.

2.) Under The Tuscan Sun (Movie AND memoir) in English.

3.) Cinema Paradiso  (Classic Italian Movie with English subtitles)

4.) Bread and Tulips, “Panne e Tulipane” (In Italian with English subtitles)

5.) Documentary: Visions of Italy. 2 CD set. ‘The grand tour from a stunning aerial view’ is the subtitle. As seen on Public Television. (300 minutes total, but any time spent watching is glorious). Truly breathtaking as you fly above Italy from the north to the south including Sicily, all the while a woman with a sultry voice narrates.

6.) Eat, Pray, Love.  Not the greatest movie, but some delightful scenes in Italy.

7.) Trip to Italy:  with comedians, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. (I actually did not like this movie, but loved the breathtaking landscapes of Italy, and some of the Cinque Terre where we visit during my Italy Retreat For Women).

8.) Romantic Italian Movies: 10 most romantic movies filmed in italy: 

9.) Tea With Mussolini

10.) The following are Italian movies spoken in the Italian language. Some are better than others, and some are not so great, but helpful if you’d like to listen to Italian. All can be streamed from Netflix:
The Last Kiss
I am love
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
The Son’s Room
We have a Pope
Marriage Italian Style
*Benvenuti al Sud     Italian with English Subtitles.(Welcome to the South) (I love this but you may just be able to watch on youtube in different segments).


1.)  The HIlls of Tuscany by Ferenc Maté.  A wonderful memoir. Read this before his book, A Vineyard in Tuscany
2.)  Everyday Tuscany by Frances Mayes (20 years after her move to Cortona)
3.)  Extra Virgin (trilogy)    Anne Hawes
4.) Books by Timothy Holmes (he’s written 5) The Achille Peroni Mystery Series (I have NOT read these but hear they’re good)
5.)  A Thousand Days in Tuscany. A Thousand Days in Venice, and others  by Marlena de Blasi.
6.) My Italian Neighbors and others by Tim Parks
7.) The Reluctant Tuscan by Phil Doran.  Humourous
8.) Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. Novel takes place near Cinque Terre. Photo on front cover is one of the villages of the Cinque Terre. (Interesting but not great).
9.)  A Vineyard in Tuscany, A Wine Lover’s Dream by Ferenc Maté (love this)
10.) Too Much Tuscan Sun, Confessions of a Chianti Tour Guide by Dario Castagno. (humorous)
11.) La Bella Lingua by Dianne Hales. Wonderful history of the Italian language, and delightful stories).
12.) As The Romans Do by Alan Epstein
13.) Italy For The Gourmet Traveler by Fred Plotkin
14.) Italy Travel Books:  Fodor or Eyewitness
15.) Rick Steves’ Italy. Travel book with interesting facts of many cities in Italy. He has videos available  from all over Italy, including Cinque Terre. Available at many libraries.

So there you have it! As I mentioned, there are just so many wonderful books, but this will get you started for some fun summertime reading. Buon divertimento! Enjoy!

What are some of your favorite books and movies of Italy!?

My Top 4 Restaurants in Lucca, Italy


Spaghetti with eggplant, tomatoes, and  fresh basil at Cantine Bernadini, Lucca, ITALY

During my Italy Retreats for Women, I choose restaurants that offer traditional Italian dishes of pastas, seafood and meats, but also healthy choices that include vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free meals to satisfy the needs of all the women in my group. In addition, as a self-subscribed foodie, I appreciate simple, creative, fresh and delicious choices that are bursting with flavors.

There are many excellent restaurants, trattorias, osterias and cafes in Lucca, but these are four of my favorites based on my own criteria. All restaurants in Italy charge a cover charge (coperto) which ranges from 1 to 3 euros for each person. This is not a tip, and tips are not expected as they are in the US. But it’s a nice gesture!

 1. Cantine Bernardini Restaurant.  Proprietor Allesandro offers gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian choices clearly marked on his menus, in addition to traditional meats and seafood. (Look for my video Interview in upcoming posts.)
Cantine Bernardini Ristorante is proof that it’s important to stroll into the back streets of Italy. There is a small sign in front of the grand Bernadini Palazzo, but you have to be looking for it to find it. Then walk through the building (palazzo) to the back. Here you will find outdoor tables, or you can often go downstairs into the vaulted red-bricked cantina. The palazzo (building) itself is huge located in the San Bernardini Piazza (square).
I asked Allesandro What inspired him to have more vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free (senza glutine) choices. He replied that he didn’t want customers to feel that they had to ask for special food. This way it’s obvious because it’s listed on the menu, and in English. He’s also listed in Germany’s Gluten-Free Restaurant Guide for Italy.
One dish that stands out, though there are many, is the cooked melanzane, zucchini, pomodori, formaggio (eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, cheese).  It’s so creatively cooked and folded over the top like a gift package.
He usually has fresh cooked greens available such as chard or spinach. The friendly service is top-notch too and this is moderately priced.
2. Osteria San Giorgio Restaurant on Via San Giorgio is partly an outside patio, with tables also inside on a quiet street a few minute walk from Via Filungo, one of the main streets in Lucca.  They serve traditional Lucchese plates but often with a creative twist  such as saffron pasta or thin slices of zucchini wrapped around goat cheese, with basil and olive oil drizzle. Parts of the menu change each year I return, so this appetizer may not be on the menu again. Try their risotto with orange, fennel, celery root, and garlic.
Moderately priced menu and friendly service.

3. Ristorante Antico Caffe delle Mura is a lovely restaurant on top of the Renaissance Wall (le mura) that surrounds the town of Lucca.  I’ve eaten outside three times under the trees or white canopy overlooking the hillside in the distance. Again, fresh simple plates with an elegant touch, and gourmet tastes, but reasonably priced. It’s fun to stop here after a bike ride around the wall that surrounds Lucca.

4. Ristorante Giglio. On the expensive side, with linen table cloths both inside and outside, in a frescoed 18th-century Palazzo Arnolfini. Meals are refined with a creative flair. It’s located next to Piazza Napoleone.  My husband is convinced that it’s the best pasta he’s ever eaten, (I migliore ha mai mangiata)– Tagliette topped with shaved white truffles. For dessert, try the beet dessert or Lucchese buccellato (sweetbread) filled with ice cream and berries. Dine outside and people watch.


Tagliette topped with shaved white truffles.


View from Giglio Ristorante

View from Giglio Ristorante