The Luminara, Candle lighting Procession, in Lucca Italy


Lucca, Italy is our first stop during our 2013 Italy Retreat for Women. If you are unable to view this video of some of the women talking about Lucca and the Italy Retreat in 2012, please click here.

During this 5th Annual Italy Retreat for Women in 2013,  I have scheduled our adventure to include the Luminara in Lucca. For me, my 2013 Retreat in Lucca is unique because our time there coincides with the holy procession, The Luminara di Santa Croce, that winds through Lucca on Friday evening, September 13, (and every September 13, no matter what day it falls on ).

It is believed that this ritual, in different forms, dates back to 800 BC. I don’t know about you, but for me, there’s just something awesome about following an ancient ceremony that began 2800 years ago.

Thousands of candles shine brightly all around the windows of the buildings located throughout Lucca as the Lucchese, carrying candles,  many dressed in their Medieval costumes parade from San Frediano church through piazzas to San Martino church. Tourists and pilgrims from around the world fill the streets to marvel at  the long procession that is so long that by the time the beginning of the procession is entering San Martino, the group in back is still within San Frediano Church.

The festival called Luminara di Santa Croce is a celebration of “il Volto Santo,” a wooden sculpture of Christ. Legend says that this cross was made by Nicodemus, one of Jesus’ followers, after the Crucifixion.

This is only one of the magical aspects of Lucca. Two of the most delicious morsels about Lucca (there are many) is the feeling of ‘old Italy,’ because we are safely able to stroll throughout the walled city, enjoying the everyday activities of Lucca, without racing vespas and constant flow of cars to compete with. Because Lucca has been lived in for over two thousand years, and in all the wars and takeovers, has never been destroyed, the old world presence is palpable.

My second favorite part for me is that Lucca is known as a city of music. Even during the Luminara, you will hear singing, followed by a choir in Church as seen on this VIDEO In addition, every night from March 31-October 31, at the Church of San Giovanni, Puccini and Mozart Concerts take place from 7:00pm to 8:00pm. [Due to restorations of the Church, lasting From July 6 to November 2013, the concerts will take place in the Oratorio di San Giuseppe al Museo della Catedrale di Lucca, just 300 feet from the Church of San Giovanni.]

The schedule is reduced from November 1 through March 30, as concerts take place only on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Festas and celebrations are an important aspect of Italian life all over Italy. May your travels to Italy include participating in many of them!

What are your favorite festivals in Italy?

Photo of candle: <a href=’’>smit / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Lucca, Part I

The green wall around Lucca Italy, is actually used as a park for walking, biking, and sitting under the trees

The fabulous wall of Lucca is enjoyed by locals and tourists

Standing 40 feet high and 60 feet wide, and 3 miles around the city, it was originally built to protect but today has become a lovely park. You can walk, jog, run, bike, and even rollerskate. There are bicycle rental shops located in many places within the walled city.  I rode my bicycle  several times around the wall on a warm sunny September afternoon. It took about 20 minutes each time around.  You can see views of gardens on patios, the church towers, and the city streets from on high. There are many paths, not stairs, that lead you to the top of the wall. Actually, once you’re on top, you don’t feel like you’re even on a wall, because it is so wide.

Lenora bicycling on the wall of Lucca


Biking on top of the 40 foot high wall surrounding Lucca.

Biking on top of the 40 foot high wall surrounding Lucca.

For my 4th Annual Italy Retreat for Women to live La Dolce Vita, we will visit the Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera for 6 nights and then Lucca in Northern Tuscany, for three nights.

Lucca was founded in 180 B.C. as a Roman colony but the buildings are a mix of Renaissance and Medieval. What I notice is that there is a feeling of lightness in Lucca and some say it may be due to the fact that Lucca was ruled by women at different times.  In the twelfth century, the Longobard Matilda, then two ladies who focused on public works and cultivation of the arts.  Maria Anna Elisa Bacciocchi, sister of Napoleon Bonaparte, was one of the female rulers. It is surrounded by mountains in the distance and a 30 minute drive to Via Reggio, on the Ligurian/Mediterranean shore.

Lucca home and garden from the wall

I think many visitors to Italy agree, that one of the special tourist attractions, is people watching. For me it exemplifies la dolce fa niente, the sweetness of doing nothing.  It’s easy here in Lucca to sit at the many piazze (town squares) to eat a meal or enjoy a gelato, and watch women pushing elaborate baby carriages, senior citizens on bikes, playing cards and teens playing tag, all in an almost synchronised dance.

The essence of authentic Italian shopping, eating, church viewing (40) and medieval towers, are all wrapped in a small beautiful package called Lucca. I think you’ll love it.

Have you been to Lucca? What do you like about it?

Photo Credit of aerial view:
Other photos from Lenora’s trip to Lucca
Source of wall photo: