I’ve dreamt of an Italian address for a decade. My husband Gregg warned me before our first trip in 2005 that Italy would surpass my wildest dreams. When I stepped off of our flight it was love at first sight. Italy completely enraptured my mind, body, spirit, and soul. Since that awe-inspiring day we have returned four times, this summer being the latest and longest of vacations. Spencer and I spent 65 life-changing days in “Il bel paese” (The beautiful country) this June, July and August. Not only did we come away with a new Italian address, but new life-long friends and an even deeper appreciation for the “La Dolce Vita”.
Taking a chance on Tuscany
Bagni di Lucca captured my heart before I took one step on its soil. Gregg and I discussed how we needed to live somewhere in central Italy to make his commute to work overseas easier on his travel schedule. Loving to write and share stories of Italy, I Googled bloggers in the area and came upon Debra from Bella Bagni di Lucca. Her photos of the area left me wanting to see Bagni di Lucca in person. After sharing Debra’s blog with Gregg he told me to go ahead and purchase airline tickets for myself and Spencer and spend the summer searching for properties to rent long term. On my second day in Italy Debra messaged me and we met for drinks in the next village, Ponte a Serraglio. She introduced me to several locals and that night sealed my future. I returned to my hotel room, Skyped Gregg and expressed my deep desire to call the Bagni di Lucca region our home. He sensed my excitement and hoped his own summer work schedule would allow time for a visit in person. Luckily, he managed to meet Spencer and I for six glorious days. By the time Gregg arrived I had already spent more than a month in Bagni di Lucca, made life long friends, and secured our future home. On Gregg’s first night, Ponte a Serraglio shut down the street in front of Bar Italia so a friend could DJ, Gregg and my friend Sarah sang the karaoke version of “Hotel California” during dinner and we watched as Spencer played with several local children. Upon returning to our hotel Gregg heaped insane amounts of praise my way! “You hit it out of the park” he kept repeating! To those who don’t know anything about American baseball, I scored a homerun, not only a homerun according to Gregg, but a grand slam game winning score. Obviously he now shares my love of Bagni di Lucca and can’t wait to set down permanent residence.
Family Friendly Activities
Once Spencer and I arrived in Bagni di Lucca I made it a top priority to find family friendly activities. I wanted him to feel at home and look forward to our upcoming move to Italy. While walking through the park one beautiful afternoon we met an English couple that now live in Bagni di Lucca. While Spencer endured countless kisses from their pet dog they asked if we had visited the pool yet. It had just opened for the season and the couple joked I would never want to leave Italy after seeing the views it offered. The next day Spencer and I walked up the hill behind our apartment, through a gate past a building that once served as Napoleon’s sister’s former horse stables and up a windy, bamboo-lined trail to the pool. Upon walking out of the changing room our jaws dropped. The views were beyond gorgeous, 360 degrees of mountain terrain, church bell towers and lovely homes dotted the landscape. This is a must see if you travel to Bagni di Lucca. Price of admission is only 7 Euro for adults and 3 euro for children. Bathing caps are mandatory, and you can buy one on site. The complex consists of three pools, the main pool, a children’s pool and the dive pool. Plus, there is a café with coffee, snacks, lunch items and frozen treats. When Gregg arrived in late July temperatures hovered near 100 degrees Fahrenheit and we desperately needed to cool off. Spencer and I took Gregg for a day at the pool and his inner child made a big splash! (Head first)
Spencer donned a helmet for his second favorite activity. During a Red Cross event, local company Lucca Quad offered rides to children for five euro. After five minutes of sheer bliss, Spencer was given a “driver’s license”. Lucca Quad operates year round and also offers combination adventures such as paintballing or just relaxing in the Thermal Baths.
Spencer and I also traveled to Lucca several times to ride bicycles on the wall. The 2 1/2 mile medieval wall encircles Lucca and offers bicyclists and walkers incredible views of inside and outside of the city. A one hour bike rental is three euro.
Bagni di Lucca also offers horseback riding and the newly opened canyon park. If you can’t figure out how to entertain the kids, just walk into any local café or restaurant. Fliers promoting kids’ clubs such as soccer, tennis and swimming are always on the counter.
Easy on the Wallet
I already knew that the falling dollar against the euro would benefit my bank account this vacation, but nothing prepared me for Bagni di Lucca’s price tags. After checking in to our first hotel Spencer and I made a beeline for the first gelato shop. I ordered my favorite nocciola (hazelnut) gelato and Spencer, chocolate. The total bill for two one scoop cups, only 2 euro. I instinctively reminded the gentleman behind the counter that I had two cups. He just laughed and pointed to the price chart. One euro for gelato? I have found my heaven on earth! But wait, there’s more! Many local restaurants offer the “workman’s lunch”, a three course meal that includes a quarter liter of wine and a bottle of water for only eleven euro. Spencer and I would share the meal and always leave with full bellies. Food prices in restaurants and area grocery stores are much lower than I’m used to in the States, another bonus for moving to Bagni di Lucca! My morning cappuccino only cost 1.10 euro and I didn’t even break two euro with a croissant.
When Gregg surprised me with a spa appointment my first thought was to scold him for spending too much money on me. However, he reminded me that with our hotel discount of 15% my spa package, that included a mud wrap, 30-minute relaxation session in a jet bath and 30-minute massage, only came to around 80 euro. And for wine lovers, how does two euro sound for a glass of local vino? Yes, two euro for wine or prosecco and that includes complimentary appetizers. No wonder bars are packed each night; Italy’s aperitivo time is more than just a happy hour.
Great Launching Point
One look at a map and it’s easy to see why Bagni di Lucca is a great launching point for a day trip, long weekend, or extended holiday. Located in Northern Tuscany, Bagni di Lucca offers bus and train service to Lucca, Florence and the countless villages nearby. Spencer and I spent two days in Florence after taking a direct bus from Lucca, a journey of only an hour. From Florence you can hop on a high-speed train to any of Italy’s larger cities such as Rome, Milan or Naples.
One of Gregg’s favorite seaside towns, Portofino, can be reached by car in less than two hours. The possibilities are endless and we look forward to seeing all that Italy has to offer.
Preparing for Our Future
Next year Gregg, Spencer, and I will call Italy home. Until that time we will be busy making preparations for our future. Moving to Italy comes with lots of paperwork, grunt work, and a trip to our Italian Embassy just for starters. We look forward to this life-changing journey and I’ll be blogging every step of the way.