Regional produce from Tuscany’s farms and vineyards is served throughout the wine bars, cocktail hangouts and cool craft beer spots of Lucca, an underrated city break gem.
With its sunbaked Medieval piazzas and rich Etruscan history, Lucca is known among Italophiles as one of the country’s best city breaks. Tucked into Tuscany’s northerly stretch, between Pisa and Florence, it’s a top day trip for many exploring by car or bike. But why rush, when you can spend a couple of days pottering around its old town, spying the rust-coloured Torre Guinigi – curiously topped with a garden of trees – and eating at historic trattorias? When the afternoon heat hits, cool off under streetside parasols or in cavernous interiors at one of these quaint local bars.
Zingy cocktails and a huge selection of Italian wines are poured each night at this vintage-glam wine bar and shop, with a heavily beamed ceiling, glossy dark-wood booths and hanging baskets and barrels by the entrance. Wines by the glass are hugely affordable and owners Nicola and Rebecca are happy to make recommendations. You may want to spice things up with the rum-based Marley Fizz, blitzed with passionfruit and tonka beans, or the watermelon- and Campari-laced Mamacita.
In the north of the old town, surrounded by shops and gelaterias, this gem of a cocktail bar has a counter inlaid with faded vintage tiles, knobbly brick walls and shelf upon shelf of curious liqueurs, tonics and mixers. Sit outside in the low-lit courtyard with its wine-coloured parasols and join the locals in their aperitivo hour with an Aperol Spritz served alongside platters of tomato bruschetta, coppa ham, anchovies and pickled onions. By day, it’s just as welcoming for a sightseeing coffee break.
Cocktails in day-glo colours come in huge glassy goblets at this cafe-cum-cocktail bar, on a southern road outside of the old city walls. Bargain aperitivi and great music mean that twentysomething locals head here most nights to congregate on the pavement outside, belting out karaoke tunes or dancing to DJ sets when they’re on. Drinks are well priced and you’ll certainly meet the locals, but it could be a little up-tempo for some.
The tangerine walls of this down-to-earth craft beer specialist are plastered with banknotes from all over the world. Just as colourful are the dozens of diverse labels on their bottles of ale, IPA and stout, with more from Italy and beyond available on tap. Brewing enthusiasts loiter outside or perch on the kerb with pints: this is a stop on your bar crawl rather than a comfy all-nighter, between asking the youthful staffers for their recommendations for the night.
It’s worth a peek into this elegant tearoom for its glimmering art deco design, whether you’re staying or not. A sage-coloured bar is trimmed with gold and backed with mirrors; nibbles of nuts and olives are served in vintage glass ice-cream bowls and marbled tables sit between antique cake cabinets and gleaming silver tea urns. Drop-in around 6pm for aperitivi and snacks in a glamorous, old-school setting, snaffling a few of the dainty cakes and tarts from the counter if you have room.
A swish, modern cocktail bar with a prime location in the walled old town, theatrical Franklin’33 has scarlet curtains at the entrance, tattooed barmen practising tricks with shakers and bottles and a 1930s aesthetic. Above the wooden bar, a vintage-look sign proclaims Prohibition ends at last! while chandeliers and long pendant lamps let out a cosy glow. Try a retro negroni or sazerac to get into the throwback mood.
Bicycles hang from minimalist metal racks at this hip wine bar near the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, clashing artfully with the time-worn leather sofas and graffiti-style decor. Bargain by-the-glass prices mean you can afford to try several new wines, usually served with tasty bruschetta by young and friendly staff. It’s small, with drinkers spilling out onto the pavement, but this is a taste of real after-work life in Lucca.
To explore more of Italy, discover the best luxury hotels on the Amalfi Coast, or the best hotels in Positano. These are bookable with Culture Trip. During your stay, explore attractions and things to do in Naples, and visit the coolest neighbourhoods in the city. Make sure to also visit at least one of the best bars in Lampedusa.
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