I’ve been pretty happy with shopping in Lucca, Italy. If I want certain vegetables, I go to the many vegetable stands. If I want a cut of meat, I go to the many butchers. If I need medicine, I go to the many pharmacies. If I need shampoo, I can get that at the local grocery store or store called Ipersoap. However, I have had the hardest time finding affordable housewares like bedding, furniture, cookware, etc. There isn’t a local equivalent to Target or Walmart.

When I first moved here I knew there was an IKEA in Florence, but that always seemed like a long distance (an hour and twenty minutes each way) to go for a few items. However, in the last few months, IKEA has opened a store in Pisa, which is only 30 minutes from Lucca. Last weekend was really nice, so my husband and I decided to finally go to IKEA.

The train is less than 30 minutes from Lucca to Pisa. Across the street from the train station is a free ten-minute shuttle to IKEA that runs every 30 minutes. They have a visible schedule online. The IKEA in Pisa is extremely large, so it is easy to spend a full day there. If you don’t have a full day to spend there, carry a specific list and maybe skip getting Swedish meatballs at the very crowded cafeteria unless you want to experience the designated smoking room. I’ve been to IKEA stores in the US and none of them have been so clean and nice. The bathrooms are amazing. I don’t have a child, but if I did I would love the fact that the changing table had a mobile above it in the bathroom. IKEA also has storage lockers so you can lock up some of your belongings you don’t want to carry around with you. I was just really impressed with all of the conveniences they provided to make you enjoy your shopping trip.

My only complaint about this store is a complaint I have had with other IKEA stores. Once you pass a section of the store, it is hard to go back to it. There is a certain flow to the store. We made the mistake of thinking we could go back to the cafeteria after shopping and before paying for our purchases. We wanted to make last minute decisions on what we had collected over some meatballs. We had to walk all the way back through the store to go to the cafeteria.

The check-out process was smooth. We were able to skip long lines by going to one of the do-it-yourself lines as long as we paid with credit card. Then we hopped on the free shuttle back to the train station. All the bus driver asked for was to see our receipt so make sure you have that handy.

Everything about this trip was smooth and painless, except that we bought too much stuff and then had to carry it home from the train station.


ADVENTURES IN ITALY 2014 (January-March)



My husband and I spent the New Year in Pisa. He picked a hotel that was right next to the Duomo. The best part of this hotel was its rooftop terrace. We had the best views of the Duomo at sunset and came back out at midnight to watch the fireworks that brought in the New Year. It was amazing!


Venice at Night

My husband and I decided to spend Valentine’s Day in one of the most romantic cities incostume Italy….Venice. It just so happens that Valentine’s Day weekend also is the beginning of the famous Venetian Carnivale. Venice is always pretty crowded, but you could feel an air of excitement at the beginning of Carnivale. Late in the day, people started promenading in their elaborate costumes. I heard from a local that some individuals spend all year preparing their costumes for Carnivale. Every costume we saw was amazing with a focus on dramatic headpieces covered in lace and sequence.



Viareggio Carnivale

Viareggio also does a big celebration for Carnivale. We had heard about the giant parades, so we decided to check it out while we had a friend visiting. This parade had the most elaborate floats I had ever seen in my life (one such float is pictured here). Plus, I have never in my life had so much fun throwing confetti.


Overview of Florence

Florence is still my favorite place to visit in Italy. Last year I explored the Duomo, the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, & Santa Croce. So far this year, I have also explored two additional museums: the Uffizi Galleria (home of many amazing Botticeli paintings including Venus di Milo) and the Galleria dell’Accademia (home of the original David statue by Michelangelo). I have also hiked up to the Piazzale Michelangelo, which displays the best views of Florence (pictured above). You can read more about things we do in Florence on the blog post America Day.



Vinci, as you can tell by the name, is the town of Leonardo DaVinci’s birth. It is a very small town in the heart of Chianti land. There you see a large statue of DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man, a library dedicated to his studies and work, and the chapel where he was baptized. Nearby are many small boutique wineries that provide you with delicious Chianti wines and fresh olive oil.


Villa T

Outside the center of Lucca, and not within walking distance, is the Villa Torrigiani. The grounds are extensive and manicured in the English garden style. While the family still occupies the upper floors of the villa, they allow visitors to tour the ground floor.


Devil's Bridge

On our drive to visit Barga (just outside Lucca), we stopped to walk over Ponte del Diavolo (Devil’s Bridge) in Borgo a Mozzano on the Serchio River.



This tiny town is just a 30-minute drive from Lucca. You park as soon as you arrive in Barga. Inside the city center the streets are more like tiny alleyways that would not accommodate most vehicles. All houses are so compact. The Duomo in Barga is worth the climb if for no other reason than the extensive views of the mountains just to the north of Barga.