Starting to ride … Bike Travel - Italy Travel Writing and Photos by Leigh Pate - April 20, 2014September 3, 2015 I expected to see somber celebrations of Easter and find the city shut tight as I wandered around Lucca late afternoon Easter Sunday. Instead I found the evening passeggiata in full swing and a huge antiques fair bustling in the square in front of the cathedral. Shops open. Restaurants and bars bustling. Everyone was out in the sunshine enjoying the end of a beautiful holiday Sunday. Lucca is just north of Pisa in Tuscany. It’s a beautiful city that still has it’s walls intact with the narrow streets and earth-tone colored buildings and towering Romanesque style marble churches and cathedral.. It feels very different than Rome … Lucca feels wealthier and is certainly cleaner. It’s decked out and fully equipped for tourists. It’s an easy place to be and will be an easy place to stay for two weeks as a base for cycling. I am renting a house with a group of people who cycle from Seattle. It’s a beautiful home inside the walls with marble floors and decoratively painted walls and an outdoor patio and marble kitchen sinks. I arrived in Lucca yesterday afternoon schlepping my bike and two stuffed panniers of gear and clothes. I’d avoided the schlepping in Rome by taking the train from the airport directly to Termini, Rome’s central train station, and checking my bag in baggage deposit. That was arguably the smartest 34 Euros I ever spent. Hauling that bike from Rome to Lucca – a four hour train ride with a transfer in Pisa through holiday travel crowds – made me decide that in the future I would try do any trips like this sans schlepping by packing the bike in a cardboard box, ditching the box at the airport when I land, and riding straight out of the airport fully loaded. I’m travelling with a new touring bike that is made for touring. It has SS couplers so the bike comes apart in the middle and can be packed in a case that is under the size and weight limits for oversized baggage on airlines. This translates into saving up to $175 per flight depending on what airline you fly. And it’s amazing how much you can stuff in a bike case, even a smaller one like this. But my case weighed in at over 50 pounds, so hauling it through train stations and loading it into trains is not easy. Especially with no elevator. The seven of us did our first ride today out of Lucca to the south through the hills. It was beautiful country – small single-lane roads lined by green and wildflowers. Terracotta-colored homes and outbuildings were draped in blooming Wisteria. The climbs were gentle but enough to make for a workout. A nice 20-mile ride to start a longer trip – a ride long enough to shake of the travel from your legs and figure out the adjustments that need to be made on the bike to get it dialed-in after re-assembly. I’m really looking forward to more days in the saddle. And just walking around and being here in Lucca. I will have a camera with me on future rides to share what is down the little lanes in Tuscany that you can see best by bike.