Chosen as this year’s best spring destination by BBC Travel for being unabashedly romantic, the city of Lucca produces an onslaught to the senses. Blue skies, lush valleys ablaze with wild flowers and shimmering orange-red rooftops put you in a feel-good mood from dawn to sunset.
Enjoy nature at its best and stay at the Albergo Villa Marta (albergo villamarta.it) three miles out of town from just £85 per room per night. This 19th century hunting lodge with pool and mountain views is set in gardens with magnolia, pine, cherry, olive and cypress trees, and has an excellent restaurant serving traditional Tuscan dishes.
Alternatively, dine in one of the town’s oldest restaurants, the Buca di Sant'Antonio (bucadisantantonio.it), which dates back to 1782 and boasts opera composer Giacomo Puccini, who was born in Lucca, and Ezra Pound as famous former diners. Fabulous dishes include pasta with hare sauce, lamb stewed with olives, and roast kid with artichokes.
Another Puccini haunt (he used to play the piano here) is the Caffè di Simo (caffedisimo.it) which serves wonderful pastries and cappuccino. Breakfast in style in an art nouveau setting for as little as £1.70. Then snack for lunch at the Forno a Vapore Amedeo Giusti (Via Santa Lucia 18/20) on homemade oven-hot focaccia loaded with tomatoes, onion, potato, mozzarella, artichoke or courgette. Prices from £1.50.
Book a cheap flight with Ryanair or easyJet to nearby Pisa (Lucca is just about half an hour's drive or train ride away) and start your gastronomic tour straight away!