Earlier this year I was lucky enough to travel to Italy with my Bertolli family. We stayed in
the most incredible villa nestled amongst olive groves in the hills of Tuscany, just outside of
Lucca. I had always heard about Lucca as being a magical place to visit, as the city is
completely surrounded by walls, but had never managed to get there during my other trips
The famous walls surrounding Lucca were built between the mid-1600s and early 1800s.
However, the walls I saw were not the original walls of the city. The first round of walls were
actually built in the second century BCE by the Romans. Incredible right?! They were
originally used to make the city a fortress in case of foreign attack, seeing as Lucca was its
own republic until the late 1800’s. Funnily enough though, the walls were never once used
in defence of invasion, only in defence of flooding in the early 1800s, where the gates were
sealed, and the city was saved, remaining completely dry.
Lucca also has a rich history within the arts, being home to many famous artists and
composers throughout time - most notably I think is Puccini. You can see their influence,
and their legacy living on throughout the city with memorials and landmarks, and you can
even visit Puccini’s house if you like!
Lucca also has significance, particularly for our trip, because it’s home to Bertolli Olive Oil.
Francesco Bertolli founded Bertolli olive oil in 1865 when he and his wife, Caterina, opened
a small grocery store underneath their apartment. They sold only the best quality produce
including their home-pressed olive oil. Within ten years, Francesco’s fellow countrymen
were writing to him from America asking to send over some their famous olive oil. By 1890
Bertolli Olive Oil was being exported all over the world, including to Australia!
Whilst I was in Lucca, we visited the site where Bertolli’s first shop was (which is now a bank
from memory) and saw many iconic locations throughout the city that were significant to
the expansion of Francesco Bertolli’s olive oil empire. We were even honoured with a visit
and tour from Francesco and Caterina’s great-grandson, Giulio Bertolli who still lives in
Lucca today and was quite honestly, the most snappily-dressed guy we’d come across!
Having visited Italy many times, my favourite thing to see was Piazza dell’Anfiteatro in the
heart of Lucca because it was unlike any other piazza I’d ever seen. Considering that the
word ‘piazza’ means ‘square’ in Italian, I was surprised to enter the piazza and find that it
was in fact, oval, rather than square. Roberto, our tour guide told us that the piazza was
perfectly oval down to the last millimetre and completely symmetrical, which really is
spectacular to think the Luccesians built it without technology! The piazza is dotted with tall,
narrow, houses and apartments the entire way around, and was really spectacular to see
bustling with the morning flower market.
Once we were standing in the piazza, soaking up all the unusual and unique details, we were
told that this exact piazza was what inspired Bertolli’s new bottle design. The newly
designed olive oil bottles are oval shaped to the exact measurements of Piazza
dell’Anfiteatro, just on a smaller scale. I loved this subtle ‘nod’ to the brand’s birthplace,
tying old and new together within such an iconic product.
Lucca is also known as the city of churches and, if you’ve ever been to Europe, you’re
probably thinking ‘well every city is a city of churches’ and I agree! But Lucca is next level –
literally every corner is a church! Lots of sparkling gold tiles and white-washed stone are the
building materials of preference for these churches, making them quite unique to the city.
As Lucca is nestled within the rolling hillside of Tuscany, it’s home to many incredible wine
stores! We tasted the quintessential varieties to the region – Barolo and Chianti – and then
took a tour beneath the streets through the underground cellars of one of the oldest wine
shops in Lucca!
So, to celebrate my Summer dreaming, and nostalgia about Lucca, I’m sharing a simple,
fresh and very Tuscan pasta recipe from my Bertolli family today. It’s ready in a jiffy and if
you close your eyes, you can taste Italy in a mouthful!
This post is in partnership with Bertolli Olive Oil Australia