My name is Na and I am from Nanjing, China. I moved to Europe in August 2019 for my Masters in Spain, then to Lucca, Italy in November 2020 (during the second wave of the pandemic) for a PhD. in business economics. Unlike many Tuscany aficionados who have long dreamed of living in a pretty Tuscan town, moving to Lucca was absolutely not planned for me. My initial plan after my master’s degree was to return to China and start a consulting career. However, we all know that the pandemic hit and my flight home was cancelled. Instead of desperately buying overpriced plane tickets, I decided to go with the flow and see what was in store for me in Europe. Then, the paid doctorate. post came to my knowledge. I always hoped to do a doctorate. on a topic that really interests me. So I submitted my research proposal on the study of the effect of technology on well-being at work and I was finally accepted. I then started my bittersweet doctorate. trip to Lucca.
Lucca from the tourist point of view:
Lucca is a Tuscan town located between Pisa and Florence (1h30 by train to Florence and 20 minutes by train to Pisa). Due to its intact Renaissance city walls and exceptionally well-preserved historic center, Lucca is considered one of Italy’s “Città d’arte” (cities of art). It’s a great choice as it’s less touristy than some other Tuscan towns while still being vibrant and cultural, especially in the height of summer. There are many museums, attractions and outdoor activities, but this city is also ideal for bike rides and walks. For this reason, Lucca has been considered the jewel of Tuscany in the eyes of so many people.
Daily life in Lucca:
What you can do every day:
What I love most about Lucca is wandering aimlessly through the historic center and walking around the city walls. I love the medieval architecture in the historic center as it feels like you can never learn enough about the city as there are so many years of history to catch up on. On the walls you have stunning views of the Tuscan mountains and can find several great spots to watch the sunset, have a picnic or work out in nature. Lucca is also home to many museums, exhibitions and festivals throughout the year, including Europe’s largest comic book festival (Lucca comics) which takes place every year at the end of October.
Lucca is a small town where you can walk anywhere in 25 minutes. Cycling is also quite common and highly recommended. Some buses cross the city and connect the historic center to the outskirts, but I don’t use them much because I walk or cycle around Lucca. To get to the nearby towns and to the seaside, the train is the most used means of transport. There are frequent trains to Pisa and Florence. From there it is very easy to travel to Italy. The nearest beach (Viareggio) is also only 20 minutes away by train. In general, the trains are quite reliable (with occasional delays) and cheap. For mountain lovers you will need a car, as there are no trains to take you to the hiking spots, and the buses are very unreliable. In terms of taxis, there are plenty near the train station, but there is no company like Uber in Lucca.
Cost of life:
Although safe and affluent, the cost of living in Lucca is quite high compared to neighboring towns of the same size, or even Pisa. Lucca is one of the most expensive places in Italy. For example, a primo (first course, usually pasta) at the restaurant costs on average 13 euros. For a small, non-world famous town like Lucca, it’s quite expensive. That being said, there is a noticeable difference between the cost of living inside and outside the wall. You can save quite a bit of money by just walking through walls.
There are two public hospitals in Lucca, both outside the wall. One is just outside the wall, the other 2-3 km from the wall. Public health care is free or at most costs very little, as long as you are subscribed to the national health system, but it takes time. For example, I had to wait four months to get an appointment to have my wisdom tooth extracted, but in total I paid 35 euros. As my operation was not urgent and I did not suffer while waiting, I am not really complaining. But for emergencies, you have to consider private medicine (for the one I consulted, it was 450 euros for the same operation, but it could be done in a week).
Meet people and make friends:
Italians are world famous for being extremely welcoming and helpful towards foreigners. However, meeting the inhabitants of Lucca is not so easy. It’s common to meet people on the street or in bars – locals just come to talk to you and get to know you, even if you don’t seem to speak Italian perfectly. But the regions of Italy are so different – unfortunately in Lucca this is not the case. In fact, locals from Lucchese are known to be closed-minded and conservative (of course, that’s a generalization. It all depends on who you talk to, there are also some very friendly local people). Unfortunately, there is some discrimination against non-Italians. Since arriving in Lucca during the pandemic, I definitely felt a strong hostility towards me as an Asian. My friend from California also got yelled at in the street. But that was only during the pandemic. Fortunately, we don’t have such experiences after reopening.
It can be very frustrating when it comes to finding a job in Italy. And many people struggle to get a work visa or find a decent, legal work contract with benefits. I was lucky to find this call for a Ph.D. during the pandemic by pure chance. Thanks to my doctorate. institution, I received a decent salary, free food, accommodation and bureaucratic support from the administration office from visa application to residence permit renewal.
I have attached a link to my Ph.D. institution and the doctorate. programs they offer, which is really a great opportunity to relocate to Italy and the charming city of Lucca. My Ph.D. School (IMT Lucca) is a public research institution and part of the Italian graduate school system. If you are interested in my Ph.D. topic (which I think is very relevant for expats), or find my post useful, I would be eternally grateful if you could participate in my survey!
For any questions related to this position, you can contact me via [email protected].
IMT Lucca: Scuola IMT Alti Studi Lucca
doctoral program: Doctoral programs
Survey link: https://imtllucca.fra1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_0wGEPJCxLzYSIHs