Lucca sets you back in time by a couple of centuries, making you believe that you’ve stepped into a time machine. This providentially well-preserved little city by the River Serchio in Tuscany is the stuff that historical fantasies are made of. Strolling down the city’s historic central plaza with its churches, imposing cathedral and old palace turned art museum is a special treat, thanks to the Renaissance period wall that surrounds it all. Walking down its charming cobbled streets, gorgeous piazzas and shady tree-lined avenues, with strains from Puccini’s Tosca and La Bohème playing in our heads, one is easily transported to another time and place. Incidentally, this is the great Italian maestro’s birthplace and his historic family residence, the Casa di Puccini, is now a museum. A visit to any of its historic eateries with their laidback air, delicious local wines and regional dishes is another must-try experience when in lovely Lucca.