You pronounce it 'Vanda' in Italian (we don't have a "w" in our alphabet). This exotic-sounding name was a sort of cross to bear as a child, when you consider that I was born and bred in the hills of Lucca where generations of Martinellis (my family name) were small but proud landowners.
This means I have an inborn knowledge of the places, the traditions, and the people of Tuscany -besides a solid cultural background and a long experience of travelling to other regions and countries. Seeing the world taught me to be more open-minded, to respect differences, and to appreciate Lucca for its own qualities even more.
So when I first heard about TBL, I thought: I'm the right person for the job. I doubt in fact that you'll be able to find someone more "local" that me to show you around Lucca.
After studying Politics at Pisa University, I became the export director of a local company, organizing sales and exhibitions everywhere. Later on I worked in the same position for another two larger companies until 1996.
By the age of 40 I was sick and tired of suits and briefcases and decided that I wanted a change of life.
It took a while to discover what I really wanted to do. Eventually this idea of becoming a tour guide began to dawn on me.
Becoming a licensed guide was a very exciting time of my life, learning to put a label to what I already knew by experience. The more I learned about my hometown's remarkable past, the more I appreciated what Lucca had been able to achieve and to preserve for the benefit of future generations.
Since then I've been a passionate tour guide, nowadays my full time occupation. Never say never, but I doubt I would change this job for anything else.
I cater to individuals and preferably small groups of up to 12 people, i. e. families or parties of friends who want to share a private tour with the people they know. The tours listed in the section "Wanda's Tours" are just an example of what I can organize for you. Tours can be customized if you give me the suggestions of what you would like to see, based on your special interests.
For instance, I love classical music. You are probably aware that the world-famous Giacomo Puccini and a number of other good musicians were born in Lucca. So you could have an all-Puccini tour, if you wish, including the visit to his ancestors' home in the hills and to the smallest theatre in the world that you can find in the Guinness Book of Records!
Are you a gourmet? Lucca produces some very good wines and it has also been known since ancient times for the quality of its olive oil. As mentioned above, I'm a country girl. We still have some land and over 100 olive trees. I know everything about harvesting (you can find me at the top of a 5-meter step ladder hand-picking olives from November onwards) and cold-pressing. Our wine was always miserable, unfortunately, but I can organize a wine tasting in one of the many farms and even an olive oil tasting, if you are open to unusual experiences.
Have you a passion for flowers and beautiful gardens? Then you should visit Lucca's villas. There are over 300 historical houses in our hills and they have some very nice gardens indeed. I could arrange a tour around one or two of these for those interested.
Lucca has admittedly become more and more popular among international travellers in the last few years but whatever you choose, even the standard half-day tour, I'll make sure it's an exclusive experience for you.
p. s. kids are welcome
A Recent Review of this guide
Wanda gives a great tour of the art, architecture, and soul of Lucca. She can explain all the historical nuances of this charming Tuscan town and point out the best gelato places. We did not have time in our three hour tour to do villas, gardens, olive oil or wine which we will do next time.
*licensed tour guide in Lucca and its territory since 1996
*PhD in Politics from Pisa University
*private music studies
I do not have a commercial driver's licence, so I cannot drive during tours. Lucca is totally flat, so we normally walk or rent a bike when in town, but we can have a professional driver to take us around to the different destinations