Fancy a little wine tasting after strolling through the narrow streets of lovely Lucca – or taking a loftier turn atop those uniquely intact city walls? No problem. Right on a corner of the main drag, Via Fillungo, is one of the best-stocked wine bars in the area, curiously named Vinarkia della Pavona. Vinarkia has been around for a long time and that’s still apparent in the restrained woody décor, but it’s livened up noticeably over the last couple of years in the hands of Alex Petrovics, who calls it his vineria atipica. Less refined than the historic enoteca I remember, nowadays it caters for a younger crowd and can get rowdy in the evenings: there are live music events most weekends and generous buffet aperitivo hours almost daily.
The sweeping wine list is all-Italian with a natural emphasis on the Tuscans. A good number of labels are available by the glass, and there’s no need to break the bank when prices start at €3. Keeping the wine flowing are relatively inexpensive fixed-price menus or an à la carte. If you’re tasting serious reds, though, you couldn’t go wrong with a platter of local cheeses and cured meats, or maybe a traditional Lucchese thick soup with nutty farro. It’s a small place, but through the main room with the serving counter and out at the back is a secret garden, or what passes for one: an engaging courtyard, heated when need be, under a bower of citrus trees.