city of Lucca guide and why is worth visiting
,

10 Irresistible Reasons To Take A Trip To The Tuscan City of Lucca + Unforgettable Things To Do

By

|

Nestled in the lush Serchio River valley, the historic city of Lucca has been an important hub of culture and commerce since its founding as a Roman colony. It even served as the capital of the former Gran Duchy of Tuscany.

Though rivaling nearby Pisa in the past, today visitors explore the pedestrian streets of Lucca to uncover its charming history and culture. In the heart of the city on Via Fillungo, cafés and shops now line the medieval buildings.

This article will highlight 10 compelling reasons you’ll fall in love with the city of Lucca and the unforgettable things to experience in this classic Tuscan destination. From the iconic walls and picture-perfect squares to family-friendly attractions, Lucca offers irresistible sites for all visitors to enjoy.



city of Lucca Italy

1. Lucca is an underrated city, or at least it was.

The city of Lucca will surprise you and make you want to go back again and again.

Florence is one of the most visited Italian cities since always, along with others like Rome, Venice, and Milan.

When you hear a lot about a city, it’s normal to have high expectations. Then you go and those hopes are sometimes met and exceeded, others not so much. That’s because what we like is subjective but the hype makes us think we are going to love it, which is what sets the ground for delusion. 

With Lucca, the situation is much different. The hype about this city near Florence is only recent. Moreover, most visitors usually only take a day trip, so they don’t put too much thought into what to expect, where to stay, and what to do in Lucca. They just go, thinking they are going to explore the city and come back to Florence, as soon as they are done or bored.

But once you step out of that train station, cross the street, and see those impressive walls you’ll get a feeling you are in for a treat. What’s to come will only confirm and exceed that feeling. Let’s see why.



2. The City of Lucca feels like the perfect Dolce Vita town.

It’s a city with a feeling of a town. Here you can truly embrace the Dolce Vita, close enough to Florence but away from the crowds.

Whether you are coming from Florence or Rome, Lucca is a place where you can stop and take in the beauty without feeling too rushed and flustered. That’s because even though its official area is larger than Florence (185 km² vs 102 km²), it’s less populated (89k vs over 360k) and has a slower pace.

You’ll quickly understand what I mean when I say that Lucca truly feels like a town rather than a city. Yet it’s big enough to give you plenty of things to do for a weekend and longer if you want to get busy, or just enjoy a slow-paced holiday walking, eating, and admiring the buildings.

If you are looking for a place near Florence where you can relax but be entertained, catch a quick train to Florence, or another nearby city, Lucca is that place to soak up the Dolce Vita without necessarily being in the middle of nowhere


3 Perfect Dolce Vita Activities in Lucca:

  1. A walk or a cycle along the Park on top of Lucca walls, in the morning or afternoon.
  2. A coffee or aperitivo break in one of the Italian bars in the main square or on the side alleys.
  3. A stroll around the city without a precise destination.



3. Lucca’s City Walls Are One-of-a-Kind.

Lucca Walls are well-preserved Renaissance walls that surround the historic city center. 

Once you arrive at the train station, you don’t have to wait much to see them. As soon as you cross the road, you’ll easily spot them in front of you, blending in with the beautiful green surroundings.

But that’s not it. You get to walk inside them to take the stairs to the city of Lucca. The stairs are beautifully kept, clean, and well-lit, so there’s nothing to worry about. 

Lucca Walls
Lucca Walls

Key Points About the Walls of Lucca:


In my opinion, those walls add to the romantic vibes this city has. If you thought about proposing in Florence, consider doing it in Lucca. You’ll surely get more privacy and also more shade, especially if you plan to do it in the middle of the day. Lucca’s walls have the best views on both sides and are well-shaded, thanks to the many large trees located all along them.


6 Special Things To Do On Lucca Walls:

  1. Take the stairs to walk inside them. You can do it when you are coming from the train station or on your way back, and if you are going to take a train, just do it to experience it.

  2. Take a stroll in the morning when the sun is still rising. It doesn’t have to be at 7 am. Especially if you go in autumn, the sun is still low, so 9 am is a great time to take a stroll.

  3. Rent a bike or a quadricycle and experience the park on top of the walls that way. It’s especially fun if you are not alone. Kids will love it too.

  4. Eat in the restaurant located on Lucca’s walls. It’s called San Colombano. If you were thinking of having a picnic, just note that there aren’t many benches. 

  5. Stop to admire the views of terracotta rooftops on one side and the surrounding hills on the other.

  6. Take a night stroll while enjoying a gelato.

Lucca Italy restaurant
Lucca Walls Restaurant


Once you are done visiting the walls, there’s a beautiful path that takes you to the city. That is another of my favorite moments the city has to offer. The way the path winds down into the city, among the big evergreen oak trees feels like you are stepping into a fairytale town.



4. Lucca’s buildings are picture-perfect. 

Enjoy walking the streets and admiring the historical buildings before you stop for a coffee or breakfast.

After that beautiful stroll from the station through Lucca city walls, you’ll probably think it can’t get better than that, but if you pay attention and take the time to admire the buildings from above, you know the magic of Lucca doesn’t end there.


Here’s what to expect:

– Pastel and terra-cotta colored buildings that are perfectly preserved.
– Facades with ornate stonework and carved details.
– Pretty shutters, iron balconies, and ivy-covered walls.
– Photogenic streets and piazzas around every corner.

These are dotted throughout the city. And then, of course, there are plenty of historical buildings you can look at from the outside, or even explore on the inside.


11 Attractions You Must See in Lucca

1. Duomo di San Martino (Lucca Cathedral): 

This Romanesque cathedral is dedicated to Saint Martin and is a major religious landmark in Lucca. It features stunning architecture, intricate sculptures, and notable artworks.


2. Piazza Napoleone

Also known as Piazza Grande, this is the main square in the heart of Lucca, Tuscany. Named after Napoleon Bonaparte, the square is spacious, lined by trees and surrounded by elegant buildings and cafes. Don’t forget to take a look at the statue of Maria Luisa of Bourbon. In Summer, it hosts the renowned Lucca Summer Festival. 


3. Chiesa di San Michele in Foro

This church is known for its striking facade adorned with sculptures and reliefs. It is dedicated to the Archangel Michael and is located on the site of the ancient Roman forum. It’s also the perfect example of Romanesque architecture in Italy, characterized by thick walls, graceful rounded arches, and sturdy structures.


4. Torre Guinigi (Guinigi Tower)

One of the most iconic landmarks in Lucca, this tower is unique for its rooftop garden with oak trees. Climbing to the top provides panoramic views of the city and its surroundings.


5. Basilica di San Frediano

This medieval church is known for its impressive mosaic facade and houses the relics of Saint Frediano. The interior features notable artworks and frescoes.


6. Palazzo Pfanner

This 17th-century palace boasts a beautiful garden and is known for its Baroque architecture. It often hosts cultural events and exhibitions.


7. Palazzo Ducale

Also known as Palazzo della Signoria, this palace was the residence of the Duke of Lucca. It features a mix of architectural styles, including Renaissance elements, and is now used for various events and exhibitions.


8. Piazza dell’Anfiteatro

While not a single building, this elliptical-shaped piazza is surrounded by medieval houses and is built on the foundations of an ancient Roman amphitheater. It’s a unique and charming space in the heart of Lucca.


9. Palazzo Mansi

This historic palace now serves as a museum and showcases the art and furnishings of the Mansi family. The architecture reflects the style of the 16th and 17th centuries.


10. Church of San Francesco

Known for its Gothic facade and elegant interiors, the Church of San Francesco is home to important artworks, including the famous Volto Santo (Holy Face).


11. Teatro del Giglio

Lucca’s main theater, the Teatro del Giglio, is an elegant and historic venue known for its neoclassical architecture. It hosts a variety of performances, including opera, ballet, and concerts.



PS: If you want to visit them starting from the ones closer to Porta San Pietro gate, here’s a list in that order:

  1. Teatro del Giglio
  2. Piazza Napoleone
  3. Palazzo Ducale
  4. Cathedral of Lucca
  5. Chiesa di San Michele in Foro
  6. Museum of Villa Mansi
  7. Guinigi Tower
  8. Piazza Anfiteatro
  9. Palazzo Pfanner
  10. Church of Saint Francis
  11. San Frediano Basilica




5. Lucca’s square, Piazza Anfiteatro, is out of a movie. 

The oval-shaped Piazza dell’Anfiteatro is straight from a storybook, and when you think about the fact that you are standing on top of a real Roman Amphitheatre, you’ll feel like you are in the Gladiator.

This elegant yet very local square is ringed with old beautiful Tuscan terracotta buildings housing cafes and restaurants, making it the perfect spot to have lunch or a candlelight dinner. 

For anyone thinking of proposing, if you don’t mind the attention, this is another great spot. Just make sure to book a great restaurant like Trattoria L’Angolo Tondo.


city of Lucca guide and why is worth visiting


Key Details About Piazza Anfiteatro


Construction and Origins:

  • The square is situated on the site of the ancient Roman amphitheater, which dates back to the 2nd century AD.
  • The amphitheater could once accommodate thousands of spectators and was used for gladiatorial contests and other public events.

Transformation into a Square:

  • Over the centuries, the original Roman structure fell into disuse and was gradually dismantled.
  • In the Middle Ages, the space was repurposed, and medieval houses were built over the remains of the amphitheater, creating the unique elliptical shape that defines the present-day square.

Architecture and Layout:

  • The houses surrounding Piazza dell’Anfiteatro form a continuous loop, creating a circular layout reminiscent of the original amphitheater.
  • The architecture of the buildings is characterized by a charming blend of medieval and Renaissance styles.

Important Buildings:

  • While the square itself is not home to a specific monumental building, the surrounding houses contribute to the overall aesthetic, and many of them have shops, cafes, and restaurants.

Events and Festivals:

  • No particular events are held in this square, probably to make sure it’s fully accessible and admirable all year round.
  • In the past, it used to hold the local market, called Mercato delle Vestovaglie, but that was moved to Piazza del Carmine and it’s currently no longer being held. The current market is held every Wednesday and Saturday, from 10 am to 1.30 pm, in Via dei Bacchettoni.

Traditions:

  • Piazza dell’Anfiteatro is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike to gather, stroll, and enjoy the ambiance.
  • The square is surrounded by shops, boutiques, and eateries, making it a vibrant and lively area.

Tourism and Today:

  • Today, Piazza dell’Anfiteatro is one of the most famous and photographed squares in Lucca, drawing visitors with its historic charm and unique layout.
  • Tourists often explore the square, taking in the architecture, enjoying a meal or a coffee in one of the surrounding establishments, and appreciating the historical significance of the site.




6. Lucca Food is as irresistible as the city.

Whether you are just spending the day, the weekend, or an entire week, don’t miss dining in one of the many restaurants scattered around the city. Other than spotting a gorgeous spot make sure the restaurant you choose features one of the typical Lucca dishes.

Here are 10 dishes to try in Lucca.


Tordelli Lucchesi

Large semicircular pasta filled with a mixture of meat, eggs, cheese, chard, mortadella, and bread, traditionally served with a classic meat ragù.


Minestra Farro e Zuppa alla Frantoiana

Farro soup with borlotti beans, savoy cabbage, tomatoes, and a touch of pancetta. Zuppa alla Frantoiana is a richer version with various vegetables.


Matuffi

Polenta dish from Garfagnana, featuring layers of soft yellow polenta alternated with meat or mushroom sauce and Parmesan cheese.


Garmugia

A springtime soup with peas, artichokes, asparagus, fava beans, meat, and pancetta, slow-cooked to perfection.


Rovellina alla Lucchese

Breaded and fried beef slices, cooked in tomato sauce, and enriched with capers. Delicious when served with mashed potatoes or seasonal fried vegetables.


Fagioli all’Uccelletto

A simple dish made with dried beans, peeled tomatoes, garlic, sage, extra virgin olive oil from the hills of Lucca, and sausage.


Bioldo

A traditional Garfagnana salami made from pork head parts, a cross between Tuscan coppa and blood sausage, with distinct regional variations.


Pane di Patate

Soft, flavorful potato bread from Garfagnana and the Valle del Serchio, made with 15% mashed potatoes and typically enjoyed with local cured meats.


Torta d’Erbi

A unique dessert combining sweet and savory flavors, featuring a round shortcrust pastry base with Swiss chard, candied fruit, pine nuts, raisins, and a sprinkle of cheese.


Buccellato

A traditional Lucca dessert with origins in ancient Rome, the buccellato is a round sweet bread with added raisins and anise, often glazed for a shiny dark brown finish.


I couldn’t forget to mention gelato, after all, we are in Italy. I suggest a stop at I Gelati di Piero for the best artisanal ice cream in Lucca.



Lucca is a green city in Tuscany

7. Lucca is the Greenest City in Tuscany

It was voted 31st over 105 Italian cities, and considering that the Northern cities get the best spots, that’s a very important win for Lucca and the entire region of Tuscany.

Lucca has scored a solid 31st place among Italy’s green cities, according to a recent report by Legambiente and Ambiente Italia. The city shines in creating pedestrian-friendly spaces, securing the first spot in the number of pedestrian areas per 100 people. It’s also doing well in promoting eco-friendly transport, ranking 43rd in cycling infrastructure and 46th in public transport availability.

Lucca excels in recycling, coming in at 11th place, but faces challenges in waste production, ranking 92nd in the amount of waste per person. Despite some road safety concerns (79th position), Lucca’s overall performance highlights its leadership in Italian urban sustainability.

This important achievement, but not only, makes Lucca the ultimate green getaway—just hop on a train, pedal around the historic walls on a bike (Lucca is super bike-friendly!), and explore hidden trails with Lucca HiKE.

For a cozy stay, check out spots like La Butterfly Relais or Alle Camelie, where history meets eco-conscious vibes. Lucca offers the perfect mix of charm and green living for environmentally-conscious travelers! 



8. The City of Lucca is Very Family Friendly.

Lucca is a wonderful spot for families in Italy. With its cozy atmosphere and pedestrian-friendly streets, it’s like a giant playground for little ones. The city is all about bikes, making it super easy for families to explore together. 

The city has several green parks for picnics and tons of events for kids. Plus, there are cool historic sites that even the youngest explorers will find fascinating. 

Particularly special for kids, is Lucca Bimbi, a fantastic event for kids and families. Imagine a giant celebration with play areas, creative workshops, shows, fairytales, and attractions that captivate everyone. Kids get to unleash their imagination, becoming the heroes of a fantastic world. Don’t miss the upcoming 8th edition on May 11 and 12, 2024.

Pinocchio Lucca Italy

Plus, for a touch of magic, Collodi, the birthplace of Pinocchio, is just a stone’s throw away. Currently, you can also enjoy Pinocchio without leaving Lucca at the Museo della Zecca di Lucca, where a captivating exhibition tells the unique and curious tales of Pinocchio’s first 140 years of life. This is the result of a collaboration between the Fondazione Antica Zecca di Lucca and the Fondazione Nazionale Carlo Collodi. 

Lucca has a perfect mix of fun and family vibes, making it a top choice for a family-friendly Italian getaway.



9. Lucca’s Walls journey to become a Unesco World Heritage Site

Achieving World Heritage status would not only honor Lucca’s rich heritage but also contribute to the global acknowledgment of this architectural gem.

Visit Lucca now before this happens and the city gets super crowded. The Walls of Lucca are on an exciting journey to potentially become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, adding a fascinating chapter to the city’s rich history. Exploring these iconic fortifications now allows you to witness Lucca’s commitment to preserving its cultural heritage on a global scale.



10. Lucca is close to some of the most beautiful places in Tuscany.

If your goal with your next Tuscan holiday is to beat the crowds and stay somewhere quiet that also offers you the ability to reach other towns and lesser-known gems in Tuscany, Lucca is that place. 

Below are four places that you can easily reach from Lucca, by train or car, during your upcoming stay.


Ponte del Diavolo in Borgo a Mozzano

Known as the Devil’s Bridge, this medieval gem in Borgo a Mozzano is a stunning architectural feature. Its unique humpback design has earned it an intriguing nickname. The bridge, surrounded by picturesque scenery, makes for a captivating visit and a great photo spot.

You can reach Borgo Mozzano in under 30 minutes by both car and train.

Lucca to Ponte del Diavolo day trip


Montecatini

Montecatini is a renowned spa town nestled in the heart of Tuscany. Famed for its thermal baths, the town offers a blend of relaxation and elegance. Stroll through the charming streets, explore the thermal parks, and perhaps take a cable car ride for panoramic views of the surrounding hills.

Reachable in around 30 minutes by car and train.


Castello di Nozzano

The Castle of Nozzano is a beautifully preserved medieval fortress located near Lucca. Steeped in history, the castle provides a glimpse into the past with its well-preserved architecture and picturesque surroundings. Guided tours offer insights into the castle’s rich heritage.

You can get there in 20 and 30 minutes by car and train.


Barga

A charming hilltop town known for its medieval architecture and breathtaking views. Explore the narrow streets, visit the cathedral, and enjoy the artistic and cultural heritage that Barga has to offer.

It only takes 50 minutes by car and 1 hr by bus to reach Barga from Lucca.

Lucca to Barga Italy day trip


More Reasons To Visit Lucca

With its enchanting mix of medieval charm, Roman history, and Tuscan hospitality, Lucca offers a perfect Italian escape. Whether you have a day or a week to spare, the walled city promises irresistible sites, flavors, and experiences for travelers of all kinds.

If you need more reasons to visit, Lucca provides plenty.

  1. Art lovers can view Jacopo della Quercia’s ornate tomb of Ilaria del Carretto in the Cathedral of San Martino.
  2. History buffs may recall Elisa Baciocchi, Napolean’s sister who ruled Lucca in the 19th century.
  3. Walkers can traverse a portion of the ancient Via Francigena pilgrimage route from Lucca towards Siena and Rome.
  4. And with Florence and Pisa close by, Lucca makes an ideal home base to explore the highlights of Tuscany at your own pace.

From the first glimpse of the mighty walls to the last bite of buccellato cake, Lucca will win your heart.

PS: Staying in Florence?
If you are looking for more beautiful day trips ideas like this one, to easily explore Tuscany from Florence, check out this other Tuscany article.



FAQ About Things To Do in Lucca

Why is Piazza Napoleone in Lucca named after Napoleon?

Piazza Napoleone is named after Napoleon Bonaparte because his sister Elisa Baciocchi ruled over Lucca in the early 19th century and the square was renamed in her brother’s honor.

What’s the best Park in Lucca and surroundings?

The Parco Naturale Regionale delle Alpi Apuane, also known as the Parco dell’Orecchiella, is considered one of the best parks near Lucca. It offers stunning mountain scenery, hiking trails, and picnic areas.

What is the history of San Martino Cathedral of Lucca?

The Lucca Cathedral dedicated to Saint Martin dates back to the 6th century, with the current Romanesque structure begun in 1063. The facade and architecture showcase a mix of styles across the centuries, including a prominent 12th century mosaic.

Is San Frediano the oldest church in Lucca?

No, the honor of the oldest church in Lucca goes to San Michele in Foro which was built in the 8th century over the ancient Roman forum.

What is Palazzo Pfanner in Lucca?

Palazzo Pfanner is a palace and museum in Lucca renowned for its elaborate Baroque garden featuring statues, fountains, flower beds, and lemon trees.

What’s Lucca’s Clock Tower called?

Lucca’s historic clock tower is known as Torre delle Ore.

Who is buried in San Michele In Foro?

The church of San Michele in Foro contains the sarcophagus of Saint Davinus, an Armenian pilgrim who distributed his earthly goods to the poor and travelled on a pilgrimage. His remains have been preserved under the altar since his death in Lucca in the 8th century.

What is Lucca Comics?

Lucca Comics & Games is an annual comic book and gaming convention held in Lucca since 1966. It has become Europe’s leading festival dedicated to comics, animation, illustration and games.

Is a visit to Lucca worth it?

Yes, the city of Lucca is well worth a visit to explore its charming medieval city center surrounded by Renaissance walls, climb historic towers, appreciate local cuisine, and soak in the classic Tuscan atmosphere.

What are the must-see places to visit in Lucca in one day?

Top attractions to see in Lucca in a single day include the city walls, Guinigi Tower, Piazza Anfiteatro, Cathedral of San Martino, Via Fillungo shopping street, and Torre delle Ore clock tower.

What other things can I do around Lucca?

Popular day trips near Lucca include visits to the towns of Pisa, Florence, Cinque Terre, Barga, Bagni di Lucca, Torre del Lago Puccini, and the beaches of Viareggio.

Does the Via Francigena passes through Lucca?

Yes, the ancient pilgrimage route connects Rome to Canterbury in England with a path that passes directly through Lucca.

Posted in

|

,

Tagged with:

Alessia
Alessia Spampinato