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Lucca Italy: what to see and do in the Town of Walls

Lucca, Italy, often referred to as the “Town of Walls,” became a cherished destination during my recent visit to Tuscany. 

This charming town offered me a unique blend of history, culture, and breathtaking landscapes. 

Lucca’s history fascinated me as I delved into its rich past. 

In the 14th century it became one of the most important cities of the Italian Middle Ages.

From its Etruscan origins to its encounters with the Romans and Byzantines, the town’s medieval architecture and well-preserved historical sites provided me with a captivating journey through time.

In this article, I’ll share my personal experiences and insights into what made Lucca a must-visit destination for me.

Versilia Lucca Toscana Tuscany Italy
Versilia Lucca Toscana Tuscany Italy

Where is Lucca Italy and how I got there

Lucca’s Location

55100 Lucca Province of Lucca Italy

55100 Lucca Italy is located in northwestern Italy, in the region of Tuscany. 

It sits approximately 18 kilometers (11 miles) northeast of Pisa and about 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of Florence. 

This strategic location made it accessible from major Italian cities and served as a perfect base for day trips to nearby attractions.

My Journey to Lucca

Getting to Lucca was a straightforward and enjoyable experience. I opted to fly into Pisa International Airport.

landing in Italy
landing in Italy

This airport, also known as Galileo Galilei Airport, is the closest major airport to Lucca. 

From there, last time when I went I rented a car directly from the airport and explored part of Tuscany, including Pisa and Lucca.

Get the best price for your car rental today

As I was getting closer to my destination, the view of Lucca town appeared in front of my eyes and it was more beautiful than what I read in the travel guides.

For those of you who don’t want to rent a car and prefer public transport, there are the following options, used also by me a few years ago when I visited Tuscany for the first time:

Train

I took a short train ride from Pisa to Lucca, which offered scenic views of the Tuscan countryside. 

Lucca train station is centrally located, making it easy to access the town’s attractions on foot or by bicycle.

train station Italy
train station Italy

Bus

Bus services are also available from Pisa to Lucca for those seeking an economical transportation option. 

Buses are comfortable and provide a reliable connection between the two towns.

Once I arrived in Lucca, I was greeted by the charming atmosphere and the town’s historical beauty.

 Exploring Lucca’s streets, walls, and cultural attractions became an unforgettable adventure that allowed me to immerse myself in this hidden gem’s rich history and culture in Italy.

Things to do in Lucca Italy

My visit to Lucca, Italy, was filled with memorable experiences and adventures that allowed me to immerse myself in the town’s rich history, culture, and natural beauty. 

Here’s a glimpse of what I did during my time spent in this charming Italian destination.

Exploring the Walled City

One of the first things I did in Lucca was to explore the iconic Renaissance-era city walls. 

Walking or biking along the walls provided me with breathtaking panoramic views of the town and its picturesque surroundings. 

The tree-lined path atop the walls created a serene atmosphere that made it an ideal way to start my journey in Lucca.

Piazza del Anfiteatro Lucca
Piazza del Anfiteatro Lucca

Visiting Cultural Attractions

Lucca, the birth place of Giacomo Puccini, boasts a wealth of cultural attractions that I had the pleasure of visiting. 

The Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, once an ancient Roman amphitheater, became a favorite spot for me. 

The vibrant atmosphere of the square, surrounded by charming cafes and shops, was a perfect place to soak in the local culture. 

Additionally, the Duomo di San Martino, Lucca’s cathedral, left me in awe with its stunning Gothic architecture and intricate interior.

I opted for a walking tour of the city that gave me the possibility to visit the most important attractions of the city:

The Clock Tower or Torre delle Ore

As I approached the tower, its grandeur and historical significance were immediately apparent.

The ancient mechanisms, visible through the glass, were a testament to the ingenuity and craftsmanship of the past.

Torre delle Ore Clock Tower Lucca
Torre delle Ore Clock Tower Lucca

Climbing the narrow staircase inside, I felt a sense of connection to the many who had ascended these steps over centuries.

Reaching the top, I was rewarded with a breathtaking panoramic view of Lucca.

The city’s beautiful rooftops, bustling streets, and distant rolling hills of Tuscany unfolded before me, offering a moment of serene beauty.

The clock’s rhythmic ticking at the top added to the tower’s charm, reminding me of the passage of time and the tower’s role in the daily lives of Lucchese people throughout history.

San Michele in Foro or St Michael’s Church

As I approached the church, located in the bustling Piazza San Michele, its striking façade immediately captivated me.

The intricacy of its marble sculptures and the detailed carvings that adorned the exterior were a true testament to the skill and artistry of medieval craftsmen.

The church’s Romanesque architecture, with its blend of Pisan and Luccan styles, was a visual feast, offering a sense of both grandeur and spiritual serenity.

San Michele in Foro St Michael's Church Lucca
San Michele in Foro St Michael’s Church Lucca

Entering San Michele in Foro, I was greeted by the tranquil and reverent atmosphere that enveloped its interior.

The high ceilings, the elegant columns, and the soft light filtering through the stained glass windows created a peaceful ambiance.

I was particularly fascinated by the art and historical pieces within, including the beautiful artworks and the ancient relics that spoke volumes about the church’s rich past.

The sense of history was palpable as I walked through the aisles. It was as if the walls whispered stories of the centuries of worshippers who had come before me.

This connection to the past was both humbling and awe-inspiring.

Palazzo Pfanner

As I approached Palazzo Pfanner, the grandeur of its 17th-century architecture struck me immediately.

The façade of the building, with its Baroque and Renaissance elements, exuded a sense of time-honored sophistication.

Entering the palazzo, I was transported into an atmosphere of historical luxury. Each room I explored was a page from the past, adorned with period furniture, frescoes, and artworks that spoke of the opulent lifestyle of the Pfanner family and the generations that resided there.

Palazzo Pfanner gardens Lucca
Palazzo Pfanner gardens Lucca

However, it was the palazzo’s gardens that truly captivated my senses. Walking through these lush, green expanses felt like a journey through a living tapestry of nature.

The symmetrically arranged garden, with its statues, fountains, and variety of plants, was a serene oasis in the heart of Lucca.

The sight of lemon trees and the scent of blooming flowers added to the garden’s allure, making it a perfect spot for reflection and relaxation.

The combination of the palazzo’s historical interiors and the tranquil beauty of its gardens created a unique experience.

It was not just about admiring the aesthetics; it was about feeling the pulse of history and the legacy of Italian art and culture.

Botanical Garden

As I entered the Botanic Garden, I was immediately struck by the serene atmosphere that enveloped this green oasis.

The layout of the garden, with its meandering paths, small ponds, and thoughtfully arranged plant species, encouraged a slow, contemplative exploration.

The variety of plants, ranging from local Tuscan species to exotic varieties, was a testament to the garden’s role in botanical research and conservation.

Botanical Garden of Lucca Tuscany
Botanical Garden of Lucca Tuscany

One aspect that particularly captivated me was the harmonious blend of nature and history within the garden.

The presence of historical statues and the old city walls bordering the garden added a sense of timelessness to my visit.

The botanical garden was not just a space for plants; it was a living museum, telling stories of ecological and cultural significance.

The tranquility of the garden provided a perfect backdrop for relaxation and introspection.

Sitting by one of the ponds, watching the play of light on the water, and listening to the subtle sounds of nature around me, I felt a deep sense of peace and connection to the natural world.

Torre Guinigi or Guinigi Tower

The tower’s imposing structure, a symbol of the Guinigi family’s power and influence in medieval Lucca, exuded a sense of history and resilience.

Climbing the stairs to the top of the tower was both exhilarating and somewhat challenging. Each step took me further back in time, and I felt a growing anticipation to reach the summit.

The climb was a journey through the architectural marvels of the past, revealing the tower’s robust construction and enduring strength.

view from Guinigi Tower Lucca Italy
view from Guinigi Tower Lucca Italy

Reaching the top, I was rewarded with one of the most breathtaking views of Lucca. The city’s historical layout, with its terracotta roofs, narrow streets, and surrounding hills, unfolded majestically before me.

The rooftop garden, with its ancient trees, was an unexpected haven of tranquility. Standing amidst the treetops, high above the city, offered a unique blend of nature and urban landscape that was both surreal and grounding.

What struck me most about Torre Guinigi was its remarkable fusion of historical architecture and natural beauty.

The tower not only provided a panoramic view of Lucca but also a moment of peaceful solitude, high above the bustling city streets.

Piazza Napoleone

One of the highlights of my visit to Piazza Napoleone was the chance to relax at one of the outdoor cafes, savoring a cup of Italian coffee while people-watching.

This experience offered a glimpse into the daily life of the Lucchese people and the city’s vibrant culture.

The piazza also served as a gateway to exploring the surrounding streets, filled with charming shops and historic sites.

As I entered Piazza Napoleone, also known as Piazza Grande, I was immediately struck by its spaciousness and elegant layout.

The piazza, with its grand buildings and neat rows of trees, provided a sense of openness and grandeur that was both inviting and impressive.

Piazza Napoleone Piazza Grande Lucca
Piazza Napoleone Piazza Grande Lucca

The blend of historic architecture with the lively buzz of contemporary life created a delightful contrast.

Walking around the piazza, I appreciated the harmonious mix of locals and tourists, all drawn to this central hub of Lucca.

The lively atmosphere, accentuated by street performers, bustling cafes, and the general hum of conversation, was infectious.

I found myself captivated by the energy of the place, which seemed to be a focal point for both social and cultural activities in the city.

Go beyond Tuscany and discover the diverse and vibrant Italian culture, ranging from its famous culinary delights such as pasta and pizza to its renowned historical sites including the Colosseum and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, as elaborated in my comprehensive article on what is Italy famous for.

Savoring Culinary Delights

No trip to Italy is complete without indulging in its culinary delights, and Lucca did not disappoint. 

I sampled delicious Italian dishes such as pappa al pomodoro and farro soup at local trattorias and osterias. 

Pappa al Pomodoro
Pappa al Pomodoro

Exploring the town’s food scene became a delightful adventure, and I found myself enjoying every bite.

Discovering Hidden Gems

Beyond the well-known attractions, I took the time to discover Lucca’s hidden gems. 

Exploring secret gardens tucked away behind historic palaces and strolling through picturesque streets allowed me to connect with the town more intimately. 

These hidden treasures added depth to my Lucca experience.

Immersing in Festivals and Events

Lucca’s vibrant cultural scene became a highlight of my visit. I had the privilege of attending various festivals and events throughout the year. 

The Lucca Summer Festival brought renowned musicians to town, and the Lucca Comics & Games convention offered a unique and exciting experience.

Piazza dell' Anfiteatro Lucca
Piazza dell’ Anfiteatro Lucca

Embracing Local Hospitality

The warmth and hospitality of the local residents made my stay in Lucca even more memorable. 

Engaging in conversations with friendly locals who shared their stories and recommendations added a personal touch to my visit.

Exploring the Tuscan Countryside

Venturing beyond Lucca’s walls, I explored the enchanting Tuscan countryside. 

Whether I rented a bicycle or took a scenic drive, the stunning landscapes of vineyards, olive groves, and rolling hills captivated me and provided a serene escape from the bustling town.

Tuscan landscape
Tuscan landscape

Shopping for Treasures

Lucca offered a delightful shopping experience. 

Exploring boutique stores for locally made goods, including leather products, ceramics, and artisanal foods, felt like a treasure hunt. 

The weekly market in Piazza San Giusto was a must-visit for unique finds.

Making Day Trips

Lucca’s strategic location made it an ideal base for day trips to nearby destinations like Pisa, Florence, and the captivating Cinque Terre. 

Exploring these neighboring towns allowed me to further enrich my Tuscan adventure.

Reflecting on Lucca’s Beauty

As I concluded my journey in Lucca, I couldn’t help but reflect on the town’s beauty and the wonderful experiences it had offered me. 

Lucca, with its historical charm, vibrant culture, and breathtaking landscapes, had truly captured my heart.

Where to stay in Lucca Italy

Inside the town of Lucca

The Tuscanian Hotel was my option when I visited Lucca without a car. The hotel is centrally located, close to the city’s historical center.

The Tuscanian Hotel
The Tuscanian Hotel

My room was spacious and clean, although the hotel is located in a 17th-century building.

I had a wonderful view of the city from my room, and the breakfast was good.

Agroturismo near Lucca Italy

If you explore this part of Tuscany by car, it is a pity not to stay at least one night at Hotel Villa San Michele

The staff is extremely friendly and helpful, the food is delicious, and the rooms are nicely furnished and clean.

Lucca restaurants

During my visit to Lucca, Italy, I had the pleasure of dining at some of the city’s finest restaurants. 

Here’s my experience:

Sotto Sotto Ristorantino

At Sotto Sotto Ristorantino, I was delighted by their focus on local specialties. 

The bean and farro soup and the tortelli Lucchesi were particularly memorable. 

Dining there, with both indoor and outdoor seating options, felt easy and laid-back. 

The meat-based plates, especially the local sea bass drizzled with local olive oil, were a treat. 

It’s located right at Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, 1, in Lucca.

Ristorante Giglio

My experience at Ristorante Giglio was nothing short of royal. 

fine dining at Ristorante Giglio Lucca
fine dining at Ristorante Giglio Lucca

This Michelin-starred restaurant offered a contemporary twist on Italian classics. The atmosphere, with its frescoed ceiling and plush chairs, was enchanting. 

Their wine list was impressive, and I particularly enjoyed their knowledgeable waiters who helped me pick the perfect glass to accompany my meal. 

You can find this gem at Piazza del Giglio, 2, in Lucca.

L’Angolo Tondo

L’Angolo Tondo, nestled in the bustling Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, provided a warm and inviting atmosphere, reminiscent of an elegant Italian nonna’s house. 

The traditional Lucchese food, made with local ingredients, was delightful. 

The scorched octopus and tuna tartare were standout dishes for me, showcasing the freshness of the seafood.

Each of these restaurants offered a unique glimpse into Lucca’s culinary scene, combining traditional Tuscan flavors with modern Italian cuisine.

I highly recommend making reservations to ensure a spot, especially during peak dining hours.

Tips for a Memorable Lucca Italy visit

As I explored Lucca, Italy, I gathered some invaluable insights to ensure my visit was truly unforgettable. 

Here are five tips from my personal experience:

1. I Explored the Iconic Walls

My Lucca adventure kicked off with a leisurely stroll and a bike ride along the ancient city walls. 

The moment I set foot on this iconic feature, I was treated to breathtaking panoramic views of the town and its charming surroundings. 

The tree-lined path atop the walls provided a serene and unique perspective of Lucca that I couldn’t miss.

exploring Lucca Tuscany Italy
exploring Lucca Tuscany Italy

2. I Planned Ahead for Cultural Attractions

Lucca boasts an abundance of cultural treasures, from historic squares to awe-inspiring cathedrals. 

To fully appreciate their beauty and avoid crowds, I strategically planned my visits. 

Early mornings and late afternoons turned out to be the perfect times to explore these remarkable sites at my own pace.

3. I Savored Authentic Tuscan Cuisine

One of the highlights of my visit was indulging in the rich and delectable flavors of Tuscan cuisine.

I made it a point to try local specialties like pappa al pomodoro and farro soup at traditional trattorias and osterias. 

Venturing away from the tourist hubs allowed me to discover hidden culinary gems where I could relish truly authentic Italian dishes.

4. I Sought Out Hidden Gems

Beyond the well-known attractions, I embarked on a journey to uncover Lucca’s hidden treasures. 

Secret gardens, enchanting alleyways, and lesser-visited historical sites awaited my exploration. 

These hidden gems provided me with a deeper connection to the town’s rich history and culture, and I cherished every moment of discovery.

5. I Immersed Myself in Local Festivals

My visit coincided with some of Lucca’s vibrant festivals and events, and I didn’t miss the chance to immerse myself in the local culture. 

The Lucca Summer Festival and Lucca Comics & Games convention offered unique and thrilling experiences. 

Lucca Town of Walls
Lucca Town of Walls

I checked event calendars and secured tickets in advance to fully enjoy these captivating events.

Best time to visit Lucca Italy

From my personal experience:

  • spring offers an excellent opportunity to relish the gentle climate, enjoy the town without the bustling crowds, and bask in the beauty of blooming flora.
  • Autumn, in my eyes, strikes a harmonious balance between enjoyable weather, culinary pleasures, and a serene visit, making it an excellent time to explore Lucca.
  • winter offers a quiet, cost-effective journey, along with the opportunity to partake in local holiday customs.
  • If you thrive in bustling environments, relish outdoor festivals, and adore warm weather, summer provides an ideal backdrop to experience the vibrant side of Lucca.

Actually, your choice of the best time to visit Lucca largely depends on your personal preferences. 

Spring and autumn provide a perfect blend of pleasant weather and fewer crowds for a serene experience. 

Summer caters to those who revel in bustling festivals and warm temperatures, while winter offers a peaceful, budget-friendly visit with a touch of local tradition. 

Whichever season you choose, Lucca’s timeless charm ensures an enchanting experience awaits you.

Tuscany hills
Tuscany hills

If you like Lucca, I dare you to explore the medieval charm and serene beauty of San Quirico D’Orcia in Tuscany, a town rich in history and culinary delights, as we unveil in our detailed article.

Conclusion

Lucca, Italy, is a town that captured my heart with its historical charm, vibrant culture, and breathtaking landscapes. 

My time in Lucca was a blend of exploration, discovery, and appreciation for all that this Italian gem had to offer.

It left me with cherished memories and a deep longing to return to its captivating embrace.

Whether you’re a history buff, a food lover, or simply seeking a serene getaway, Lucca has something to offer. 

Embrace the warmth of its people, savor the cuisine, and explore the beauty of this Tuscan gem through your own experiences.

FAQ

Is Lucca a crowded tourist destination?

Lucca is relatively less crowded compared to some of the more famous Italian cities, making it a peaceful and enjoyable destination.

What is the best time to visit Lucca?

Spring and early autumn are ideal, as the weather is pleasant, and you can avoid the summer crowds.

Can I rent a bicycle to explore Lucca’s walls?

Yes, bicycle rentals are widely available, and cycling atop the walls is a popular activity.

Are there any vineyard tours near Lucca?

Absolutely! Lucca is surrounded by vineyards, and you can book tours to sample some excellent Tuscan wines.

Is it necessary to speak Italian when visiting Lucca?

While speaking Italian can be helpful, many locals in Lucca speak English, and you can get by without being fluent in Italian.

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