What to do in Lucca Tuscany

Lucca market

Take my recommendations for what to do in Lucca Tuscany and you’ll have a wonderful visit! This walled Tuscan town has excellent food, magnificent views, beautiful art, and medieval walls you can cycle on. It’s a satisfying combination as a tourist: eat a lovely Italian meal, then cycle it off. Or, climb the tower, eat the meal and then have a nap.


In addition, Lucca is just a nice place to hang out: it’s less touristy than other Tuscan towns, is not built on a hill, and has many pedestrian-only streets within the old walls. There are Roman remains, beautiful historical churches, and the summer festivals host great music.



Lucca duomo

 

What to eat in Lucca

Locals are proud of their Luccan (not Tuscan) food. Once upon a time, Luccan families acquired their wealth from the banking and silk industries. More money actually meant that they used extra eggs in the local pasta recipe, so the traditional tortelli Lucchesi is a more yellow pasta. It’s also stuffed with meat and topped with a meaty ragú: most definitely a rich dish (biking or stair-climbing, anyone?). 

If you pass a bakery, try the local buccellato: mid-day with whipped cream and coffee, or after dinner with wine and strawberries or ricotta and rum.


Try the zuppa di farro, a sort of barley-with-bean soup. And when you bite into the Luccan bread, you’ll notice something missing: salt. (I have adopted the Italian habit of making a puddle of olive oil on a plate, salting the oil, and dipping my bread in it, but I hear unsalted bread is healthier than salted).

The New York Times had a great review of restaurants in Lucca.











Lucca tower Guinigi

 


How to find great views in Lucca

Climb the 230 steps up to the Torre Guinigi (photo above) and have a look around. You’ll find the tower easily because it has a tree growing out the top.


Walk or cycle on top of Lucca’s walls

The somewhat modernized 15th- and 16th-century walls completely surround the old town, and have a 4 km (2.5mi) circumference that will take the average cyclist about 30 minutes. See photo of the walls, below. Even at 12m (40ft) high, the tops of the walls are very safe: they are paved, and wide enough that they were even used for racing sports cars – and are a great place to have a picnic.


To rent bikes, head to the tourist office in Piazza Santa Maria and rent from one of the two bike shops, Cicli Bizzarri or Antonio Poli’s. They do have helmets available but you won’t see local cyclists wearing them. Head up the ramp from the piazza to get up on to the walls. Many hotels in town also provide bicycles for guests. 



Lucca walls

 


Lucca’s amazing masterpieces

The façade of Lucca’s Duomo or cathedral is a fantastic example of Luccan Romanesque architecture. Before going in, appreciate the bas-relief sculpture by Nicola Pisano. 


Inside the church, admire paintings by Ghirlandaio, Tintoretto, Zuccari and Fra’ Bartolomeo, as well as Iacopo della Quercia’s most famous work, the tomb of Ilaria del Carretto. A wooden crucifix Volto Santo, supposedly of Christ’s face carved by Nostradamus, has been a pilgrimage destination for centuries, and has been recorded in Dante’s The Divine Comedy and Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame de Paris.


The Church of San Michele il Foro is also worth a visit: the façade is made of richly carved white limestone, and the inside includes paintings by Andrea della Robbia and Filippino Lippi. Look up at the church from the side and you’ll see that the façade is really only that: a front with no back – and an open staircase up to the top. 


Round out the church-hop with the Basilica di San Frediano, from the 12th century, which contains an array of impressive paintings and sculptures spanning centuries.


Concerts and festivals in Lucca

The composer Puccini was born in Lucca; visit his birthplace, and consider attending the Puccini festival which is held every year in July and August. (Note that the concerts are early enough to catch the train back to Florence if you came on a day trip). Lucca also hosts a summer music festival with more contemporary artists.

 

 

Shopping in Lucca

  • visit the antiques market on the 3rd weekend of every month
  • shop Via Fillungo, the main drag
  • the last Sunday of the month, there’s an arts & crafts market in Piazza Duomo 


A Very Brief History

Founded by the Etruscans, Lucca became a Roman colony in 180 BC. Evidence of its Roman amphitheatre built over 2000 years ago can be seen in Piazza Anfiteatro, which perfectly preserves the amphitheater’s elliptical shape. Napoleon put his sister in charge of the town in 1805. The area around Lucca is also fertile in olives, grapes, marble, and (yes) spas.


Getting There

The train from Florence is 70-90 mins, and the train station is just outside Lucca’s walls and an easy walk. 



Photos of Lucca from top to bottom: silk scarves at the market, view of the Duomo, the Guinigi tower, Lucca’s walls, all by Sanjay


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Posted by on Apr 14, 2009 in Tuscany | 9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Leah
    April 29, 2010

    Love the write up about Lucca…I was just there a few weeks ago. But you never mentioned the nearby Terme or the Devil’s Bridge which are both just outside Lucca and worth exploring!

    Reply
    • Jineht
      July 29, 2012

      I know exactly how you felt. I, too, fell in love with Lucca and, with the exetpcion of a half-day trip to the American Consulate in Florence, did not wish to leave to go elsewhere. It’s hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t been there, but that little town really gets under your skin and into your heart. I rented an apartment in Lucca for 2 weeks and settled in to shop, cook, talk and live like a local. I was acepted as a resident, rarely taken for a tourist, and made some good friends with whom I still correspond. It goes without saying that I will be going back as soon as humanly possible, and intend to retire there in the next couple of years.

      Reply
  2. Madeline
    April 29, 2010

    Thanks Leah! Do you mean the grotti Giusti? That natural cave is incredible… I should do a post about it 🙂
    The Devils Bridge is one of my favorite in Italy, in a post I wrote about Italy’s best bridges: http://www.italybeyondtheobvious.com/2009/05/italys-best-bridges-part-i.html

    Reply
    • Sejal
      July 28, 2012

      I lived in Lucca as a young college snuedtt, and was exceedingly charmed by this quaint mix of old and new. Locals from nearby cities told me Lucca is trendy, but I found it comfortable and endearing even as a young woman traveling alone and living in a hostel. I, like other posters here, loved Lucca so much that I was hesitant to go to Pisa or Rome; I so enjoyed the culture and offerings of the streets just outside my room, I found no time to leave.The coffee, the pasta, the gelato, early-morning pastries from the local bakery, the square and churches lit up during a summer-night stroll I would love to retire to Lucca one day; I recommend anyone bound for Tuscany spend a few days (if not more!) in Lucca. OP, thanks for your photos, they’re beautiful.

      Reply
  3. moto helmets
    December 30, 2010

    Thank you, That’s all I was looking for..

    Reply
  4. חופשות סקי
    October 12, 2011

    Amazing pictures shared by you. There are Roman ruins, a beautiful historic churches, summer festivals and a host of good music.

    Reply
    • Farkas
      July 29, 2012

      This picture of the arch is a sitnnung picture, I absolutely love it. The gate at the far end makes me want to see more! I spent some in Italy awhile back, and can’t express how much I loved Lucca it absolutely took over me. That little city is such a hypnotic gem that I returned many, many, times. My favorite pastime was going to the gelato shop across the piazza from the Chiesa. There they had a wooden glider swing, the kind that four people could sit in and gently swing and talk or just pass the time, revelling in the magical atmosphere of the town. I very much agree with Amber, it seems impossible to express how much the magical serenity and beauty of it calls back to you!

      Reply
  5. Elisya
    July 30, 2012

    Hey its very nice blog. Lucca is very nice place and it featuring some of Italy’s fsneit medieval and Renaissance architecture, superb dining, antique markets, classical and rock music festivals, easy access to stunning nearby villas in the surrounding hills and with endless beaches less than half an hour away. Lucca is one of Tuscany’s best-kept secrets.

    Reply
  6. Anita
    March 17, 2014

    Thank you for this beautiful and informative post on Lucca. We are looking forward to a weekend trip to this Tuscan city.

    Reply

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