Best Things to Do in Lucca
Step into the enchanting world of Lucca, a city that effortlessly transports you to the medieval era with its ancient walls and charming squares. Begin your journey by exploring the remarkable 11th-century cathedral, a testament to the city’s rich history. Ascend the Guinigi Tower for a unique perspective, where trees adorn its summit, adding a touch of nature to the skyline. Lucca, often referred to as the “city of 100 churches,” reveals its artistic treasures through its Gothic architecture and cultural heritage.
Indulge your palate in the delectable flavors of Tuscan cuisine, savoring mouth-watering dishes in the quaint trattorias that dot the city. While it may be challenging to fully uncover all of Lucca’s hidden gems in a single day, this brief visit provides a glimpse into the city’s essence, leaving you eager to return and explore its more secluded attractions.
Despite the allure of prominent cities like Florence and Siena, Lucca stands as a remarkably underrated destination in the region. This picturesque and historic city captures the romantic essence of Tuscany, ensuring a visit to Lucca won’t disappoint. Conveniently located near Florence, Lucca has become an increasingly popular day trip for Tuscany visitors, offering a compact yet fulfilling sightseeing experience. With this well-planned itinerary, you can seamlessly navigate the city’s main attractions and discover the best things to do in Lucca.
How to get to Lucca
Plane to Lucca
The nearest airport to Lucca is the Pisa International Airport (Galileo Galilei Airport), which is approximately 20 kilometres (12 miles) away. From the airport, you can easily reach Lucca by taking a train, bus, or renting a car. The most convenient option is the train, as it connects Pisa Airport to Lucca in just about 30 minutes.
Train to Lucca
The most efficient and convenient means of reaching Lucca is by train, with direct routes available from both Pisa and Florence.
A train journey from Pisa to Lucca takes approximately 30 minutes and costs 3 euros. If traveling from Florence, the train ride to Lucca is around 1 hour and 20 minutes. This presents an excellent chance for a day trip from Florence to Lucca. Regular train services operate throughout the day on both routes, seamlessly connecting the city centers of Pisa and Florence.
Bus to Lucca
Several bus companies operate routes to Lucca from nearby towns and cities. The bus station is centrally located, making it a convenient option for budget-conscious travellers.
Car to Lucca
If you’re exploring Tuscany and want the flexibility to visit nearby towns and villages, renting a car is a great option. Lucca is accessible via the A11 highway, and there are various parking options available within the city. Just be prepared for narrow streets and limited parking within the city walls.
What to do in Lucca
Quick Facts about Lucca
- It is also known as the city of 100 churches due to the 100 and more churches making up the walled city
- The city assumed the semblance of an actual town upon the arrival of the Romans.
- The land that comprises contemporary Lucca was inhabited by the Etruscans
- In World War II, the prisoner-of-war camp designated as P.G. 60, commonly known as PG 60 Lucca, was established around 11 kilometers from Lucca in the village of Colle di Campito in 1942, featuring temporary tent accommodations in a flood-prone area
- Lucca is encircled by walls dating back to the 16th century, featuring narrow pathways for walking
- The Torre Guinigi Tower in the city boasts several oak trees growing at its summit
- The city prospered as a result of its involvement in the silk trade
- Lucca is the hometown of several famous composers, including Giacomo Puccini, celebrated predominantly for his operas
The Duomo di Lucca stands as a notable attraction, an impressive cathedral dating back to the 11th century dedicated to Saint Martin and serving as the seat of the Archbishop of Lucca. A local legend offers an explanation for the diverse columns on the cathedral’s facade, suggesting that during an artist contest, where each participant crafted a handmade column, the city’s residents opted not to select a winner in the end but to incorporate all the columns created for the competition. Inside the church, there is the Volto Santo, a relic thought to have come from the Holy Land during the 8th century.
Opening Hours And Ticket Price
The cathedral is open 9:30AM – 6PM (Mondays to Sundays).
The admission is €3.
Lucca’s historic center boasts a unique feature with its numerous medieval towers, many of which offer the opportunity to climb and enjoy panoramic terraces providing views across the city’s rooftops. Each tower carries its own distinct heritage, with the Torre Guinigi emerging as the most iconic. What sets this red brick tower apart is the presence of oak trees sprouting from its roof, creating a peculiar sensation when sitting in their shade on the narrow rooftop while overlooking Lucca.
However, to truly appreciate the Torre Guinigi, it is recommended to admire it from a slight distance. For an exceptional city view that encompasses the Torre Guinigi, consider ascending the Torre delle Ore instead.
Opening Hours And Ticket Price
The tower opens all year round from 10am and closes between 4pm and 8:30pm depending on the season.
Admission is €5.
Lucca’s Renaissance-era city walls, originally built in the 16th century for defense, now offer a unique pedestrian promenade encircling the town. This remarkably preserved fortification, featuring 11 strategically placed bastions connected by the Via delle Mura Urbane footpath, spans about 4 kilometers. Visitors can walk or bike along this tree-lined route, enjoying panoramic views of the city and its historic landmarks. Particularly enchanting during the evening, the walls reveal their timeless charm in the warm glow of the setting sun. Exploring this footpath not only provides a delightful experience but also offers essential insights into the city’s history and commitment to heritage preservation.
Good to know
The city walls can be fully traversed on foot, by bike, or by car (although cars are currently prohibited, local police patrol the area using cars).
The expansive Piazza Napoleone may appear somewhat oversized for the city center’s intimate atmosphere due to its compact layout. Enhanced by tree-lined surroundings and occasionally hosting a carousel or diverse seasonal festivities, this spacious square serves as a vibrant gathering spot for locals. Additionally, the unmissable Palazzo Ducale, a Renaissance palace presently accommodating various administrative entities, adds to the square’s allure.
Originally constructed by the Moriconi family, prominent 17th-century merchants, the Palazzo Pfanner witnessed a transfer of ownership as financial troubles compelled the Moriconis to sell. The Cotroni family, newly bestowed with a noble title and seeking to showcase their status, seized the opportunity to acquire and expand the property. Yet, the palace’s nomenclature remained shrouded in mystery until the 19th century.
The Pfanner family entered the narrative when Austrian brewer Felix Pfanner purchased the palace. Introducing the Pfanner Brewery, a pioneering establishment in Lucca and one of Italy’s early beer enterprises, he left an indelible mark on the property. Although the brewery’s beer garden and facilities closed in the mid-1900s, the Palazzo Pfanner now houses an exhibition featuring traditional 18th-century costumes from noble families. However, the true gem lies outdoors—the exquisite garden adorned with various artworks, including a captivating collection of baroque statues portraying Roman mythology’s divine entities.
Opening Hours And Ticket Price
It is open April to November from 10am-6pm.
Admission: for garden €4.50 (standard)/€4 (reduced), for palace: €4.50 (standard)/€4 (reduced) and for both garden and palace €6 (standard)/€5 (reduced)
Torre Delle Ore
The Torre delle Ore is the highest tower in Lucca. Lucca once boasted over 150 towers in medieval times, but today only two endure—the Torre delle Ore and the Torre Guinigi. Inside, the tower features a unique clock, still operational and recognized as one of Europe’s most distinctive timepieces.
Ascending the tower involves navigating the well-preserved original staircase, comprising 207 steps leading to the summit. The reward awaits at the top, where breathtaking views of Lucca, its gardens, meandering cobblestone streets, city walls, and the lush hills beyond unfold. The ascent offers a captivating experience, allowing visitors to appreciate the city’s charm from a truly remarkable perspective.
Opening Hours And Ticket Price
The tower is open mid-March to early November only, from 10.30am to between 4pm and 7:30pm depending on the season.
Admission is €5.
Piazza Dell’Anfiteatro Di Lucca
Constructed on the grounds of an ancient Roman amphitheater dating back to the 1st or 2nd century BC, the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro di Lucca retains little of the original arena, preserving only its elliptical shape. However, the historical significance lingers, evoking images of gladiators, lions, and other creatures that once populated the area. Beyond its historical context, the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro captivates with its charming array of restaurants, bars, shops, and frequent displays of artwork. A leisurely stroll at dusk is highly recommended to fully appreciate the atmosphere and ambiance.
Piazza San Michele
An L-shaped expanse adorned with elegant architecture, Piazza San Michele showcases the Palazzo Pretoria, repurposed banks, and, most notably, the Church of San Michele in Foro. Commanding the central spotlight, this basilica, crafted from white marble, features a steep facade embellished with columns and statues.
Basilica di San Frediano
Basilica di San Frediano stands as one of Lucca’s ancient churches, paying homage to Fridianus (Frediano), an Irish bishop laid to rest within its hallowed walls. The entrance captivates with a magnificent golden mosaic facade, a testament to the church’s historical significance and architectural splendor.
Church of San Michele in Foro
Chiesa di San Michele in Foro stands proudly upon the remnants of an ancient Roman forum, its exterior adorned with a striking statue of St. Michael the Archangel atop the structure. While the outside exudes grandeur, the interior, albeit noteworthy, merits only a brief visit—perhaps around 10 minutes of exploration.
Good to know
For an optimal experience, aim to explore the church before noon, as it temporarily closes its doors from 12 PM to 3 PM.
What to eat and where
Ristorante Giglio is a top-notch dining establishment located in the heart of Lucca. It offers a delightful experience of traditional Tuscan cuisine, featuring dishes like ribollita, pappa al pomodoro, and pappardelle with wild boar sauce. The restaurant’s charming ambiance and extensive wine list complement the flavors of the region. Don’t forget to try their delicious tiramisu for dessert.
For seafood lovers, Da Pasquale is a hidden gem. This family-owned restaurant is renowned for its fresh seafood dishes, prepared with a touch of Mediterranean influence. Try the linguine with clams, grilled sea bass, or their signature seafood risotto. The cozy and intimate setting adds to the charm of this local favourite.
A visit to Italy would be incomplete without treating yourself to genuine gelato, and Gelateria De’ Coltelli is the go-to destination to satisfy your sweet tooth. With a diverse range of flavors, spanning from traditional choices like stracciatella to inventive combinations such as ricotta and fig, their gelato is crafted using the finest ingredients, guaranteeing a memorable and delightful indulgence.
Pizzeria da Felice is a beloved spot for pizza enthusiasts. They serve traditional Neapolitan-style pizzas cooked in a wood-fired oven. The ingredients are fresh and high-quality, resulting in mouthwatering pizzas with a perfect crust. The cozy and rustic atmosphere makes it a great place to enjoy an authentic Italian pizza.
Buca di Sant’Antonio is an upscale restaurant that offers a refined taste of Tuscan cuisine. The menu features classic dishes such as truffle pasta, roasted meats, and excellent wine pairings. With its elegant décor and attentive service, this restaurant is an ideal choice for a special evening in Lucca.
Where to Stay
Albergo Celide is a comfortable and modern hotel located just outside the city walls. It offers a variety of room types and amenities, including a rooftop terrace with beautiful views of Lucca. The hotel’s central location makes it a convenient base for exploring the city on foot.
Address: Viale Giusti, 25, 55100 Lucca LU, Italy
Palazzo Tucci is a boutique hotel housed in a beautifully restored historic building. The rooms are elegantly decorated, and the atmosphere exudes charm and sophistication. The hotel is centrally located, providing easy access to Lucca’s attractions and restaurants
Address: Via Cesare Battisti, 13, 55100 Lucca LU, Italy
Hotel Ilaria And Residenza Dell’Alba offers a blend of modern comfort and classic style, with a garden and terrace for relaxation. The location is ideal, situated near the city center and within walking distance of Lucca’s main sights.
Address: Via Giuseppe Mazzini, 57, 56125 Pisa PI, Italy
Villa La Principessa is a luxurious option for those seeking a tranquil retreat. This 16th-century villa is surrounded by a vast, manicured garden and offers elegantly appointed rooms. Staying here is like stepping back in time while enjoying the amenities of a high-end hotel.
Address: Via di Valle, 126, 55100 Lucca LU, Italy
For a more budget-friendly option, B&B La Mimosa provides cozy and clean accommodations. The welcoming hosts and the convenient location make it an excellent choice for travellers looking to make the most of their visit to Lucca without breaking the bank.
Address: Via Carlo Piaggia, 38, 55100 Lucca LU, Italy
Is Lucca worth visiting?
Yes, Lucca is definitely worth visiting in Tuscany. This charming city is known for its well-preserved Renaissance walls, historic architecture, and vibrant atmosphere. Lucca offers a wealth of cultural and historical attractions, including impressive churches, medieval towers, and picturesque squares. The city’s Renaissance-era walls have been transformed into a pedestrian promenade, providing a unique way to explore the town. Additionally, Lucca hosts various events and festivals throughout the year, adding to its allure.
When is the best time to visit Lucca?
The ideal months to explore Lucca are April, May, June, September, and October, offering warm and pleasant weather with fewer tourists. A significant religious event, La Luminara di Santa Croce, occurs on September 13th, honoring the Volto Santo, a wooden crucifix with a legendary origin from the Holy Land. The festival features a traditional candlelight procession through the Old Town, commencing at 8 PM from the Basilica of San Frediano and concluding at the Cathedral of San Martino, where the Volto Santo is housed.
Is one day in Lucca enough?
A single day in Lucca provides ample time to explore the historic center, allowing visits to landmarks such as the Guinigi and Clock Towers, the cathedral, and two palaces. For a shorter visit of half a day, prioritize climbing the Guinigi Tower. If time constraints require choices between attractions like Pfanner Palace and Museo Nazionale di Palazzo Mansi, opt for the latter, as it offers a more captivating and aesthetically pleasing experience.
Are there any festivals in Lucca?
Celebrating two decades of musical excellence, the Lucca Summer Festival has hosted iconic artists like Bob Dylan, Gilberto Gil, Milton Nascimento, Alanis Morisette, Elton John, and The Rolling Stones. Held within the historic city walls during July and August, the festival transforms the city center into a musical haven. For classical music enthusiasts, the Puccini Festival, dedicated to the renowned composer Giacomo Puccini, offers a captivating experience in July and August. Explore the rich lineup and details for this year’s events on their official website.