Lucca is pure charm. It is known as the "city of a hundred towers and a hundred churches", as a reminder of its medieval past. And from that past there are still magnificent buildings, such as the wall that surrounds the entire historic center.
Strolling through its streets will take you back in time as you look up to admire some of its high towers or contemplate the beauty of its oval square. But there are many more things to see and do in Lucca and one day is enough to discover them. Here is a short itinerary.
1. Start the visit at the walls of Lucca
Lucca is a completely walled city. But it is not only special because of that, but also because this medieval wall has remained almost intact until today. It has more than four kilometers of perimeter and in some points reaches up to twelve meters high.
If you want to see a nice view of the city, I recommend you to look out from one of its viewpoints. But, to take a great memory of Lucca, I advise you to walk at least one section. What centuries ago was nothing more than a defensive element was embellished and landscaped to become a lovely walk.
To access the historic center of Lucca you will have to go through one of the gates of the wall. The beginning of the tour of the city that I am going to propose starts at Porta San Pietro, perhaps the most famous for its size and beauty.
Although the wall dates back to the twelfth century, this gate is much later. The reason is that for several centuries the defensive enclosure underwent modifications and extensions. Therefore, if you decide to go through the entire wall, you will be able to appreciate elements from different periods. In order not to miss anything, the ideal is a guided tour, on foot, by bike or even by horse-drawn carriage.
2. Visit the cathedral of San Martino
Just a stone's throw from the city walls is the Duomo of Lucca, another of the city's great treasures. It is not as well known as other cathedrals in Tuscany, but it has its charm. Look at its white and green marble façade, you will surely appreciate right away why it is special.
I give you some clues; the first, the columns that decorate the upper galleries and that are real wonders; the second, the asymmetry of the façade. By the way, this symmetry has an explanation: the temple was built after the tower and had to adapt to the space then available.
Inside, you can admire very interesting works of art. There are two very special ones: the Volto Santo, a wooden crucifix that according to legend is the work of one of the men who buried Jesus; and the funeral monument of Ilaria del Carretto, wife of an ancient lord of Lucca.
Climb the bell tower of the Duomo
I'm sure you're wondering. Yes, you can climb to the top of the bell tower. It is 60 meters high, making it the tallest tower in the city. From it you'll have great views of Lucca and the surrounding area, but you'll have to climb a little over 200 steps.
Information of interest
- Opening hours: the cathedral, the campanile and the cathedral museum generally open at 10:00. Closing time varies according to the day and the site. It is therefore advisable to consult the opening hours before visiting the cathedral.
- Prices: there are individual tickets for cathedral, tower and museum that cost about 4 euros each. But my advice is to buy the combined ticket that gives access to all areas of the cathedral. The general price is about 10 euros, but there are reduced rates for families, students and pilgrims.
3. See Piazza Napoleone and Palazzo Ducale
Following Via Duomo, you will soon reach the largest square in Lucca and also one of the most lively areas of the city: Piazza Napoleone. In good weather all kinds of cultural events are held here and you can always relax and recharge your batteries on one of its terraces.
On one side of the square you will see the imposing Palazzo Ducale, which has been and still is the center of power in Lucca. With eight centuries of history, it hides some remarkable monumental rooms.
The palace also houses the Museum of the Risorgimento. If you like history, this is a good place to learn a little more about the Italian Unification.
To finish the visit to the square, a curiosity related to its name. It was built during the Napoleonic domination. In fact, the Palazzo Ducale was the residence of one of Napoleon's sisters, and there was even a project to place a statue of the emperor that never materialized.
4. Make a stop at Puccini's House-Museum
Up Via Veneto and just 5 minutes from Piazza Napoleone is a must-see if you love opera: the Puccini House-Museum. The author of such famous works as La Bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly was born in this city and his figure is remembered in many of its corners.
In this museum you can see everything from old photographs to manuscripts and countless documents, as well as belongings and objects that belonged to the composer. So you will know not only his artistic side, but also his human side.
Even if you do not have time to visit the museum, stop by the square where it is located. You can take a souvenir photo next to the statue of the composer. And, if you are not in a hurry and feel like doing something different, there are musical tours in Lucca. They will take you to some of the places that inspired Puccini.
- Opening hours: the Puccini House Museum opens at 10:00 from Monday to Sunday. Closing time varies between 14:00 and 18:00, depending on the day and the season.
- Prices: admission costs about 9 euros. Children under 18, seniors over 65 and students pay around 7 euros, while children up to 10 years old enter for free.
5. Admire the beauty of the church of San Michele in Foro
You only have to follow Via do Poggio a few meters from the Piccini House-Museum to reach the ancient Roman forum. On it stands one of the most beautiful churches in Tuscany: San Michele in Foro. A Romanesque jewel that will surprise you with the details of its facade, its columns, its rose windows and its arches. And, at the top, you will see a statue of St. Michael four meters high.
When you are in front of the church, remember that it is a construction of the eleventh century. You will perceive it better in the interior, simpler than the facade. The entrance is free. And while you're in Piazza San Michele, take a look at the surrounding buildings. Among them are the Palazzo Gigli and the Renaissance Palazzo Pretorio.
6. Make a stop to eat and taste the gastronomy of Lucca
If at this point of the visit you have become hungry, in the square of San Michele or in the surrounding area you have a number of restaurants and osterias to eat. In some you can make a quiet stop to taste the delights of Tuscan cuisine. In others you will have the possibility to have a quick bite to eat so as not to waste time during the visit.
If you decide to relax and taste some typical dishes, I recommend you to start with panzanella, a kind of bread salad. If you are in the mood for soups, try garmugia, frantoiana or ribollita soup. Vegetables are the protagonists in all of them. And, as a main course, the veal Florentine style or some ravioli stuffed with pork.
In case you prefer something quick, there are establishments where you can eat some fantastic paninis. Strabuono or Da Ciacco are two of the best known.
But, if you really want to get to know Lucca's gastronomy, you can take part in a cooking class at the home of a local in Lucca. You'll need to set aside some time from your visit to the city, but you'll enjoy every second of it.
7. Climb the Torre delle Ore
Lucca has several exceptional viewpoints, and this tower, which is behind the church of San Michele in Foro, is one of them. It is a medieval construction of 50 meters high from which you can enjoy incredible views of the city.
Of course, to reach the top of the Torre delle Ore or Clock Tower**, you will have to climb 200 steps**. But the effort is worth it for the views and because it is an original wooden staircase.
But there is more, because you have the chance to see the mechanism of the clock that gives it its name. The one you will see is a Swiss piece that was installed in the tower in 1754, whose mechanism is manual and works as the first day.
By the way, the Torre delle Ore is in Via Fillungo, perhaps the liveliest of Lucca. The reason is that it is full of stores and restaurants. If you follow its route (it is pedestrian) you will reach the Amphitheater square.
- Hours: the Torre delle Ore can only be visited between March and October. It opens at 9:30 am, while the closing time varies between 5:30 pm and 7:30 pm, depending on the month.
- Prices: about 4 euros. Children between 6 and 14 years old, students and over 65 years old pay around 3 euros.
- Advantages: there is a combined ticket that allows access to both the Torre delle Ore and the Botanical Garden. Its price is about 9 euros for the general rate and about 6 euros for the reduced rate.
8. Admire the view from the Guinigi Tower
Just 300 meters from the Torre delle Ore, following the Via Sant'Andrea, the Torre Gunigi is one of the symbols of Lucca, and not because it is the highest, but because it is the most unique. The reason? Because at the top it has a small garden with trees! It is, therefore, one of the places in Lucca that you should not miss.
The views from the viewpoint of this medieval tower are wonderful, although its height (44 meters) does not reach that of other symbolic towers of Lucca. In its favor is that its location is much more central, in addition to that unique garden full of oaks.
Therefore, if you have to choose between the best viewpoints in Lucca, my advice is to climb to the top of this tower. From it you will perfectly contemplate the cathedral, the Amphitheater Square, San Michele in Foro or San Frediano.
Information of interest
- Opening hours: the Guinigi Tower opens at 9:30 am and the closing time varies between 4:30 pm and 7:30 pm, depending on the month.
- Prices: about 5 euros. Children under 6 years do not pay. There is a combined ticket that costs about 12 euros and gives access to this tower as well as to the Torre delle Ore and the Botanical Garden.
9. Take a break in Piazza dell'Anfiteatro
You will only have to walk 500 meters from the Gunigi tower, following Via delle Chiavi D'Oro and Via Canuleia, to reach this picturesque square. It is the real heart of Lucca. It is accessed through four arches. Once inside, the first thing that will surprise you is its oval shape. It has its explanation: it stands on an ancient Roman amphitheater, hence its name.
But there are still many more aspects that will surprise you about the Piazza dell'Anfiteatro, for example, the buildings that shape it. You will see that their facades have different shapes and sizes and are painted in different shades of yellow. Green shutters and doors in the shape of arches and windows give it a unique charm.
This is where the market used to be. Today it is a perfect place to take a break in one of its terraces. In fact, both in the square itself and in the surrounding area are some of the best restaurants in Lucca.
10. Contemplate the Minor Basilica of San Frediano
Very close to the Piazza dell'Anfiteatro is the Basilica Minore di San Frediano. It is one of the oldest churches in Lucca. If it is worth a visit, it is to admire the magnificent Byzantine-style mosaic that adorns its façade.
Its interior is rather more austere. However, it does hold some treasures, such as a beautifully decorated baptismal font or the sarcophagus of Santa Zita, patron saint of the city. It is, therefore, one of the most beloved temples by the inhabitants of Lucca.
- Hours: the Basilica Minore di San Frediano can be visited every day from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm, except on Saturdays, when it closes half an hour later.
- Prices: about 3 euros. Children up to 11 years old are free.
11. Discover the garden of Palazzo Pfanner
The visit to Lucca ends just a stone's throw from the basilica, at Palazzo Pfanner, one of the most famous and beautiful palaces in Lucca. It was built in the 17th century and walking through its rooms is almost like stepping back to the city's heyday. But if there is something special about it, it is its garden, a real oasis in the heart of the historic center.
It is an Italian-style garden, adorned with hedges, statues and small fountains. It is so photogenic that scenes from movies and series have been filmed there. But above all, it is a perfect counterpoint to everything you have seen inside the historic heart of Lucca.
Information of interest
- Hours: Palazzo Pfanner is open from April to November from 10:00 to 18:00.
- Prices: about 6.50 euros for a visit to the palace and gardens or about 4.50 euros if you only want to visit one of the two spaces.
Tips to make the most of your visit to Lucca
- Lucca is a city that can be visited in one day without great difficulty. But, if you know how to manage your time well, you can still include in the route other attractions, such as the botanical garden or the National Museum of Palazzo Mansi.
- If the weather is good, my advice is Lucca Bike Rental and walk around the city wall. Then, if you feel like it , you can have a picnic. It is a great plan, for example, for the afternoon. So you can admire a spectacular sunset.
- It is highly recommended to wear comfortable clothes and, above all, comfortable shoes. The reason is that some of the streets of Lucca are paved with cobblestones.
- To climb any of the towers that remain open to the public you will not only need good shoes, you should be in good shape. Not only because of the steps you will have to climb, but also because they are not very comfortable. In any case, the effort is worth it.
- If you like the world of enology, try the wines of the area, they are great. And, if you still want more, at the end of the visit you can always participate in a tasting in a vineyard in Lucca.
One last note: you can do the route I have suggested exactly the other way around. In that case, you will have to start the tour at the Santa Maria gate of the walls of Lucca.