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Best Things to Do in Lucca

Lucca, which is located very close to Pisa, is one of Tuscany's hidden treasures and is worth a visit for its medieval architecture, its 16th century city walls and its panoramic views from the picturesque Guinigi Tower.

Matías Rodríguez

Matías Rodríguez

9 min read

Best Things to Do in Lucca

Lucca Square | ©Jane Ackerley

Lucca, located just a few kilometers from Pisa, is one of Tuscany's best kept secrets. With its medieval architecture, its 16th century wall that remains intact and the panoramic views you can see from the city towers, it offers some of the best attractions in the region and also an ideal place to visit on a day trip.

Some of the best things to see and do to discover Lucca include visiting the Cathedral of St. Martin, taking a gastronomic tour along the wine route, touring the Casa del Boia, visiting the Museum of Giacomo Puccini, taking a swim at Viareggio beach, seeing the Torre delle Ore and watching the sunset from the Magdalena Bridge.

1. Visit the Cathedral of St. Martin

Cathedral of San Martino| ©Med Cruise Guide
Cathedral of San Martino| ©Med Cruise Guide

The Cathedral of San Martino is one of the most representative Catholic temples in Tuscany and has a unique history, since according to tradition it was originally built by San Frediano, a saint from Lucca who lived in the 6th century. The current Cathedral, which combines Gothic and Romanesque styles, was completed in the 11th century and is notable for its rose window, barrel vaults and the frescoes, sculptures and relics inside.

The Cathedral is one of the most popular sites for visitors, as it reflects the history and culture of the city and is also a reference of the religious architecture of Tuscany, so it is often included in the best tours of Lucca. If you visit the region in November, you can also participate in the patron saint festivities of St. Martin of Tours.

The temple is located in front of Piazza Antelminelli, which is one of the most famous squares in Lucca, so you can make the most of your visit by having lunch in some of the bars and restaurants in the area.

Interesting details

  • Price: the entrance ticket to visit the Cathedral of St. Martin has an initial cost of about 8 euros and includes a visit to the museum of the temple.
  • Hours: daily from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.
  • Location: Piazza Antelminelli, Lucca.

Buy a guided tour of Lucca

2. Take a gastronomic excursion along the wine route

Tasting day| ©Anastasia Fuller
Tasting day| ©Anastasia Fuller

One of the best ways to get to know the spirit of Tuscany is through its flavors, and Lucca is the ideal place to use as a base to get to know the vineyards and wineries of Chianti. On these excursions you can taste Tuscan wines and combine the experience with a gastronomic tour, as most of the tours include lunch.

From Lucca you can discover the vineyards of Chianti on bus tours or also on electric bike tours, which include wine tastings, cured meats, fresh pasta and traditional Italian desserts, such as tiramisu and homemade gelato, which is very popular in Cinque Terre.

These tours usually last about 4 to 5 hours, so they are compatible even with a short stay in the city. If that is your case, here is a list of the best things to do to discover Lucca in 1 day.

Visit a winery in Lucca

3. Visit the Casa del Boia and learn about its fascinating history

Casa del Boia| ©bluefootedbooby
Casa del Boia| ©bluefootedbooby

The Casa del Boia is one of Lucca's historic buildings and its fascinating history makes it a must-see in the city. This Renaissance building is ornamented with frescoes and sculptures and is named after a local myth that Tommaso Jona, a professional executioner who came from Rome and occupied the house, which became the center of many historical events, lived there.

According to legend, the house is haunted and at night voices are heard, but it would also have been the site of meetings between Lucca's politicians and Benedetto Paltoni, the executioner who replaced Jona, and who initiated negotiations to abolish the death penalty, an event that took place in 1846, one year before the Italian reunification promoted by Giuseppe Garibaldi that reinstated the national laws in the country.

Today, you can visit the museum of the Casa del Boia, take guided tours of the building and learn about its history, which is one of the most striking and curious of Lucca.

Interesting details

  • Price: the entrance ticket to visit the house has an initial cost of approximately 9 euros per person.
  • Hours: daily from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm.
  • Location: Via dei Bacchettoni 10, Lucca.

4. Contemplate the skyline of Lucca from the Guinigi Tower

Guinigi Tower| ©Marco_968
Guinigi Tower| ©Marco_968

Lucca's architecture stands out for its medieval style and from the top of the Guinigi Tower, which became one of the highest points of the city with its 44 meters, it is possible to contemplate the skyline and also the sunset, if you visit it at the end of the day and wait for the sunset. Guinigi is actually a bell tower and its striking design is complemented by a wooded garden at the top.

There are many theories as to why the tower's builders included a wooded garden at the top and one theory suggests that it was an attempt to surpass in height the Torre delle Ore, which was then the highest point in Lucca, although it is possible that this was just a Renaissance distinction, since during the time of its construction it was in vogue to combine the urban with the rural.

Climbing the Guinigi Tower will take you about 1 hour and you will have to do it by a staircase of 230 steps, as there are no elevators available, so the organizers advise against its visit to younger children and people with reduced mobility.

Interesting details

  • Price: the entrance to climb to the top of the tower has an initial cost of approximately 5 euros.
  • Hours: daily from 10:00 am to 7:30 pm.
  • Location: Via Sant'Andrea 41, Lucca.

5. Tour the Museum of Giacomo Puccini

Museum of Giacomo Puccini| ©Harvey Barrison
Museum of Giacomo Puccini| ©Harvey Barrison

Giacomo Puccini is considered one of the greatest musical composers of all time and most of his work and personal items are currently housed in the Giacomo Puccini Museum, which is an exhibition dedicated to his life and work, which is also an exponent of the culture of Lucca, his hometown and where he began his career in the local orchestra.

Among the museum's exhibits you will find original scores and personal objects, photographs and historical documents about the composer's career, recordings and videos of Puccini's most famous operas such as La Boheme, Tosca or Madama Butterfly, musical instruments that were used by the musician during his childhood and many of the works of art that the author acquired during his career.

The museum also offers educational programs, workshops, children's activities and interactive guided tours, making it an excellent experience to do with the family, especially if you are a fan of music and Italian culture, since the work of Giacomo Puccini is an exponent of the history of Lucca, Tuscany and the country.

Details of interest

  • Price: admission to the museum has an initial cost of approximately 9 euros per person and 7 euros for children under 12 years.
  • Hours: daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
  • Location: Corte S. Lorenzo 9, Lucca.

6. Take a swim at Viareggio beach

Viareggio Beach| ©Stefano Domenici
Viareggio Beach| ©Stefano Domenici

Viareggio beach is the main bathing area in the Lucca area and is not only one of the most visited beaches by locals, but also by tourists, as many visitors from Pisa come to visit it, as it stands out for the many services it offers and because from there you can access some of the best scenery in Tuscany, especially from the lighthouse and the marina.

In the port area you will also find some of the best restaurants in Lucca, where you can buy fresh fish and taste Tuscan wines, such as those of Chianti. From there you can also watch the sunset over the Ligurian Sea, which is one of the most beautiful of the Italian Riviera.

Summer is the ideal time to visit the beach and is part of the high season of the region, but it is also worth a tour during the winter or autumn, times when you can not take a bath, but enjoy the scenery, a quiet walk along the sea and the flavors of Lucca.

7. Tour the Mura di Lucca

Walls of Lucca| ©Yuri Rapoport
Walls of Lucca| ©Yuri Rapoport

The Mura di Lucca is the perimeter delimited by the ancient walls of the city, which were built in the sixteenth century and because Lucca did not enter into wars since then remain intact, being the second largest undamaged walled complex in the world, only behind the fortresses of Nicosia, on the island of Cyprus.

These fortifications, which are built of stone and brick, surround Lucca in a 4-kilometer circumference that is part of the cultural identity of the city and its surroundings, as it marks Lucca's long tradition as a republic independent of Italy and the central powers.

You can tour the fortifications during a hike or bike ride, on your own or on a guided tour, but from there you can get the best panoramic views of the city. You can also relax in its parks and gardens, which are located on the tops of the walls and, like the Guinigi Tower, combine nature with urban constructions.

La Mura di Lucca is also the epicenter of the city's fair events and musical concerts, so if your visit coincides with the schedule of a cultural or musical show, you can watch it in the area of the wall.

8. Visit the Torre delle Ore

Torre delle Ore| ©Pug Girl
Torre delle Ore| ©Pug Girl

The Torre delle Ore is one of the oldest astronomical clocks in Italy and is known not only for its accuracy, but also for the details of its architecture, which combines Romanesque and Gothic styles. Moreover, since 1390 it has been the tallest building in Lucca and is a fundamental witness to the history of Tuscany, which in the Middle Ages was characterized by private towers, which were built for protection.

Today it is possible to reach the top of the tower, learn how the astronomical clock works and enjoy one of the best panoramic views of the city. You can also visit it during a guided tour to learn about its history, which is closely related to the architectural and cultural richness of the city.

At the top of Torre delle Ore you can reach it by a small staircase of 207 steps, although it is not recommended for people with reduced mobility or claustrophobia disorders, as the climbing compartments are very small.

Interesting details

  • Price: the entrance to access the top of the tower has an initial cost of approximately 3 euros per person.
  • Hours: daily from 10:30 am to 6:30 pm.
  • Location: Via Fillungo, Lucca.

9. Marvel at the Nottolini Aqueduct

Nottolini Aqueduct| ©My Travel in Tuscany
Nottolini Aqueduct| ©My Travel in Tuscany

The Nottolini building is a Roman aqueduct built in the 1st century that stands out for its architecture, but also for its perfect engineering, a novelty of its time, which allowed to provide uninterrupted water supply to the city using a complex system of gates and reuse of the river channels of the region.

The aqueduct will catch your attention because of the arches and columns that support the water channel. Some of the arches are more than 40 meters high, which is considered a technical achievement for the time in which they were built. Today, you can visit the aqueduct, which is considered one of Lucca's technological wonders.

Although the aqueduct is located in the city, being located in an area away from the tourist center, it is usually included among the best excursions from Lucca.

If you plan to visit Tuscany in spring, you will also see blooming vegetation on the paths that surround the aqueduct and that stand out for the variety of colors of the trees and flowers.

10. Watch the sunset from the Magdalena Bridge

Magdalena Bridge| ©Poul Degenkolv
Magdalena Bridge| ©Poul Degenkolv

The Magdalena Bridge is a historic bridge in Lucca that was built in the 13th century and is characterized by its single arch and two towers, which serve as an example to illustrate the methods used in medieval architecture. This bridge is located over the Serchio, which is the river that connects the old part of the city with the new one and, nowadays, it is one of the best places to watch the sunset and take pictures during the sunset.

This bridge, which is also the oldest in Lucca, also served for years as a meeting point for travelers and merchants. When the exchange of goods became more fluid, the construction, which was originally made of wood, was replicated exactly the same but in stone, in the 17th century. From then on, a great number of myths and legends were created around it.

The Magdalena Bridge is now one of the main tourist sites in Lucca and to reach it you will have to take the E4 and E5 buses or the Trenitalia train services to the outskirts of the city, but it is one of the attractions worth discovering outside the historical epicenter of Lucca.

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