Lucca, a top city to visit in Tuscany, holds many attractions for the tourist. Lucca's historic center, with medieval towers and nearly 100 churches, is completely enclosed by its walls and it's a good city for walking, biking, and shopping. There are several places to rent bikes, including the tourist office near the bus station. Lucca makes a nice base for visiting Pisa, the Tuscany coast, and the scenic Garfagnana region to the north. For where to stay, see Top Rated Lucca Hotels.
Here are top attractions in Lucca. Find their locations on this Lucca Map and enjoy this video of our day in Lucca.
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The walls enclosing Lucca's historic center are some of the best preserved ramparts in Italy and you can walk clear around Lucca on top of the wall. In the 1800's, the top of the thick wall was planted with trees and grass turning it into a huge park and a pleasant place to walk or ride a bike. There are more than four kilometers of walls with six gates and eleven bastions.
San Michele in Foro Church © Martha Bakerjian
San Michele Church is in the large square that was originally the Roman Forum in the center of Lucca. Today it's still a lively square lined with medieval buildings housing cafes, shops, and homes. The square is my favorite place in Lucca to sit and have a coffee. The beautiful marble church, built from the 11th through 14th centuries, has a large Romanesque facade, larger in fact than the actual church. It's topped with a large statue of the archangel San Michele, or Saint Michael.
San Martino Cathderal
San Martino Cathedral © Martha Bakerjian
Lucca's cathedral, dedicated to San Martino or Saint Martin, sits on Piazza San Martino surrounded by impressive medieval buildings. Originally build in the 12th to 13th centuries, it's Romanesque in style and has an intricately decorated marble facade. Next to the cathedral is its tall 13th century bell tower and Casa dell'Opera del Duomo, a typical medieval house of Lucca. The interior is Gothic and holds good artworks, including the Volto Santo and the 15th century tomb Ilaria del Carretto, a masterpiece by Jacopo della Quercia.
Church and Baptistery of San Giovanni and Reparata
San Giovanni Church © Martha Bakerjian
San Giovanni Church was built in the 12th century and partially remodeled in the 17th but still has some Romanesque features. Inside the church, you can go underground for a fascinating look at the archaeological excavations dating from the first century BC through the eleventh century AD including Roman remains, part of an early Christian church, and a medieval crypt. It's open daily from mid-March through 2 November and on weekends and holidays the rest of the year. Each evening at 7pm the church holds a music performance - see Puccini e la sua Lucca
Piazza Anfiteatro © Martha Bakerjian
Piazza dell' Anfiteatro, an oval shaped piazza, was the site of a Roman amphitheater. Parts of the original oval ground-plan and outer ring of second-century construction can still be seen. Buildings and houses were built around the arena during the middle ages. The lively piazza is ringed with shops, cafes, and restaurants both inside and out. In July it's the venue for open-air music performances.
View from Guinigi Tower © Martha Bakerjian
Climb the 130 stairs to the top of Guinigi Tower, one of Lucca's 14th century towers, for fantastic views of Lucca. Giunigi Tower is on Via Guinigi, a well-preserved medieval street where you'll also find the Case del Giunigi, a complex of 14th century towers and brick houses. The Guinigi Tower can be identified from a distance by the large oak tree growing out of its top.
Via Fillungo and Torre delle Ore
View from Torre delle Ore © Martha Bakerjian
Via Fillungo is a main shopping street in the historic center. Here you'll find all kinds of shops, from food and wine to clothing and household items. The street is mainly pedestrian and almost always full of people walking and shopping. Also on Via Fillungo is the Torre delle Ore, clock tower, another medieval tower that you can climb.
Villa Giunigi National MuseumVilla Giunigi's museum, in a 15th century villa near the east walls, has local artifacts and artworks from prehistoric times through the 17th century. There's a large collection of local Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance art including 15th century wood inlays. Combination tickets are available for Villa Giunigi and the National Museum in Palazzo Mansi, near the west walls. Palazzo Mansi has paintings as well as the tapestries and frescoes of the 16th-19th century palazzo itself. Palazzo Pfanner, with a costume collection and lovely gardens, is another palazzo that can be visited.
© by Martha Bakerjian, licensed to About.com
Puccini, the famous opera composer, was born in Lucca and his home is now a museum with his piano, musical scores, and more Puccini memorabilia. You'll see a bronze statue of Puccini in the piazza bearing his name, a pleasant square with a few cafes and a restaurant.
San Frediano Church
San Frediano Church © Martha Bakerjian
San Frediano's facade is decorated with a stunning 13th century Byzantine-style mosaic. Made mostly with gold leaf mosaic that glow beautifully in the sunlight, there's also a little color to make the apostles and Christ stand out. The church was originally built in the 6th century but remodeled in the 12th. Inside is a Romanesque baptismal font. There are also several good art works and frescoes and the mummified body of Santa Zita.
Garden Lake © Martha Bakerjian
Lucca's botanic garden has a small lake with water plants, a collection of mountain plants, succulent display, greenhouses, and medicinal plants and herbs. It's a peaceful place to get away from the crowds. In summer there are evening concerts scheduled, too.
photo by Serena Giovannoni, Wishversilia, used by permission
Lucca is a good city for shopping. Here's a look at foodie shops and historic artisan workshops to visit in the historic center.
Visiting the villas and gardens near Lucca is a good day trip, either by bicycle or car.