Full of history and culture, Lucca is only a day trip from Florence and Pisa, yet often underrated compared to other Tuscan towns. But you should really take your time to explore this gem. There are a lot of things to do in Lucca and I love that you can walk on top of the city walls.
You should at least spend one day in Lucca, to explore the best of it. However, if you have more time, you can get a lot more out of it and you can even use it as a base and go on day trips from Lucca to the surrounding towns unless you’re visiting as a part of a Tuscan road trip.
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Things to do in Lucca
There are so many great things to do in Lucca and if you have the opportunity to stay a week, you get the time to really emerge yourself in this wonderful town’s history and culture. Here is a good start to figure out what to do in Lucca whether it’s your first time or you’ve been there before.
Have pizza at Piazza dell’ Anfiteatro
Any Lucca travel guide should include eating pizza at the Piazza dell’ Anfiteatro. This round square is more unique than the eye can see at first sight. The buildings outline the old amphitheater that is now beneath the ground. Some of the arches connecting the buildings are original.
The beautiful square is jam-packed with restaurants that serve wonderful pizza and fine local wine or beer if you prefer.
Climb Guinigi Tower
In the 14th Century, Lucca was jam-packed with towers, as so many other Tuscan towns, San Gimignano being the most famous these days. It was pretty much a competition between families to build the talles tower.
Today, there aren’t many left in Lucca, but the Guinigi Tower is an excellent example, built by the Guinigi Family. And lucky for you, it’s possible to climb up the 232 steps to some of the most spectacular views in town.
This is where you get the stunning view of Lucca cathedral rising above the clay roof tops with the green mountains as a backdrop.
At the top of the Guinigi Tower, the family built a beautiful garden, which is quite unique and distinguish this tower from other towers in the region.
Legend says that Paolo Guinigi was imprisoned in the castle and later executed. Before this, he had planted the tallest tree in the tower. Before his final day, it’s said that all the leaves fell off the tree.
Explore St. Martin Cathedral
Not far from the city entrance that’s next to the train station, you’ll be guided to St. Martin Cathedral by following the white tipped tower.
The uniqueness of the cathedral are without a doubt the columns in all different styles. According to legend, there was a competition where the winner artist would design the columns. As the inhabitants couldn’t choose one, they decided to use all the different columns made in the competition, thus they are all different.
Lucca cathedral is built in a Gothic and Romanesque style and somewhat placed a bit secluded from the rest of the sights in the old town.
You can find information about opening hours and tickets here.
Palazzo Ducale di Lucca
Palazzo Ducale di Lucca has been the city’s political and administrative center during the last eight centuries. The structure went through a restoration in 1578, yet there are unfinished parts in the palace.
You can view a beautiful gallery of statues and frescoes in the Palazzo Ducale, which is also known as Palazzo della Signoria and Palazzo della Provincia.
It’s situated in Piazza Napoleone.
Climb Torre delle Ore
The 700 year old Torre delle Ore has been used as clock tower, but before that, it was a defensive fortification. It’s the highest tower in Lucca, and if you’ve been hanging around my blog for a while, you know how I feel about climbing the highest point wherever I am.
And Lucca is no exception. The 50 meter tall Torre delle Ore is the perfect tower to climb the 207 steps for impeccable views over Lucca.
Legend says that a young woman, Lucida Mansi, sold her soul to the devil so that she would remain young and beautiful for the next three decades. The devil came to claim what was his on 14th of August 1623. Trying to escape her dark faith, she climbed up to the top of the clock tower to stop time. But the devil won the race and took her soul. It’s said that Lucida’s ghost still lives in the clock tower.
Basilica of San Frediano
Basilica of San Fernando was founded at some point between 560 and 588 by bishop San Frediano and is one of Lucca’s most ancient places of worship.
The elegant church is recognized by its large, colorful 14th century mosaic covering the facade.
Inside, you can appreciate masterpieces like some of Lucca’s most ancient paintings dating back to the 12th century and an astounding baptismal font from the same time.
Take a stroll on the historic city walls
One of the best things to do in Lucca is to go for a stroll on the city walls surrounding the old town. This is a favorite spot for the locals to walk, jog, or cycle. When you need a fresh breath and break from the touristy areas, this is the place to go.
Who can resist walking on top of medieval city walls built between mid-1600’s and early 1800’s, anyway!
San Michele in Foro
San Michele in Foro was built on top of the ancient Roman Forum in Lucca, and is one of the most beautiful historical buildings in the old town.
The Roman Catholic church used to be the seat of the Major council until 1370. However, originally the church was dedicated to the Archangel Michael which you can see a statue of on the top of the front facade.
Legend says that the statue holds a green emerald, and in the sunlight you can see it sparkle. But no one has actually found the said stone.
Museum of Villa Mansi
The Museum of Villa Mansi holds a large art collection owned by the city and one of the Lucca attractions you shouldn’t miss. This is one of Lucca’s two main art museums and in addition to the art collection, some rooms are beautifully decorated with Flemish tapestry collections.
The palace used to belong to the Mansi family and it’s especially incredible walking through the Music Hall, with a little stage for an orchestra, and the Hall of Mirrors.
Reflections on what to do in Lucca
There are so many things to see in Lucca that there is no way you can get bored in this quaint corner of Tuscany. With all the history, art, and architecture, the Lucca attractions will keep you spellbound for days.
Make sure you travel responsibly, so that you respect the locals and the environment. A good start is to bring a reusable water bottle and coffee cup.
And finally, don’t forget to slow down! There are so many things to do in Lucca, but if you don’t slow down, you won’t get the chance to really be present and enjoy it properly.
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