If all things Renaissance fascinate you, it’s time to discover Lucca’s cobblestoned streets! Lucca is a beautiful city in the Tuscany region of Italy, famous for its well-preserved Renaissance architecture and walls. The region is known as the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, and has produced many historical figures that helped shape the world of art, literature, poetry, and science, like Niccolò Macchiavelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michaelangelo. With a seemingly never-ending list of churches, restaurants, and Roman ruins to visit, Lucca is sure to feed both your brain and belly!
Early morning: 7 – 9am
Start your morning off like many locals – have breakfast standing outside a local bar. Enjoy a coffee and cornetto (it’s sort of like an Italian croissant, but denser), and take in the lovely and relaxing atmosphere that the city offers. After your delicious start to the day, head to San Michele in Foro Square (Chiesa di San Michele in Foro), a Roman Catholic church that gained fame as it was built over an ancient Roman Forum. The church provides a unique atmosphere with its beautiful architecture and majestic shape. Fun fact about the church: legend has it that the Archangel Michael statue that sits on top of the church has a ring that projects lights into the square when a ray of sunlight hits it.
Morning: 9am – 12pm
Spend the rest of your morning visiting two well-known tourist attractions in Lucca: the Giacomo Puccini Museum (Casa Natale di Giacomo Puccini) and the Cathedral of San Martino (Cattedrale di San Martino a Lucca). In the Giacomo Puccini Museum you’ll visit the house where the great Opera composer spent his childhood and youth. Many of his famous operas like Turandot and La Bohème, along with photos and drafts of other compositions are housed in the museum. The Cathedral of San Martino is famous for its tomb monument called the Ilaria del Carretto by Jacopo della Quercia, one of the great Renaissance sculptors. There is also a hexagonal chapel inside where one can find the Holy Face of Lucca, a wooden corpus of a Crucifix.
From San Michele in Foro, follow Via San Paolino until you’ve reached Cittadella Square, and you will have arrived at the Giacomo Puccini Museum. To get to the Cathedral of San Martino, head back to San Michele in Foro, and take Via Vittorio Veneto. Keep heading straight and you’ll pass Napoleone Square, Giglio Square, San Giovanni Square, and you’ll arrive at the Cathedral of San Martino. It shouldn’t take you more than 15 minutes to get from the museum to the cathedral.
Lunch: 12 – 2pm
If you’re a fan of gladiators and learning about Lucca’s vibrant and exciting history, take a walk around the Amphitheatre Square (Piazza dell’Anfiteatro). This square was once a centre of great entertainment during the Roman period due to the number of spectators that would show up during gladiator games. In the Middle Ages, the amphitheatre became a prison, and was later partially absorbed by the new buildings that to this day form the perimeter of the square. After spending some time discovering this ancient ruin, satisfy your inner gladiator’s cravings by having lunch in the sun at the many trattorias (a very informal restaurant that serves local and regional recipes) in the area.
To get to the Amphitheatre Square from the Cathedral of San Martino, it’ll be a brisk 15 minute walk. Go back to San Giovanni Square and take Via Cenami straight to Via Fillungo, and after approximately 300 metres the square will be on your right side.
Afternoon: 2 – 6pm
The afternoon is wonderful time to go on a thrilling bicycle ride around the majestic walls of the city. This is probably the best way to appreciate the historic tree-lined 4 kilometre ring that encircles the city. This is definitely one of the major tourist attractions that Lucca is famed for. The view is absolutely breathtaking and is something straight out of a storybook. The atmosphere is incredibly laid-back and various ice cream kiosks are located along the walls.
To get to the city walls, it’s just a 5-minute climb along the path located behind the San Frediano Church, close to the Amphitheatre Square.
Dinner and evening: 6pm – Onwards
When you think of Italy, one of the first things that comes to mind is the food. Homemade pasta, local Montecarlo wines, gelato, more cheeses than you can name — there’s just so much food and so little time to try it all!
Spend a night in the city centre and enjoy a traditional Lucchese dinner in one of the trattorias along the main shopping street, Via Fillungo. If you want to blend in with the locals, try a nice homemade pizza with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and Lucca’s famed extra virgin olive oil. If you’re nuts for beer, give a local Lucchese beer a try!
Shorter stays and layovers
If you don’t have time for a full 24 hours in Lucca, don’t fret, there are plenty of things to do that’ll keep you busy!
As Lucca doesn’t have an airport, the minimum layover time you’ll need to enjoy a couple hours in the city will depend on where you’re travelling from.
The closest airport to Lucca is Pisa International Airport (Aeroporto Galileo Galilei). Lucca is approximately 30 kilometres away from Pisa by car, with the trip length ranging anywhere from 35 minutes to an hour.
From Pisa International Airport, take the airport shuttle bus service called the PisaMover Bus. The bus stop is located in front of the Departures Terminal, with buses departing every 10 minutes, and a travel time of 8 minutes to Pisa Central Station. Buses run between 6am and 12pm everyday, including Sunday and Bank holidays. Starting September 2016, train service between Pisa International Airport and Pisa Central Station will be available. From Pisa Central Station a local train to Lucca is only a 20-minute trip, and Lucca Train Station is only a 10-minute walk from the city centre!
You can also reach Lucca from Florence. Check out Trainline Europe for trains from Stazione Firenze Rifredi in Florence to Lucca. Service runs frequently and the average time for these trips ranges from approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours and 30 minutes depending on if you choose a direct trip or a trip with stops and line changes.
If you find yourself in Lucca in the morning or afternoon, the best way to get a feel for the city is to visit three main tourist attractions: The Amphitheatre Square (Piazza dell’Anfiteatro), Cathedral Square, and San Michele in Foro Square (Chiesa di San Michele in Foro). Plan to spend approximately 30 minutes to an hour at each attraction.
On the other hand, if you happen to be in the city in the evening or nighttime, the Amphitheatre Square (Piazza dell’Anfiteatro) will probably remain high on your priority list of places to see. If you’d rather spend your time taking a relaxing stroll through the city, check out Via Fillungo, the city’s main street. Plan to spend at least 2 hours walking around the city. You’ll find a vast array of shops, gelaterias (stores that sell the gift from the gods — gelato!), bars, and restaurants. Sample various kinds of gelato and end your night admiring the sunset on the city walls with a nice glass of wine. No matter how you choose to spend your limited time, you are guaranteed to be entertained, as the city of Lucca is the perfect backdrop with ancient palaces, squares, churches, fine restaurants, and chocolate shops!
If you’d prefer to spend your time exploring the city in a more structured way, check out our tours and learn about Lucca from a local expert!
Lucca means art, history, architecture, and, last but not least, delicious food and wine! The city’s beauty lives in its medieval narrow lanes, majestic walls, and many hidden corners far off the tourist trails.