The Walled City of Lucca really is one of the gems of Tuscany. The city is surrounded by rolling hills and mountainous terrain on all sides.
A truly historic place, thought to date back to the 3rd century, the narrow cobbled streets and the famous city walls (from the Renaissance era), immediately transport you away from the perfection of modern architecture and surround you in rustic charm.
CURRENCY | Euro
TIME NEEDED | 1 – 3 days
SEASONS & WEATHER | Mild in winter, hot in summer. You really could visit anytime, but spring, summer and autumn will guarantee better weather.
LANGUAGES | Italian, but English is widely spoken
HOW TO SAY HELLO | Ciao
HOW TO SAY THANK YOU | Grazie
TRANSPORT | Walking and bicycle are best
NEAREST AIRPORT | Pisa International Airport (PSA)
NEAREST TRAIN STATION | Lucca railway station
The walled city of Lucca contains some intriguing landmarks, and is easily walkable. When I think back I just remember a delicate floral scent in the air, the taste of a morning cappuccino and the gentle heat of the day whilst wandering out from cool, shaded churches and narrow cobbled streets.
Things to visit, places to see…
Torre Guinigi (Guinigi Tower) | An amazingly unique structure with a collection of holm oak trees perched on the roof. You can book a ticket (3 euros per person, or 6 euros if you combine it with the botanical gardens) to climb up the inside for an incredible view out over the city, whilst standing in the shade of these incredible trees.
Tower Delle Ore | Another impressive structure that houses a clock and bell. Like Torre Guinigi it will be a bit of a trek up the stairs, but the views across the town are beautiful. (5 euros per person, or 9 euros if you combine it with the botanical gardens and Torre Guinigi)
Walk or ride along the city walls | Lucca is famous for the historical wall and ramparts that encircle the old city. Built during the renaissance era, this impressive structure is paved, with plenty of access points, making it a great way to explore around the edges of the city and get a slightly different viewpoint.
It’s just over 2 and a half miles all the way around so it’s a nice leisurely way to spend part of the day, depending on your pace and how often you stop for photos or detour into the city!
Piazza dell’Anfiteatro | This medieval piazza is a perfect place to wine and dine in the evening. It has a great atmosphere night or day, and is circled by impressive curved buildings, each housing apartments, Gelateria’s and restaurants. Piazza Napoleone, Piazza San Michele and Piazza Antelminelli are also very elegant, however most of the streets you wander down will lead you to out into the open space of a beautiful piazza.
Chiesa di San Michele in Foro and San Frediano Basilica| Both incredibly beautiful churches, Chiesa di San Michele in Foro is located in the Piazza San Michele. And San Frediano Basilica, with it’s incredible mosaic facade is near to the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro.
Duomo di San Martino (St Martin Cathedral) | Roman Catholicism is the primary religion of Italy, and this Roman Catholic cathedral is a prime display of the devotion that the followers of this religion had. Partly famous for it’s asymmetrical facade (when built there was not enough space left for three symmetrical arches so the right hand side of the cathedral near the bell tower is squeezed in) it’s a tiny bit frustrating to look at!
The Puccini Museum | Housed within his old childhood home, it’s a really exquisite look into the life behind this great composer. Famous for his operas, Tosca, La Boheme, and Madama Butterfly. It was so incredibly tempting to have a go on his piano on display…
San Cristoforo, Lucca | This church has been converted into an impressive exhibition space. When I visited they had an amazing display of replica models from Leonardo da Vinci’s many inventions and machinery. On a street just behind the Chiesa di San Michele in Foro, it’s definitely worth having a wander past to see what might be on display!
The Botanical Garden | A small but intriguing botanical garden. It’s no Kew Gardens, but if you appreciate plants and are in Lucca for a few days it’s a lovely spot for a short romantic walk between scented trees and a small lake filled with terrapins! (4 euros per person, or 6 euros if you combine it with the Torre Guinigi).
Just Meander! | My favourite thing to recommend… the streets of Lucca lend themselves perfectly to exploring and wandering in and out of artisan shops and hopping between cafes for breakfast, brunch, lunch, coffee, dinner and a digestivo!
Lucca is also a beautiful base from which to explore the other surrounding areas of Tuscany too. From Lucca you’re just a short train journey away from the Cinque Terre, Pisa and Florence. The journey down to La Spezia (the gateway to the Cinque Terre) is particularly beautiful. You’ll fly past marble workshops, lined with impressive sheets of swirled marble, and through small towns dotted with chilli red houses and terracotta rooftops.
PLACES TO EAT
Ok. Let’s get down to business. One of the reasons you’re here in Italy is the food/wine/coffee/gelato. So without further ado…
For Coffee | Bar Moka (£), Caffe Santa Zita (££-£££), and Undici Undici (££) is a great place to stop by the fountain in the piazza next to the Cathedral!
For Gelato | La Bottega del Gelato (£), Chiardicrema (££) they had amazing pistachio ice-cream!
For Wine | Enoteca Vanni has an impressive wine cellar that you can explore, and Osteria Da Pasquale has incredible food and a great wine selection. Chianti is one of the most internationally famous wines of Tuscany, Lucca is a perfect place to try a glass!
Paniko | £ | Great for breakfast, with some amazing pastries, snacks and coffee on offer!
Itaco Pizzeria | £ | A minutes walk away from the San Michele in Foro, located opposite another small church, this pizzeria is a perfect place to stop for lunch. With incredible pizzas and focaccia, as well as vegetarian and vegan options, grab an outside table and a cold drink and watch the world go by.
Osteria Tosca | ££ | Situated in a small, atmospheric piazza close to the Puccini museum, I had a plate of some of the best carbonara I’ve ever had, plus an amazing house wine.
Ristorante Trattoria L’ Angolo Tondo | ££-£££ | Positioned within the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, the area was pleasantly busy, and the soft lighting and tinkle of wine glasses made for a really lovely atmosphere. I tried a truffle risotto for the first time here, so rich and creamy!
Buca di Sant’Antonio | ££-£££ | A top dog Michelin guide restaurant so you know you’re guaranteed something special. With vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options as well. If it’s a little busy, we had a great meal in Piccolo Mondo next door too!
PLACES TO STAY
BUDGET | £
Piccolo Hotel Puccini | A great option for the solo traveller, it has a warm and welcoming atmosphere, and Piazza San Michele plus a collection of great restaurants and cafes within 200 yards of the front door.
B&B Il Seminario Di Gambogi Paolo | Situated within the walled city and a short 10 minute walk from the train station, this bed and breakfast has a smart rustic charm. It’s also close to some great bike rental options too.
MID-RANGE | ££
Lucca in Azzurro Maison de Charme | I couldn’t recommend this hotel more highly. Beautiful, charming rooms, a great breakfast, a quaint terrace and really friendly staff who even took the time to teach me a few extra Italian words. It’s placed outside of the walled city, but a short walk away, and it has bikes to borrow too!
La Chiocciolina | A charming little apartment, perfect for two. Close to the Torre Guinigi and ampitheatre like atmosphere of Piazza dell’Anfiteatro.
Il Pozzo di Santa Zita | In the heart of the walled city, this stylish guest house perfectly blends rustic and modern decor to create a warm and welcoming setting.
LUXURY/SPECIAL OCCASION | £££
Hotel Ilaria | Set within old 14th century villa stables, this beautiful hotel would be a perfect base from which to explore from. It sits within the walled city, and has bicycles to borrow too!
Hotel Villa Casanova | Set outside of the city (so a car/taxi is needed), in the beautiful Tuscan countryside. It has impeccable views, beautiful decor and a true romantic feel. It’s also a popular spot for weddings and it’s not hard to see why.
Top Tips for Visiting Lucca
Accommodation within the the walled city can be more expensive, so don’t forget to expand your search outside of the city walls to find an incredible place just a short walk away from where all the action is.
Hire a bike! If your accommodation doesn’t offer bike rental, try Cicli Rai Bike Rental or Chrono. It’s the best way to explore the surrounding city wall, and if you need to wander into town for lunch or drinks there are plenty of bike racks to safely attach it whilst you wander into the nearest cafe.
The best view point of the city is definitely from the Torre Guinigi. If you have time for only one thing, make it this!
Look out for some of the specialities of the region, from tordelli lucchese (a dish similar to ravioli) and Baccalà (salted cod, to be eaten with lots of olive oil and black pepper!), to Lucca’s speciality, soup of farro.
Full of incredible historic charm, Lucca is a perfect base to place yourself whilst exploring all that Tuscany has to offer. From beautifully romantic landscapes full of cypress trees and vineyards, to Chianti wine and hearty Italian dishes.