Where can you go in Italy to experience a small medieval city away from hordes of tourists? We recently visited pretty Lucca on a trip to Tuscany and would love to spend more time there.
In Lucca, the eating, culture and living is charmingly easy. The city is small enough to manage on foot and enjoys the hustle and bustle of a modern city within its beautiful medieval walls.
We had two very different experiences of the city as we visited both with and without children. I can assure you there is something about lovely Lucca that will entice all types of travellers.
Things to do in Lucca, Italy
In many ways Lucca is a typical Italian medieval walled city with Roman origins. However the architecture is unique due to the Lucchese towers and piazzas developed in the Napoleonic era.
However your first point of call to get your bearings should be the city walls, converted in the 17th century into a 4 kilometre long park that encircles the city. Hire bikes from the tourist office near the station on Piazzale Ricasoli just outside the city walls and ride around the park. Or simply stroll with a gelato.
I later discovered you can do a 3 hour self guided bike tour or a guided sightseeing tour by bike of Lucca. But it didn’t matter, we enjoyed the easy ride looking Lucca’s points of interest from above.
The walls are the best vantage point to see the beautiful 14th century towers rise above the city. Most famous of the towers is the elegant Torre Guinigi with its tree topped roof built by wealthy merchants of the town.
Inside Lucca’s city walls
After viewing Lucca from its fortifications, venture into the old town and discover the city’s piazzas, churches and typical laneways. You can easily walk around Lucca taking in the sights but if you are in a hurry bicycles are the preferred mode of transport.
Don’t miss climbing the city’s famous towers or torre. The views over Tuscany are breathtaking. Lucca boasts over 130 towers however the most famous are the Torre Guinigi and Torre Civica delle Ore, each with their own stories and legends.
My favourite church was Chiesa di San Michele in Foro soaring above the enormous Piazza dell’ Anfiteatro below. Here local children play at dusk and families of all types enjoy their passeggiata or evening walk.
Where to eat in Lucca
This is Italy so of course you will not go hungry. There are so many pasticceria, gelato shops and enticing little cafes to tempt you. We enjoyed a leisurely lunch on the city walls at Ristorante San Colombano one day. I can recommend the margherita pizza in particular. Buona!
One evening we dined at Osteria Tosca in the beautiful little Piazza Cittadella. The restaurant’s terrace overlooks a statue of composer Puccini whose home town was Lucca.
We were delighted to find our favourite dishes there. Melanzane (eggplant/aubergine) parmigiana for me and spaghetti vongole for my husband. Both dishes were simple and delicious.
Music and opera in Lucca
Lucca is famous for its music and over summer there is an annual music festival hosting artists such as Bob Dylan, John Legend and Robbie Williams.
However, as Lucca was the home of famous composer Puccini we felt it only right to experience some opera in the church where he was baptised. Held every night “even if there are only 3 people” the Puccini e la sua Lucca concerts run for an hour and are a lovely stop between aperitivo and dinner. Free concerts are also held over summer in the square that was the Roman amphitheatre.
Lucca for families
Due to its narrow streets and medieval architecture, the city of Lucca restricts the number of cars within its walls. The piazzas and mainly pedestrian streets ensure it is a relatively safe place for children to wander.
We loved riding along the walls of the city in our bicycle or surrey built for four. There are several playgrounds and gelateria en route for those all important play breaks.
Our children love anything to do with water so they enjoyed the city’s fountains. Older children with an interest in history may enjoy this specialist tour for kids uncovering Lucca’s stories and legends.
Where to stay in Lucca
We were lucky enough to stay at the delightful La Romea Bed and Breakfast housed in a 14th century palace. Our hosts Giulio and Gaia were so helpful and ready to assist with recommendations about their city.
They shared the best gelato shops and secured some last minute concert tickets for us. Gaia is also my friend Luana’s cousin so it was like staying at a home away from home.
I like to think we got special treatment but their TripAdvisor reviews tell a different story. This hospitality is extended to all their guests. La Romea is a wonderful place to stay in the heart of Lucca.
Lucca – a base to explore Tuscany
I would love to return to Lucca. The city would make a great base for exploring Tuscany. The city is close to Florence and Pisa by both train and car and is surrounded by the Tuscan hills.
Lucca is a beautiful, compact and accessible city with a fascinating history and attractions both within and beyond its famous walls.
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