Lucca: things to do in the walled Tuscan city

lucca italy points of interest

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Where can you go in Italy to experience a small medieval city away from hordes of tourists?

We visited pretty Lucca during a trip to Tuscany and would return in a heartbeat. There are so many things to do in Lucca and we barely scratched the surface on our two day visit.

In this relaxed Tuscan city, the eating, culture and living is charmingly easy. It is a city small enough to manage on foot but one that has a rich history to explore within its beautiful medieval walls and beyond. In between stops for gelato of course.

Click here for our favourite place to stay in Lucca

Lucca – a proud and independent Tuscan city

rooftops - lucca things to see

Lucca is one of the larger cities in Tuscany and is often overlooked in favour of her more famous neighbours – Florence, Pisa and Siena. In fact, it is so close to these popular destinations that I consider it a perfect base for exploring Tuscany.

A proud and independent city, Lucca forged its own identity over the centuries having struggled with multiple conquests and rulers including the Spanish Emperor Charles II and Napoleon who crowned his sister Princess of Lucca! 

The city has several other famous citizens, the most prominent of these is opera great Giacomo Puccini and there are many monuments devoted to him.

Things to do in Lucca

lucca what to see - lucca walls
lucca horse ride - lucca tuscany things to do

Lucca is a beautiful, compact and accessible city with a fascinating history and attractions both within and beyond its famous walls.

It is one of those typical Italian medieval cities that is perfect for aimless wandering.

But, as you stroll the streets enclosed by the impressive Renaissance ramparts , the city’s unique charm unfolds before your eyes

You notice the soaring Lucchese towers, elegant piazzas lined with cafes, and fountains gurgling as they have done for centuries. And best of all, the relaxed pace of life.

Walk or ride Lucca’s city walls

what to do in lucca tuscany italy

Your first point of call should be the Renaissance city walls, converted in the 19th century into a 4 kilometre long park that encircles the city as a belt of green.

Hire bikes from the tourist office near the station on Piazzale Ricasoli just outside the city walls near the station and ride around the park.  Or simply stroll with a gelato.

I later discovered you can do a self guided bike tour and this city sightseeing tour by bike. 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 that rise above the city. 

Click to discover more cities to visit in Italy – from the obvious to hidden gems 

Explore the old town

lucca city breaks - what to see in lucca
lucca old town - lucca travel blog

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 Piazza dell’ Anfiteatro, once the site of the Roman amphitheatre, and elegant shopping street Via Fillungo. Here you will find many interesting boutiques full to the brim with locally crafted goods. 

Climb the city towers

lucca things to do - explore the torre - towers of Lucca
lucca attractions - torre guinigi

Don’t miss climbing the city’s famous towers or torre. The views over northern Tuscany are breathtaking.

Lucca once boasted over 130 towers but only a handful remain today. The most famous of these are the Torre Guinigi and Torre Civica delle Ore, each with their own stories and legends.

Elegant Torre Guinigi, built by wealthy merchants of the town, is a city landmark due to its tree topped roof garden. Standing 45 metres high above the city rooftops, the oaks on top of the Romanesque-Gothic tower are said to represent the rebirth of the city.

The tower is open daily (except 25/12) from 09:00am to 16:30pm – later in spring and summer. Full admission is €4

Visit the churches in Lucca

San Michele in Foro - churches in Lucca

Of course, like most Italian cities, Lucca has its fair share of beautiful churches crammed with incredible art. 

My favourite is the gorgeous Romanesque basilica Chiesa di San Michele in Foro soaring above the enormous Piazza San Michele  below. Here local children play at dusk and families enjoy their passeggiata or evening walk. It’s the perfect place to watch the world go by. Inside, the church is home to several Renaissance masterpieces.

Basilica of San Frediano Lucca italy things to do
duomo di san martino - places to see in lucca

Other famous churches include 13th century San Frediano church with its detailed Byzantine mozaic exterior and San Giovanni Church notable for the interesting archaeological excavations in its crypt.

Lastly, make sure to visit the San Martino cathedral. Pilgrims have been going there for centuries to see the Volto Santo wood carving otherwise known as the true face of Christ for almost 2,000 years.

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 the Rolling Stones in Piazza Napoleone .

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.

Where to eat in Lucca

Places to eat in Lucca, Italy - spaghetti vongole

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 in Lucca.

We enjoyed a leisurely lunch on the city walls at Ristorante San Colombano one day. I 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.

dinner with puccini lucca
best restaurants 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.

The best place for gelato inside the city walls is Gelateria Veneta – Via Vittorio Veneto, 74

Lucca is a great place to shop for local delicacies. We bought a few packets of these delicious almond cantucci cookies.

things to do in lucca - buy cantucci cookies

Where to stay in Lucca

We were lucky enough to stay at the delightful La Romea, a boutique hotel 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.

breakfast at la romea lucca tuscany italy
Breakfast at La Romea

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.

For more information and reviews of  La Romea – click here

If you are unlucky and can’t get a room there we also suggest:

How to get to Lucca

The closest airport is Pisa. From there you can easily catch the train to Lucca or organise a car transfer.

We recommend Black Lane for transfers in Italy. It is easy to book online and they have great customer service – click here for more information

From Lucca you can easily reach Florence and Pisa by train 

  • Pisa to Lucca by train – 35 minutes
  • Florence to Lucca by train – 1 hour 20 minutes

Hiring a car? It’s only 30 minutes to Pisa and just over an hour to Florence. You will need to pay close attention to parking restrictions in these cities and make sure you do not enter the ZTL historic centre zones. Huge fines apply even if you make a mistake. 

We use to review prices and book cars in Italy – click here for more information 

We wrote a guide to driving in Italy that includes more information on ZTL zones and much more – you can find it here

Lucca for families

children looking fountain - lucca with kids

Due to the 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 gelaterie en route for those all important play breaks.

Our children love anything to do with water so they enjoyed the city’s fountains. 

Onward through Tuscany and Italy

Lucca is surrounded by the northern Tuscan hills known as the Gargafagna. We stayed there for a week and loved exploring the region including day trips to Pisa and exploring the small towns. 

Looking for more treasures like Lucca in Italy? Click on the links below to discover our favourites

Trip planning resources for ItalyBeautiful Brescia in LombardyPretty towns of the Italian Riviera | Fireflies in Tuscany 

We have also prepared these practical guides for planning a trip to Italy:

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23 thoughts on “Lucca: things to do in the walled Tuscan city

  1. Phoebe @ Lou Messugo says:

    I agree with you that Lucca is lovely. And I should go more often as it’s really not that far from where I live, only about 4 hours’d drive (but then there are just sooooo many gorgeous places about 4 hours’ drive from us, the problem is finding the time to go to them all!) #citytripping

  2. MummyTravels says:

    This is beautiful. I’ve never even come across Lucca before, but it looks just as I imagine a lot of this part of Italy to be, with its lovely buildings and history (and gelato). I am very overdue a return to Italy I think! #citytripping

    • Katy says:

      Thank you! We fell in love with the place. My husband’s family is Italian and so while we are in Europe we will be there every year – hooray!

  3. Clare Thomson says:

    I love Lucca! Small and perfect. I wish I’d been able to go to one of the concerts – I’d have really enjoyed that. The city walls are great for a walk and I really liked the restaurants. Great post! #citytripping

  4. Lillian says:

    We spent a week in Chianti and unfortunately never made it up there to Lucca. But I agree, the whole area is just marvelous. I’m on my way to Rome tonight.. can’t wait to get back to Italy. #citytripping 🙂

  5. Wander Mum says:

    Sounds a delightful Italian city – with a good mix of history, culture, food and drink. The festival and concerts sound brilliant. Thanks for linking to #citytripping

  6. Vyjay Rao says:

    Lovely post on beautiful Tuscany. Tuscany is such a lovely region and promises so much to the traveler. I have not been able to explore much of this region but would love to make up for it.

    • Katy says:

      Hi Alex, Lucky you! I am so jealous. I would definitely recommend a trip to Bagni di Lucca – a series of villages along the Lima River. Napoleon used to holiday here and it is an extremely beautiful area. You must not miss the 12th century Ponte della Maddalena. We also enjoyed visiting Castelnuovo di Garfagnana another small town of the region. I’ll be sharing some more on the blog this week also. Have a wonderful time

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