Lucca, a City Encircling by Well-preserved Renaissance Walls

Lucca is one of the charming cities in Tuscany. Located on a plain at the foot of the Apuan Alp, the city is very easy to reach either by cars or by trains from Pisa and Florence. It doesn’t attract so many tourists like the other cities, for example, Florence. But it has many interesting facts that the other cities don’t have.  Music festival, churches, streets on the city wall, local food events etc. are the major attractions as well. Besides, it is also the birthplace of the famous Italian opera composer Giacomo Puccini.
In a recent 9-day trip to Tuscany, we spent a day in Lucca. We wandered through the streets and square, cycled on the city wall, listened tour guide talking about Giacomo Puccini etc. There are really a lot to see, to do and to learn in Lucca.
The walk way to a Restaurant in Lucca, Tuscany
The walk way to a Restaurant in Lucca, Tuscany

Music festival

The first thing I noticed in Lucca was not churches or squares but some posters about concert information. Having checked around, we learned that Lucca hosts many concerts annually. It is amazing that many international megastars, including Elton John, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Alicia Keys, and even Lee Ryan will perform at the Piazza Napolene.  We saw that one of our favourite band would also host a concert in Lucca.

But unfortunately, the concert was on the day we left Italy. If we knew before our trip we would definitely re-arrange our trip to join the concert. That was really a pity! Therefore, if you plan to visit Lucca in July and would like to join one of these concerts, please prepare for it well ahead. Tickets are sold months before, while some related information is available online.

Streets and squares

It is very easy to gain orientation in Lucca. There are two types of traditional street layouts. The narrow streets run from north to south and the wider streets running from west to east. So it is not so easy to get lost. All streets are in good status. Therefore, it is easy to walk around even for people with limited mobility.
Street in Lucca, Tuscany
Street in Lucca, Tuscany
Piazza dell'Anfiteatro, Lucca, Tuscany
Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, Lucca, Tuscany

The streets connect many squares together. If you walk towards the centre, you will not miss the famous one Piazza dell’Anfiteatro.  The ring of buildings surrounding the square, follows the elliptical shape of the Roman Amphitheater of Lucca. We could reach the square through four gateways located at the four vertices of the ellipse.

Buildings around the square are restaurants and some small shops. Other public squares are such as Piazzale Verdi, Piazza Napoleone, and Piazza San Michele. During the lunchtime, nearly all restaurants were full. But most of them were locals.

The Clock Tower and the Guinigi Tower

During medieval times, more than 130 towers dominated the Lucca’s skyline. Most were parts of the private homes of rich merchant families, built for protection, and as symbols of their power and wealth. Today, only few still exists, for example the Clock Tower.  By the way, the Clock Tower is the tallest tower in Lucca.

You can climb up the steep and narrow stairs to the top to see Lucca’s Renaissance walls and narrow streets below. Looking around, the views of the surrounding hills and mountains of the Tuscan countryside are breathtaking. Some people feel fun to observe the clock’s mechanism as well.

the Clock Tower in Lucca, Tuscany
the Clock Tower in Lucca, Tuscany
The Guinigi Tower is a typical example of local Romanesque-Gothic architecture. Its unique feature is the garden on the roof top of the tower. The garden is divided into three flowerbeds where Holm oaks were planted. And the ancient tree symbolizes the rebirth and renewal. There is a wonderful view of the city and surrounding mountains from the garden.
The Guinigi Tower was donated by the family’s descendants to the government. To honor the family, the National Museum of Villa Guinigi is dedicated to the family.
the Guinigi Tower in Lucca, Tuscany

Cycling on the medieval walls

The medieval walls circle the city completely. On the top of the walls it is very wide and becomes a pedestrian promenade. Since it’s also completely flat it is suitable for all aged people to walk around. There are many benches, small parks and even a cafe on the walls. Part of the walls lined up with tall trees.

We were able to rent bikes to cycle on the walls and had some wonderful views of Lucca without having sweated too much. There are several places for renting a bike. We rented our bikes opposite to the walls, near Piazza Mons. Emilio Maggini.

On top of medieval walls in Lucca, Tuscany
On top of medieval walls in Lucca, Tuscany

Casa di Puccini

The house of the opera composer Giacomo Puccini is located in the historical centre, Corte S. Lorenzo, 9. This was where the composer was born on December 22,1858. It is a museum today where you can explore the traces left behind by the great composer, discover the personality, the genius and the passion of the creator of extraordinary operas known throughout the world.

A tour group was standing in front of the Puccini’s statue. We heard some interesting stories related to his childhood. The statue is several metres away from his birthplace. Next to the statue is a Cafe called “Madama Butterfly”, a good place to have a break.

A Puccini opera festival takes place between July and August each year. You can get related information at the tourist office next to the parking places outside of the walls.

Puccini's statue
Puccini’s statue
Cafe "Madama Butterfly" in Lucca, Tuscany
Cafe “Madama Butterfly” in Lucca, Tuscany

Churches

There are many medieval churches with richly arcaded façades and campaniles. Some are as old as the eighth century. Religion has always played a big part in local life. In the past, Lucca was a main stopover on the Pilgrimage route of Via Francigena. Therefore, plenty of money made its way to the building of churches in great architecture in Lucca.

It is said there are around 100 churches in Lucca from many important eras, such as the renaissance and gothic, to medieval and Roman. Though it is impossible to visit the churches during the stay, you can see some impressive ones in the main tourists sites, for example, San Michele in Foro.  Its façade built in the 13th century has a large series of sculptures and inlays.

Duomo di San Martino is famous for its tall columnar arcades and the fine campanile. Next to the cathedral is a beautiful bell tower. I can even see it from the walls.

The third church I have taken a close look at is San Cristoforo. It is located on the narrow Via Fillungo in the center. Therefore, I could not picture it properly. It serves as a memorial for those who lost lives in the wars.

Church "San Michele in Foro" in Foroin Lucca, Tuscany
Church “San Michele in Foro” in Lucca, Tuscany
Bell tower next to "Duomo di San Martino", view from Lucca city walls, Tuscany
Bell tower next to “Duomo di San Martino”, view from Lucca city walls, Tuscany
Church "San Cristoforo" in Lucca, Tuscany
Church “San Cristoforo” in Lucca, Tuscany

The Comics & Games event

The Lucca Comics & Games event is a very famous one in Europe and takes place at the end of October each year. This event is divided into Lucca Comics and Lucca Games The first section is about comics and animations. Its second section is dedicated to games such as role playing, board games or medieval games represented in historical settings created for the occasion.

Lots of special guests are invited to hold conferences, conventions, seminars and lessons. I can image the scene that many people dress up like cartoon characters and feel like being in the cinema. For more information on the event and full program, please check out the official site for Lucca Comics & Games.

Tickets & tours

To rent a bike is a good way to explore the city and walls. There are two types of tours, a self-guided tour and a guided tour.  Lucca is also a port-of-call from Cruise routes. When the cruises dock at Livorno, passengers can buy bus transfer from Livorno Cruise Port to Lucca and Pisa and discover the city on their own. There are other tours available for the area as well. Take a look below if you could find one which suits your need.

Where to stay in Lucca

There are plenty of accommodations in Lucca via Booking.com or HotelsCombined.com. Because of many events taking place in Lucca during the summer time, it could be difficult to find a hotel. We were not able to find any one with a reasonable price two months before our holiday. When we were there, we checked several hotels which could be of your interests.

Hotel Napoléon

The hotel is just 500 metres from the walls of Lucca and the motorway exit of Lucca East. This elegant 4-star hotel offers free parking. Rooms come with free Wi-Fi, which is available throughout your stays. For the detail information please check here.

Lucca
Hotel Napoléon (source)

Hotel Palazzo Alexander

Hotel Palazzo Alexander is a historic building in the centre of Lucca. It just inside Lucca’s historic walls. Lucca Cathedral and Guinigi Tower are both just a 10-minute walk away. Accommodation at Palazzo Alexander is complete with antique wood floors and marble bathrooms. Free internet is also available in communal areas. Please find the further details here.

Hotel Palazzo Alexander
Hotel Palazzo Alexander (source)

How to get there

The location of Lucca makes it perfect for anyone getting around solely on public transportation.

By train

The railroad station is just outside the old town walls. There are no direct trains from Pisa airport to Lucca, so a transfer is required in Pisa central station. Lucca is also on the main Viareggio-Florence Santa Maria Novella line, so there is direct service at least hourly from both cities.

By bus

There is a bus that travels directly from Pisa Airport to Piazzale Verdi in Lucca. You get the bus just outside the arrivals hall of the airport (buy your tickets beforehand at the ticket kiosk within the arrivals hall). The fare is cheap at about €4 at the time of writing.

And, the bus ride is a scenic, pleasant fifty minute ride to Piazzale Verdi, which is inside the walls.

By car

Tourists have to park their cars outside the walls. The city has many car parks located outside the wall, the two large parking areas are on the North and South side. The A11 (E76) Runs from the coastal A12(E80) Autostrada across towards Florence.

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