Lucca, the capital city of the province of Lucca (confusing, I know) in Tuscany, is best known for its Renaissance-era city walls that are still standing today while many other city walls throughout Tuscany have collapsed. Lucca is a great city to stay in while you do day trips to various parts of Tuscany since it’s in a relatively central location. Aside from Lucca’s ideal location, the city has so much to offer visitors in terms of history, culture, architecture, and (of course) food. Whether you plan to stay for a day or a week, here is a list of the top 10 things to do in Lucca.
1. Piazza dell’Anfiteatro
A former amphitheater, the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro has transformed into a circle of residence buildings with cafes and a few souvenir shops occupying the ground floors. Now seen as one of the symbols of Lucca, this piazza is a lovely place to walk through and take some pictures, however, it’s not worth taking a seat at one of the cafes to buy something. The restaurants here all cater to tourists, meaning you’ll be paying a pretty penny for less authentic food. If you’re curious about the piazza’s history, you can read about it here.
2. Guinigi Tower
As locals call it, the Torre Guinigi was built in the late 1300s by the Guinigi family. Today, heading to the tower is a must if you’re visiting Lucca. A 360 degree view of the city’s red brick roofs awaits as your reward for climbing up the stairs to the roof of the tower. If possible, try to climb up either early in the day or shortly before it closes to avoid the cluster of tourists at the top. A ticket to the top is €3.50.
3. San Michele in Foro
This Catholic basilica, dating from the 1200s, dons a breathtaking Pican Romanesque facade that will completely lure you in. The exterior is much more appealing and interesting than the interior, which is quite plain in comparison. That being said, since the entrance to this church is free, you should still have a look around inside.
4. Horse & Carriage Ride
If you’re a bit tired of walking around Lucca all day, you can always opt for a horse and carriage ride around the city. I personally never did this, so I’m unsure of the cost, but I did see quite a few couples and families being carted throughout the city (perfect in the scorching summer heat when moving an inch results in a liter of sweat).
5. Lucca Cathedral
What’s a trip to Lucca without visiting a cathedral with “Lucca” in its name? The Cattedrale di San Martino was completed and consecrated in 1070 and is another beautiful cathedral to admire with many fine details throughout the facade that you may not notice unless closely inspected. Unlike the San Michele in Foro, the Lucca Cathedral has an entrance fee of €3. Despite this fee, it may be worth your while to have a look inside, as the interior is unlike most of the other churches in Lucca.
6. Picnic Along the City Wall
If you’re on a bit of a budget or just want to surround yourself in greenery and kick back while you eat, having a picnic along the city wall is a great option. You can either head to a local market to pick up something easy (baguette, cheese, cured meats, etc.) or grab a pizza to go. Buy a bottle of wine along the way and you’re in for a lovely few hours of drinks, food, and friends.
7. Basilica of San Frediano
Yet another church because, well, Italy. Consecrated in 1147, the large golden mosaic at the front of the church is the first thing you’re likely to notice. There is no entrance fee to this church, so if you fancy a walk around, feel free. Though the interior is rather lackluster, the detail in sculptures and the large nave walls are quite impressive.
8. Gelateria Veneta
Hailed as some of the best gelato in Lucca, this little chain of shops comes recommended by a local. Gelateria Veneta offers a wide range of gelato flavours, relatively generous portions, and the gelato itself is smooth and creamy. I must have tried at least five different flavours (don’t judge), all of which were completely worth the calories.
9. Shopping On Via Fillungo
Via Fillungo is filled with a wide range of stores; both unique boutiques and well-known franchises lining the streets, you’re guaranteed to make a few purchases while walking past. Even if you’re not in the mood to actually shop, Via Fillungo is a bustling street that is worth you taking a stroll through.
10. Italian Food
Naturally, you can’t travel to Tuscany without eating your way through each city and thankfully Lucca has a wide range of local authentic eateries to delve into. It’s best to do some research and/or ask someone at your hotel for recommendations on the most local and authentic places in Lucca instead of getting caught in a bit of a tourists trap. Osteria Miranda – a cute restaurant close to the city wall with al fresco dining – was another recommendation and is worth checking out for a meal (just be sure to either show up early in the evening or late at night, otherwise make a reservation).