Lucca is a city sprung up from Italy’s earth. This fascinating Tuscan city encapsulates some of the most influential periods in history while maintaining the quiet, off the beaten track appearance that is a well-known trait of the region. As the birthplace of Puccini, this is a city famed for its inhabitants as much as its setting and I couldn’t wait to get exploring.
Once inside the Renaissance walls that circle the city centre, it feels as if you have stepped upon a great secret. Sandy coloured buildings rise up ahead mixed with deep reddish brown ones and narrow streets invite you to wander further into the maze. In spite of its size, the ability to lose your way in Lucca is higher than you might expect. If you have the luxury of a few days in Lucca, this is certainly a place to enjoy getting lost in. For day trippers, maps can be purchased easily from shops or from Lucca train station to help you find the main sights.
Our visit to Lucca coincided with the annual summer music festival and a fabulous art exhibition with installations dotted around the whole city. Even with these events in full swing the city did not feel overwhelmed with visitors, who freely amble among the sun dappled streets.
The white Gothic cathedral of San Martino is impressive in size and in decoration. Construction dates back to the 11th century with a late gothic duomo housed inside. Artifacts include the Volto Santo di Lucca or the Holy Face of Lucca used in the Holy Cross celebrations each year.
Piazza dell’ Anfiteatro sits tucked away to the north of the city, nestled on the site of a previous Roman Amphitheatre. It is a fantastic spot for a drink and gelato at one of the area’s cafes. Nocciola gelato. Amazing….
Torre Guinigi garden remains a cherished retreat with 360° views of Lucca and the Apuan Alps beyond. This unique garden was constructed by the Guinigi family as a symbol of change for a new and improved Lucca.
Another opportunity to take in the panoramic views lies in wait for those who take a spin along the city walls. Originally built for defense in the 16th century, nowadays the walls are a pathway around the historic centre for walkers and cyclists to enjoy. There are benches along the way and several side-paths back inside should the whole 4km circumference become too much in the balmy sun.
These are just a few of the attractions found in Lucca among museums, the beautiful Basilica di San Frediano, Botanical gardens, National Art Gallery and the birthplace of the composer, Giacomo Puccini.
Lucca is known as the city of one hundred churches for obvious reason. In the hot summer sun, visitors gather on stone steps to rest in sanctuary shade, while others peek inside.
In the heart of the Italian countryside, Lucca is a place where you feel simply and well looked after. Some places you could call home and Lucca was one such place. Should you find yourself in need of more, Florence and Pisa are within easy distance by train and bus. Both are stunning locations, and they would have to be to entice you away from Lucca’s charm. If you are looking for Tuscan treasure, then Lucca is a beautiful piece and one I would go back in a heartbeat.
There are some great guides available on the beautiful places to spend your days in Tuscany. I really like the Marco Polo guide books with their pull-out maps, so you can plan your route as you go along.