Lucca is a walled city in Tuscany, just over the border from Liguaria (home to the Cinque Terre). It is also quite close to Pisa and Florence. I visited here after spending a few nights in the Cinque Terre. It is also the hometown of Dan’s grandmother’s maternal family! I found Lucca to have a young feel, lots of great photo ops and not too many American tourists (although there were many Italian tourists!). Lucca would make a great stop for those looking to stay in a town in Tuscany, but over Florence and Sienna, or those wanting to see Pisa but not stay overnight there (I’ve done that and it is not the most interesting place).
Highlights of Lucca? Lots! Here are my top five:
- Bicycling on the Town Walls – My # 1 highlight of Lucca was, surprisingly, bicycling on the town walls. Lucca’s town walls are larger than those of any other walled-cities that I have visited and the city has turned it into a public park – an old school High Line of sorts! You can bike or walk, and everyone is doing it! We rented bikes from Biciclette Poli, which is close to the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, at a very reasonable cost. You rent by the hour and pay when you return. Bicycling was really easy, but note that no one was wearing a helmet!
2. The Food – THE.FOOD. Oh my goodness. Lucca had some of the best Italian food that I have ever tasted. Every meal was seriously incredible. Some of my favorites were:
This simple and cheap sandwich made out of local ham at La Tana del Boia , just next to St. Martin’s Cathedral:
My truffle pasta at Cantine Bernardini (don’t worry – separate post to follow). Best meal ever.
And pizza at Pizza da Felice, where the locals seriously flock. There is usually a line leading out into the street. Pizza da Felice has a few seats inside and offers pies to go, which isn’t a bad idea!
3. Meandering through the Old Town. Lucca has a lot of old school charm and it is fun just to walk around the streets. Lucca’s buildings have not been modernized and maintain a classic European feel! Some highlights for our wandering:
4. Guinigi Tower: Like many towns in central Italy, way back when families used to display their wealth by building tall towers in which they worked and lived. The taller the tower, the wealthier the family. A few remain in Lucca, the most famous of which being the Guinigi Tower! This is the famous tower with trees (or “garden”) on top! Located right in the heart of the city, you can walk to the top of the Guingini Tower, which has excellent views, for about € 4,00. The walk consists of seemingly endless steps and is not for the height sensitive. The walk up…
Views from the top! Kinda made the scary stairs worth in.
5. Piazza dell’Anfiteatro – This is basically an oval plaza at the opposite end of the city from the train station that used to be a Roman ampitheatre. Its currently quite touristy, ringed with tourist shops and cafes, but is very pretty and we found some local, Lucca beer!
Opera – While I unfortunately did not have time to catch a concert, Lucca is home to Puccini. As such, opera is still quite popular here and attracts some big stars. While we did not see a concert, we were lucky to overhear a rehearsal. I will definitely attend a proper performance next time.
Shopping – For shoppers, Lucca has all of the main European stores and they are not nearly as busy or expensive as in the big cities. Lucca is a good place to get your shopping in!
Overall, we loved Lucca. It was a nice break from big cities, and it seemed to offer just as much at a lower cost. The food was to die for and the scenery was classically Tuscan. I highly recommend a two night stay here, more if you plan to use it as a base and day trip! Lucca will fit nicely into itineraries of tourists coming to/from Cinque Terre, wanting to visit Pisa and those wanting to visit Tuscany, but avoid the super tourist locales of Florence and Siena. You can even do Florence as a day trip from Lucca! There it is. Put it on your next itinerary.
Steal Our Trip
B&B La Violette – Via della Polveriera, 6, 55100 Lucca LU, Italy, T:+39 0583 493594. We stayed in this B&B just inside the town walls. Good location, near to the train station and everything in the Old Town. The host served a good breakfast each morning. I would note that there was no air conditioning. This was fine in late August. The B&B was quite inexpensive.
La Tana dal Boia – Piazza San Michele 37, Lucca, Italy. Serves a list of sandwiches made with local ingredients and homemade wine and beer. Inexpensive and no reservations. Described as “panini slow food.”
Osteria Cantine Bernardini – Via del Suffragio 7,Lucca, Italy. T: (+39) 0583-494336. Open every day for lunch and dinner (break in between). The best meal ever. We went back the next day for lunch. Call a few days ahead and make a reservation because they are crowded and seating is limited.
Pizzeria da Felice – Via Buonamici 352, S. Anna – 55100 – Lucca. T. 0583 587412. Closed Monday and only open for dinner on the weekend (lunch and dinner Tuesday – Friday), go here for some really good pizza! Inexpensive and no reservations. There is minimal seating, so most people eat it on the surrounding streets – or take it back to your hotel!
Guinigi Tower – Via Sant’Andrea, 45, 55100, Lucca, Italy. T: 0583583086. Generally open during the day everyday. Cost is € 4,00 and includes entrance to the tower and rooftop.
Biciclette Poli – Piazza S.Maria, 42 – LUCCA – ITALY – Tel. e Fax 0583 493787. You can just walk in and rent bikes. Cost is a few euro an hour per bike.