Again, we head to our favorite part of Italy – Tuscany. And there is no way a Tuscan story to go without visiting Lucca! You can find the front stops at the end of the article 😉 We must now turn to the new destination of the Tuscan landscapes – the sophisticated city of Lucca!
Where is Lucca and how to get there
Lucca is located just 20 km from Pisa and about 80 km from the capital city in the area – Florence. This makes it a very enjoyable place to visit for all the tourists in the area! It is easy to reach by car, but only to the walls! It’s a good idea to leave the car outside the old part of town. Right next to one of the entrances there is a huge paid parking lot – Parcheggio Palatucci. Its prices are reasonable for Tuscany, around 1 euro per hour. If you don’t mind walking 10 minutes more, I would recommend Via Leandro Puccetti Parking, which is free!
Another option to get to the city I used on my second visit is by train! The connection between the major cities in Tuscany is relatively good and easy. We were coming from La Spezia and the trip to Lucca took us about 1 hour and 30 minutes with a stop in Viareggio. Almost… This is the first time I have learned that when you have a transfer with Italian trains and the first one is late… the second one isn’t waiting for it! So the 15 minute delay of the train in La Spezia cost us 1 hour stay in Viareggio J Your ticket is valid for the next 4 hours of the train you purchased it for, so there is no problem catching the next one. The cost of our trip from La Spezia to Lucca was € 7.60. You can check out all the options for a train route on the Tren Italy website – HERE.
Arrival in Lucca
If you chose to be without a car and overnight stay in Lucca, then you will need to leave your luggage… Option is at the station or right in front of it – Tourist Center Lucca. We chose the second one, the price being 3 euro to 3 hours and 5 euro all day. We already feel lighter and ready for a hot walk around Lucca! Hot because in the middle of summer the temperatures here are harsh! Initially, we had planned 4 hours of stay, since we had to leave for Prato. With the delayed, the hours there were three, but we decided to catch a later train and go back to our original plan. Honestly… we didn’t feel when they passed and didn’t even was enough!
First steps to the city
The old part of Lucca is where you will find the charm of the city! And it is located behind a perfect fortification – the completely preserved fortress walls! They are about 4 km long and surround it completely. Depending on what you arrive at and where you are positioned, you need to decide where you should come from. But through whatever gate you go, you can head to central San Michele Square (Piazza San Michele).
You shouldn’t miss the walk on the fortress walls! Wonderful green fields spread out in front of them and above them pedestrian alleys with many shady trees. Something very valuable in the heat of summer… The impressive fortifications are basically 30 m wide and 12 m high! They were built in the middle of the 16th century because of the danger of an attack by the mighty Florence and because of the medieval walls that were then obsolete. However, there was something left of them, namely the wide fields separating the old and the new city. Even in the Middle Ages it was ordered to clear all vegetation so that it could have a clear view and not serve as a hiding place for the enemies. If you are in a car and you enter through Porta Sant’Anna, you can start with a walk on the walls…
Behind the fortress walls
Getting there by train takes us to Porta San Pietro! The first thing we see is the curled up against the walls Oratorio della Madonnina temple. You will definitely see many churches here, and Lucca is the first city in the region to adopt Christianity!
And to get to the center, we have to turn down one of the streets to the right. We choose Via Vittorio Veneto. Lucca is a city where you won’t run into chaotic small streets. Here they are strictly arranged, a legacy of the urban plan of the Romans. One of the main streets will take us to the huge square of Napoleon (Piazza Napoleone). As you will see from the photos, the site of many festivals and concerts in the summer… Here is the city hall.
San Michele Square (Piazza San Michele)
After a very short distance we reach the heart of Luca – San Michele Square. Most tours start from here. The charming square is filled with the dazzling church of San Michele in Foro (Chiesa di San Michele in Foro). You can guess from the name that there was once a Roman forum here! The church is known for one of the most amazing facades in all of Tuscany! The interior is quite ordinary compared to the exterior. Unfortunately, the funds are spent mainly on the exterior facade and the church pales inside…
Time for lunch
The harsh sun and the delayed train make us feel severe hunger. The attractive Square is our choice! And the place… let it be La Tana del Boia! A small restaurant for sandwiches and local delicacies. And… cold beer! Perfect table overlooking the cathedral and the square… This is leisurely lunch!
The house of Giacomo Puccini
Now we are full and rested and it’s time to expose ourselves to the 30+ degree heat! Just a few steps away is the house of perhaps the greatest Italian opera composer – Giacomo Puccini. Its monument is located on the small Piazza Cittadella Square, surrounded by several typical restaurants. And on the opposite corner between Via Di Poggio and Corte S. Lorenzo is his house Casa di Puccini, which has been turned into a museum. We decided not to go in and headed to the next point of the plan…
Pfanner Palace (Palazzo Pfanner)
The facade of San Michele in Foro peered out from the alley and there was no way we couldn’t go back past her… From there, we took Via degli Asili and a few lovely restaurants.
In a short time we find ourselves at the entrance of the Pfanner Palace (Palazzo Pfanner)! The time is pressing and we decide to visit its gardens only. It itself is Lucca’s baroque wealth! The beautiful building was home to many local aristocrats before reaching the Pfanner family, whose name it bears today. In fact… even today it is their property, having opened it for visits and events. As a prominent beer lover, what I found most interesting was the fact that Felix Pfaner was a brewer and it was here that is was one of the first breweries in Italy!
And the gardens… the perfect sample of baroque gardens! Alleyways feature statues of ancient Greek deities, with an octagonal fountain in the center. You fall into a colorful maze! There are plenty of roses, begonias, magnolias, peonies, hydrangeas and more… There are also two very interesting bamboo groves! From the alley you can see the nearby tower of the church of San Frediano, creating even more pleasant surroundings.
To Amphitheater Square (Piazza dell’Anfiteatro)
We saw the tower of San Frediano from the gardens, but now we will go past the church itself. Here we can enjoy one of the most beautiful mosaics in the city dating from the 13th century! You don’t have to go inside to the church to see it, just look up the facade… And the square in front of it is extremely peaceful and the restaurants there contribute to the Tuscan idyll.
Here is the culmination of a visit to Lucca, arguably the most impressive and recognizable place in the city – Amphitheater Square (Piazza dell’Anfiteatro)! The name suggests that the Roman Amphitheater was once here. Today, the buildings surround the eponymous square in perfect circular shape! Stunning views! A great place for relaxation, enjoyment and the opportunity to feel the rhythm of the city…
There are four tunnels on each side to access the square, which are used by local and bicycle parking. The former stones of the amphitheater served to build many Romanesque churches around the city. Today’s buildings are in bright yellow colors and stand out green shutters on the windows. Almost everywhere in the square are small restaurants. This combination contributes to the unique atmosphere of the place.
Guinigi Tower (Torre Guinigi)
Just a stone’s throw from the square is another landmark in Lucca – Guinigi Tower (Torre Guinigi). You will say… tower like tower… there are hundreds in Tuscany! That’s right… But this one is a little more special… There are seven oak trees on top! How similar to this have you seen? The tower was built in the 14th century by Francesco Guinigi’s family. They were among the largest noble families in the city. The seven oak tree symbolizes the number of Francesco’s sons. There is no proven explanation as to why this garden was planted on the top of the tower… But it is associated with a very interesting legend… The tallest oak is said to have been planted by the youngest son, Paolo. His fate isn’t pleasant, is being sentenced to death… On the day of his death, all oak leaves fall off and the branches remain bare…
The only truth is that the tower reveals magnificent views over the former Tuscan capital and the ambient mountains! The oaks keep a very pleasant shade, which is something great in the heat of summer and after all the steps have climbed to the top… And the branches help you to play with the shots… Not only the branches, there are windows with bars on the stairs to the top, which also allow for very good pictures! The ticket price is 5 euro and includes an entrance to the Clock Tower (Torre delle Ore) and the Botanical Gardens (Orto Botanico).
Clock Tower (Torre Delle Ore)
The ticket gives us the opportunity to climb another one of Lucca’s towers – the Clock Tower (Torre Delle Ore)! They are located about 300 meters from the Guinigi Tower and it is a good idea to take some time and visit it. Mostly because you’ll be able to see the Guinigi Tower from afar! The reddish roofs of the city, the greenery, the hills back and the rising oak tower! Well, it’s worth it… And one more look at Lucca has never been superfluous! The plain location gives you the opportunity to look around the whole city!
To the Duomo (Duomo di San Martino)
By the end of our tour, we have already become convinced that Lucca is a tempting mix of charming squares, cobbled streets, pastel houses and numerous churches! Along several of these we pass on our way to the Duomo… Chiesa di San Pietro Somaldi, Chiesa di Santa Maria Forisportam and Chiesa dei Santi Giovanni e Reparata are just part of the many temples in the city…
We have reached the final point of our plan – the Duomo! The Cathedral of San Martino (Duomo di San Martino) has a rather strange appearance… at first glance. The exterior facade is attached to the bell tower, which is stay from older building nearby. The cathedral itself is very lush outside and inside! Many columns are made by different Italian masters, almost all of them different. Admission is with an entry fee of 5 euro and includes a visit to the Chiesa dei Santi Giovanni e Reparata. We didn’t have much time and decided to enjoy the Duomo just outside…
Our tour of Lucca is over! From every angle… a touch of sophistication! The locals know that this is one of the most impressive places in the area and they are able to convey their Tuscan aristocracy to the visitors as well… Peace and delight are felt all over Lucca. Here you will find everything you can look for in Tuscany!