HOW TO SPEND A DAY IN LUCCA
Lucca is a small historical city situated on the Western coast of Italy and is primarily known as the city of a hundred churches. It’s famous for its historical medieval architecture, the birthplace of the famous composer, Puccini and walls that encapsulate the old town.
During our recent trip to Florence we decided to take a day trip to Lucca and chose to use the train. Our trip was completely self-guided with our trusty ‘Tuscany Lonely Planet guide and was one of the most memorable and relaxing jaunts of all my times in the region.
Travelling to Lucca from Florence
We travelled from Florence’s Santa Maria Novelli station to Lucca and opted for an early train to arrive in the city for around 9 am. It was pretty straight forward to purchase return tickets online via the Trenitalia a couple of weeks prior to travel and cost around €7.90 each way for the hour and twenty minute journey each side. Once arriving at Lucca station, the old town is literally a five minute walk.
Spending a Day in Lucca
Some careful planning meant that we could make the most of our seven hours in Lucca, with the weather on our side, we decided to concentrate on seeing as much as we could from outside as well as taking in the medieval architecture, beautiful piazzas and everyday scenes of the city.
09:00 Arrive in Lucca
Walk to the city gates and admire the wall encapsulating this medieval city and take in the breadth of the architecture.
09:30-10:30 Aim for the Views
We entered Lucca via the City Gates and made our way to the main viewpoints before it got busy. I’d most definitely recommend this as you don’t want to be climbing up narrow towers and steep steps in the heat of the afternoon, plus the experience is a lot nicer when there are not many people up top so you can enjoy the views and actually take in the breadth of the panoramic landscape.
The most iconic tower in Lucca, known for its charming little rooftop garden. Created in the 14th century, the Guinigi Tower is a true example of Romanesque/Gothic architecture and features exposed brick with an array of arched windows.
The tower stands 45 metres high and most definitely dominates the skyline but the star of the show is the garden at the top, which comprises some beautiful Oak trees, symbolising rebirth and are an icon of Lucca.
Guinigi Tower Via Sant’Andrea, 45, 55100 Lucca
Torre del Ore
During its 700 year history the Torre del Ore has served as a defensive fortification as well as a clock tower. Erected in the 14th century and as the need to defend lessened, the tower was turned into a horological clock.
The climb to the top is via a narrow staircase, or series of staircases, but the reward reaps unrivalled views of the city and additionally you can see the Guinigi Tower’s rooftop garden perfectly from this spot.
Torre del Ore Via Fillungo, 20, 55100 Lucca
10:30-11:30 Brunch & Pucini
Choose from one of the many little piazza cafes located in the city to rest your legs after the climb with brunch or a coffee and pastry. We opted for Manon Lescaut in Piazza Citadella mid-morning adjacent to the statue of composer Puccini
Manon Lescaut Via della Cittadella, 16, 55100 Lucca
If you’re a lover of the classical composer Puccini, then be sure to pay the Puccini Museum in this square a visit and additionally just a few steps away lies the birthplace of Puccini. So go ahead and get your culture fix.
Puccini Museum Corte S. Lorenzo, 9, 55100 Lucca
11:30-13:30 Discovering the Churches & Alleyways
All fuelled up, it was time to explore the architecture of a few of the hundred churches located in the city….
Lucca Cathedral (Chiesa del Santiago Giovanni Reparata)
Situated in the historic old town in the Piazza San Martino and is known throughout Italy for its stunning façade featuring a series of archways and ornate portico frame around the front doors. It was constructed in the 11th century and redesigned to its current form in the Renaissance period.
Adjacent to the church lies the unfinished bell tower, where the lower half is still exposed brick but the cathedral inside hosts a large array of beautiful art as well as the shrine of the Sacred face of Lucca.
Lucca Cathedral Piazza Antelminelli, 55100 Lucca
San Michele in Foro
The Basilica di San Michele features a very unique exterior in the city and is located right in the centre of Lucca. The current design dates back to the 13th century. Above the main arches of the façade are four additional rows of ornate arches and columns that feature a number of different colours and designs including various wild animals. There is beautiful stonework around the rose windows, inside there are artworks by Luca della Robbia and Filippno Lippi.
San Michele in Foro Piazza San Michele, 55100 Lucca
Basilica di San Frediano
The basilica is deemed one of the holiest and oldest places to worship in Lucca, dating back to the 6th century. It’s most recognised by the monumental gold mosaic and ornate bell tower on the exterior and is definitely worth a visit in my opinion. Frediano was an Irish bishop in Lucca in the first half of the 6th century and had the church built to his specifications.
Depicted in the mosaic is the Ascension of Christ – you can clearly see the central figure of Christ surrounded by angels and his apostles – the detail and colours are simply fantastic.
The ornate decoration continues inside the church and a notable feature includes a finely decorated 12th century font complete with stone carvings.
Basilica di San Frediano Piazza San Frediano, 55100 Lucca
13:30-15:00 City Walls & Picnic Lunch
It was time for lunch and DR C and I decided on having a romantic picnic near the city walls. We spotted a little deli, Pasticceria fabbrica buccellato Taddeucci, selling savouries, sweets and pastries in Piazza San Michele.
Pasticceria fabbrica buccellato Taddeucci Piazza San Michele, 34, 55100 Lucca
The city walls are a short walk away and we strolled along the walls until we came to a beautiful spot and set up our picnic on one of the tree stumps.
Post lunch a leisurely stroll was in order, watching the Sunday afternoon scenes unfolding, of dog walkers, families chatting and eating gelato along the tree lined paths of the wall.
Historical City Walls
The whole of the old centre of Lucca is surrounded by a defensive network also known as the City Wall. It’s said to be one of the most preserved fortifications in Italy constructed during the Renaissance period. At strategic intervals there are 11 bastions such as the bulwark of San Martino and the Porta San Pietro. The tree lined promenade makes for a fantastic walk and stretches 4 km in length.
Orto Botanico Comunale di Lucca
Lucca Botanical gardens cover two of the bastion son the city wall and were established in 1802 by the Duchess of Parma and houses numerous greenhouses, varieties of cacti as well as floral and herb collections. The gardens are beautifully manicured and well preserved.
Orto Botanico Communale di Lucca Via del Giardino Botanico, 14, 55100 Lucca
15:00-17:30 City Wandering
We spent the final couple of hours, wandering the medieval streets and piazzas of Lucca taking in the scenes unfolding before us. Here’s a couple not to miss…
Piazza del Anfiteatro
Once a Roman amphitheatre, now surrounded by pretty restaurants and cafes with shuttered windows. The piazza is in keeping with the shape and colours of the amphitheatre elliptical shape. The piazza also has numerous markets and activities. A great place for the people watcher in you!
Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, 55100 Lucca
Acquedotto del Nottolini
This structure was once used to carry water from the mountains into the city and contained 400 arches made from stone stretching for 3 km.
Today the aqueduct stands in its entirety and you can follow the structure from its beginning at the Temple cistern, through to its end at the Parco dell’Acquedotto.
Acquedotto del Nottolini Via Tempietto, 388, 55100 Lucca
Piazzale Napoleane & Giglio Theatre
Two pretty squares we came across, which may be notable to visit with some beautiful surrounding architecture and large open spaces. They are both only a short walk from the Amfiteatro.
Piazza Napoleone, 27, 55100 Lucca
17:30 Train Return Journey to Florence
Before catching our train back to Florence we enjoyed a farewell drink overlooking the city walls at San Colombano bar and restaurant contained within pretty gardens.
Rampa Baluardo San Colombano, 55100 Lucca
BE-LAVIE TOP TIPS FOR LUCCA
1Arrive early around 9 am before the crowds and tour groups start arriving. This will give you a chance to grab a coffee, sit and observe the awaking and the morning commotion scenes. If you’re not a morning person, you can always sleep on the train as it takes about an hours and twenty minutes. Additionally it’s a lot quieter at the view points and towers.
2for €9 you can buy a combined ticket, valid for two days, which gives you access to visit Guinigi Tower, Torre del Ore and Orto Botanico Comunale di Lucca. It’s great value and Lucca is quite small so you’ll easily get to all three in a day
3Lucca has a very laid back chilled vibe about it so I definitely recommend doing something a little different like hiring a bike to get around the city or having a picnic as we did along the viewpoints on the city walls. Weather permitting of course.
4Definitely have a plan in mind and if you have a particular restaurant in mind, then ensue you book ahead as it can get very busy around meal times.
Plan Your Trip…
Tell me, have you ever visited Lucca? There was so much more to see but with only a day, what would you recommend to add to my list next time I’m in Lucca?