Top attractions in LuccaA huge advantage in choosing a smaller city like Lucca with its narrow cobbled streets and picturesque squares is that you can easily explore all the main attractions, including the famous 16th-century walls which surround the city, on foot, or by bicycle. From its position on a plain at the foot of the Apuan Alps, and less than a 30-minute drive from the coast of Versilia, it’s also easy to enjoy day trips outside Lucca. We have good memories of a day on the beach at Forte dei Marmi, and also trips to local fattorias for wine and olive oil tasting, as well as visiting some of the large historic villas nearby, which are open to the public, including Villa Reale, and the Villa Olivia. The latter features a stunning garden, making it ideal for weddings and other events. The coast at Forte dei Marmi is within a 20-minute drive, and Florence can be reached in about 45 minutes. There are also regular trains to both Florence and the coastal city of Viareggio.
One of our favourite activities in Lucca is walking the 4 km around the top of the medieval walls that encircle most of the city – an experience that both visitors and locals enjoy. You can walk, jog, or cycling along the wide road, which is shaded by plane and chestnut trees. It’s a great way to enjoy the view over the city from one side, as well as the surrounding countryside of olive groves and vineyards on the other side. If you don’t want to walk, one of the best ways to see Lucca from the ground, or the wall, is to hire a bicycle for a few hours. Many of the locals use bikes to get around and there are a couple of hire shops in Piazza Santa Maria on the north side of the town, which is very convenient for accessing the wall. Cicli Bizzari, is near the entrance gate of Porta Santa Maria, open daily from 8:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m., and from here you can easily walk up the ramp in the piazza to the top of the wall.
Another important Lucca landmark is the 45 metres high Torre Guinigi, with its distinctive terrace at the top with oak trees and flowerbeds, offering wonderful views over the city. Built in the second half of the 14th century by the Guinigi family, at a time when there were many towers in the city, it’s now one of the very few remaining towers in Lucca. Legend has it that the tallest tree at the time was planted by Paolo Guinigi, who was later captured and imprisoned in the castle and just before his execution, all the leaves fell off the tree! There is also the Torre delle Ore, a clock tower and at 50m high, the highest tower in Lucca. The Torre delle Ore is also linked to a legend – that of Lucida Mansi, the woman who sold her soul to the Devil to remain beautiful and young. The devil, however, would be back after thirty years to demand payment of the debt. Legend has it that during the night of the 14th August 1623, Lucida climbed the tower, but did not reach the clock in time, so the devil took her soul away. Both towers are open to visitors – the price for each is around €5 per person, €9 if you visit both.
Another Lucca landmark that we always enjoy visiting is the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro which, along with the Piazza del Campo in Siena, is one of the most picturesque and unique squares in Tuscany. Founded on the ruins of the ancient Roman amphitheatre from the 2nd century AD, the piazza still has the original oval shape, surrounded by tall yellow townhouses. As well as being home to many cafés and restaurants, the beautiful Piazza is also the venue for many concerts, and the Anfiteatro Jazz Festival. Lucca is also known as the city of 100 churches. We recommend in particular, the 14th century San Michele in Foro, built over a Roman forum, the Basilica di San Frediano, with its 15th-century mosaic façade, and the Duomo di San Martino, the cathedral of Lucca, with its Renaissance art masterpieces. A walking tour app is useful for exploring the many beautiful historic churches in Lucca.
For lovers of music, a visit to the Puccini Museum, in the wonderful house and birthplace of the composer, Giacomo Puccini, is a must. It’s filled with mementoes of his life and works – Puccini fans will love the old posters advertising his operas, his musical scores and letters. There’s also a statue of Puccini just outside the house. Puccini fans should also visit Di Simo Caffè in Via Fillungo, a favourite of artists and musicians, which has been kept much as it was when Puccini visited. Via Fillungo is the main street that runs right through Lucca’s historic centre, and offers excellent shopping, cafés and trattorias. There is also the annual Puccini Opera Festival, from mid-July to mid-August, in the little village of Torre del Lago, near Viareggio, where Puccini spent most of his time 1891 onwards. In fact, music is very much part of the life of the inhabitants of Lucca to this day, with Piazza Napoleone being the location for one of the most famous annual summer rock music festivals.
Three of the best restaurants in LuccaOf all the restaurants we’re most longing to re-visit, these three are the most tempting and still getting rave reviews: Buca di Sant Antonio in the historic centre of the city serves excellent traditional Tuscan dishes and wine. In the summer, outdoor tables are put on a pretty patio, just off the street. Ristorante Giglio situated in a beautiful, frescoed 18th-century Palazzo and also offering traditional Tuscan cuisine. Trattoria da Giulio a historic restaurant, open since 1945, located in the charming historic centre of Lucca, and offering excellent Lucchese cuisine with meat and fish specialties, as well as delicious desserts.
Best luxury apartments to rent in LuccaSituated just inside the historic walls of Lucca, in the charming medieval area of the city, two-bedroom Via San Giorgio is very convenient for enjoying Lucca on foot, and the main shopping street, Via Fillungo just 100m away. Originally a Carriage House dating from the 1600s, and recently renovated throughout, the property also features a very pretty garden with several corners for dining and relaxing outdoors, including a lovely furnished patio with sofas and chairs, under the century-old trees.
Via del Moro is a sophisticated three-bedroom apartment situated in Via del Moro, right in the very centre of Lucca. It’s just a one-minute walk from the main square of Piazza San Michele, with its cafés and restaurants, and wonderful historic buildings, including the Romanesque church of San Michele in Foro. As well as being in a prime location, the apartment also offers a hamman/steam bath, and a terrace with canopy for relaxing outdoors after a day out walking in the city – and the perfect place to enjoy morning coffee or alfresco drinks in the evening.
Situated in the pedestrian area, right at the very heart of the historic centre of Lucca, Piazza San Romano is a stunning apartment situated between the churches of San Giovanni and San Romano, and just around the corner from the Piazza Napoleone, one of the city’s loveliest piazzas. The access to the walk along the top of the city’s walls is also steps away. This three-bedroom apartment is on the ground floor of a historic building dating back to 1200, and the spacious interiors have recently been renovated by its architect and interior designer owners. The lovely furnished terrace is ideal for relaxing and dining outdoors.
Best luxury villas to rent near LuccaCasa Matteucci is a gorgeous six-bedroom villa situated on a huge family-run estate, 10 km south of Lucca, with magnificent views over hill terraced olive groves. Surrounded by beautiful private grounds, there is also a large saltwater swimming pool (14 x 4m), floodlit at night, as well as tables and chairs, and a barbecue, for alfresco dining. The interior of the villa is spacious and beautifully furnished. Each of the villas on the estate is very private, and guests can also enjoy the shared tennis/football/volley fields and kit including balls and rackets.
Seeking a large villa to rent near Lucca? Villa Sant’Alessio, located in the beautiful rolling countryside just 10 minutes north of Lucca, and surrounded by manicured lawns and mature trees, is the ideal setting for those looking for privacy and quiet, as well as being just a short drive from villages, restaurants, and markets. The rooms of this seven-bedroom property feature vaulted ceilings and are elegantly furnished – and there’s a huge swimming pool and gardens, a tennis court and a small gym. Guests are greeted on arrival with prosecco and canapés, and a house manager is on hand throughout the stay to ensure you can relax and will arrange all activities and restaurant reservations for you.
La Flora is a large six-bedroom farmhouse situated just 6 km from Lucca, in a quiet setting inside the “Nottolini Park”. The area takes its name from the famous architect who built the neoclassical monumental aqueduct which runs along the boundary of the estate and is popular with those who enjoy walking and jogging. The interiors of the villa have been restored, retaining Tuscan traditions including beamed ceilings and antique Cotto floors. All bedrooms are air-conditioned and have en-suite bathrooms. Its fabulous infinity swimming pool can also be totally fenced for children’s safety.
San Martino in Freddano is an elegant villa offering spectacular views and a peaceful location, high in the hills north-west of Lucca, just 5 km from the village of San Martino in Freddana, and 15 km from the centre of Lucca. Dating from the 16th century, and with all the historic features retained, the interiors of both the main villa and adjacent farmhouse (seven bedrooms in total) have been restored to a high standard. There’s a barbecue and a table tennis table at the property, as well as a swimming pool. The property has its own olive grove, producing fine organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil under its own label. During the low season, the main house is available for eight guests at a lower price.
A spectacular large villa is situated in the village of Orentano, 11-bedroom Villa Orentano is just six minutes’ drive south of the historic, medieval town of Altopascio. It’s also an easy 20-minute drive from Lucca, and 40 -45 minutes from Pisa and coastal beaches such as Viareggio and Forte dei Marmi. Views from the property stretch from its terraces over the three hectares of private parkland. The estate has an infinity swimming pool (with a children’s pool connected), and a jacuzzi pool carved out of stone. There is also a lovely outdoor dining area with barbecue, and a tennis court (tennis balls and racket are provided). It’s an ideal property for large gatherings or celebrations.