Lucca, Italy

Find out everything you need to know before visiting the town of Lucca, from its history to what to do when you get there. Lose yourself the in fascinating history and undeniable charm of this ancient city.

Lucca, Italy

One of the most charming cities in Tuscany that sits just north of Pisa, Lucca offers an all-around gentler pace to enjoy the laidback Tuscan life. Like much of Italy, this medieval walled city is an artistic and historical jewel waiting to be discovered.

What’s even better; Lucca lacks the crowds that pack the leaning tower of Pisa, the coach and cruise loads that haunt Florence, and offers a serene and peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the crowded city life.

The history of Lucca

Founded by the Etruscans and becoming a Roman colony in 180BC, Lucca has remained a prosperous town throughout most of its life. Nowadays, one of the town’s piazzas sits upon the site of an ancient amphitheatre, a sure sign that Lucca enjoyed wealth as far back as the Roman times.

After the year 400, Lucca fell under the control of various tribes and empires, from the Ostrogoths and Byzantines to the Lombards. The town continued to experience prosperity during this time, mainly due to the Holy Face relic that was held there (this can still be seen in the Cathedral San Martino). Pilgrims making their way to Rome would travel through the town to view this relic, fuelling its economy.

In the following centuries, the town became part of numerous other empires and developed an economy from its production of silk. Between the 1400s and 1500s, the city built its surrounding walls and it began to take on the form we recognise today. Probably due in part to the construction of the wall, the town has managed to retain much of its independence and individuality and a visit to the site will make you feel as though you have stepped back in time.

What to see in Lucca?

Here’s a list of top places to see in Lucca while savouring a mesmerizing getaway.

  • Cattedrale di San Martino

    Cattedrale di San Martino

    The Cathedral of St. Martin is one of Lucca’s predominantly Romanesque landmarks that is home to some of the most important art masterpieces of the town. Dating back to the 11th century, this stunning marvel was designed in the prevailing Lucca-Pisan style and master-crafted to accommodate the pre-existing bell tower.

    Inside the cathedral, you can witness a wonderful 15th-century tomb in the sacristy and the Volto Santo (literally, Holy Countenance) crucifix sculpture. What’s more; the cathedral showcases rebuilt interiors with a Gothic flourish that promises an experience of a lifetime.

  • Take a walk on the iconic city walls

    Surrounding the city centre of Lucca is a monumental complex of city walls that was built as a defensive mechanism in the 16th and 17th centuries – and remains in almost perfect condition to this date! It is 12 meters high and 4.2km long and crowned with a magnificent tree-lined footpath looking down on the historic city centre. The wall surrounding Lucca is one of the strongest Renaissance walls in all of Europe, even though the city hasn’t seen a battle since 1430. But what is a Renaissance wall, you ask? The main difference between this and a medieval wall is the thickness. Whilst Medieval fortresses had to guard against arrows and rocks, Renaissance communities were coming under fire from cannons, therefore requiring thicker walls.

    Consider walking along Lucca’s well-preserved ramparts and admiring 11 bastions that greet you at strategic intervals. Or, hire a rental bike and cycle around the pleasant paths in the shade of the overhanging trees.

  • Capture the Bird’s eye view from Guinigi Tower

    Guinigi Tower

    While Lucca is home to several historical towers, none compares to the might and artistry of the Torre Guinigi. Engineered in the late 14th century, this magnificent tower is a fine example of Romanesque architecture and boasts of an open-brick design complemented by a series of arched windows.

    What’s more; the tower dominates the skyline standing at a whopping height of 45m and can be seen from many places within the city centre. The most noteworthy feature, however, is the garden that sits at its rooftop– this garden prides itself on its beautiful Holm Oak trees that signify rebirth and have become an icon of Lucca.

  • Come home to Piazza dell’Anfiteatro

    Built on the remnants of an ancient Roman amphitheatre, this forever-lively plaza of Piazza dell’Anfiteatro is one of Lucca’s most extraordinary landmarks that symbolises the city’s rich and dramatic history. While it was once the main stage for the epic battles between blood-thirsty Roman gladiators, today the square reverberates with the sophisticated presence of shops and restaurants and is also home to some of the town’s most sought-after ‘selfie’ spots! Markets are also held within the square so make sure to check what’s on when you arrive.

  • Piazza San Michele

    This delightful square has played host to a market since the Roman times when it used to be the Forum, or cultural centre, of the town. Overlooked by the ornately decorated church of San Michelle, the square blends the ancient history of the town with its modern present.

  • Listen to the music of the town

    Every evening in Lucca, a concert is held the church of San Giovani. The composer, Giacomo Puccini, used to live within the town and the nightly concerts allow you to hear his wonderful music in the surrounds of an elegant church. These mesmerising performances are a magical way to fully immerse yourself in the culture of this wonderful corner of Italy.

Whether you choose to delve into its historical past or simply wander the beautifully preserved streets, Lucca will provide you with a relaxing escape from the more touristy destinations and give you a true taste of Italy. Happy travels!

Language »