Chances are that you haven’t even heard about this town let alone about any things to do in Lucca Italy. Still, if you happen to travel to central Italy or the province of Tuscany, try not to miss it.
I didn’t know much about Lucca before coming here either – and then I took a walk along the 16th-century walls, saw the tower with oak trees growing on top, and visited the Holy Face at the cathedral and the house where a renowned composer Giacomo Puccini was born. But it wasn’t until I immersed into charming narrow allies between the typical Tuscan houses with green shutters, that I fell in love with the place!
Lucca Italy Map
IS LUCCA ITALY WORTH VISITING
Is Lucca Italy worth visiting? Well, there are traces of Etruscan settlements on today’s Lucca territory dating back to the 8th century BC. Ancient Romans gave it a status of a colony at the end of the 2nd century BC and even founded a city here.
Nevertheless, Lucca becomes the strongest during the middle ages when it turns into an independent republic from the 12th to the 19th century. This was the time when the area was dominated by the Venetian Republic and Genoa. It was popular as “a town of a thousand and one churches” where wealthy families built palaces with high towers.
Things to do in Lucca Italy
Given that the town is located between Pisa and Florence, there are plenty of things to do in Lucca Italy. It’s also quite accessible with the central railway station close to its walls where your visit should start. (It’s only a 15-minute ride from Pisa and the ticket costs a couple of Euros.)
Here are a couple of interesting facts. Lucca Italy was popular for trading silk in the 11th century when it even rivaled the Byzantium merchants. Also, one of its bishops became a Vatican pope. Bishop Anselm began to build the central Cathedral St Martin of Lucca in 1063. He was later appointed Pope Alexander II.
Lucca Places to visit
St Martin Cathedral
It’s not that this church is important because it’s a thousand years old nor due to its façade designed out of the popular Tuscan marble and columns from older temples in the area, but because it houses one of the most important Christian relics. It’s so huge that Lucca was an obligatory stop for pilgrims on their way to Rome.
I’m talking about Volto Santo or the so-called Holy Face that, they say, miraculously appeared at the church in the 8th century. It is believed that it was carved by the same Nicodemus mentioned in the New Testament who allegedly helped with Jesus’ burial. They say that he almost carved the whole body but then fell asleep. Angles finished the job.
Volto Santo is still here. The cathedral is adorned by a painted ceiling and a few large paintings by artists from the middle ages. Among others, look for Domenico Ghirlandaio who gave painting lessons to none other but the famous Michelangelo.
When I heard that the square was designed by Romans and housed a gladiator’s arena, I expected to see the amphitheater with a large auditorium. Even though it kept its name (Piazza dell’Anfiteatro), it is quite different today.
The square still has the same circular shape but when you go through narrow archways you will come out onto the spacious plateau with yellow houses instead of a wall and restaurants scattered around. This is a nice place to have lunch or macchiato.
Old walls and Guinigi
The town was fortified in the 16th century. These walls are considered the best preserved in all of Europe. They still border the old town but they are now turned into a 4 km pedestrian area. One can take a walk or ride a bicycle here.
Pay attention to Guinigi Tower, a rare one that is still standing. Back in the day, it was popular among wealthy families to build palaces with high towers. This one was erected by the Guinigi family in the 14th century and modern tourists can still see oak trees on top of the tower. There are 233 steps that will take you up and the view is just breathtaking.
When you find a small square with a monument depicting the famous Italian composer Giacomo Puccini, take a look at the surrounding houses. Right behind you, there is one that is now housing a museum – this was the house where the great author of Tosca and Madame Butterfly was born in 1858.
Lucca has a lot more to offer. If you have enough time, you can also head over to a couple of grand palaces outside the town, pay a visit to St Michael Church, and take a bike ride through the labyrinth of streets and allies. And that’s exactly what I was charmed by.
Just picture this. You sit outside for a genuine Italian gelato while being surrounded by houses with lovely shutters and tourists walking by. Laundry is hanging from windows, locals shout to each other through tiny allies with expensive shops… Like an old movie scene, right!
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