We visited Lucca for a few hours during a stay in Pisa, as it was so easy to get to and we fancied exploring a little further outside the city. We caught a bus from Pisa Central Station (they runs every 30 minutes, 6 Euros per person, return) with the plan of going to Lucca to explore for a few hours and have some lunch.
Just over 40 minutes later, after a beautiful ride through some other smaller Tuscan towns along the way, we were approaching Lucca’s famous city walls.
We spent a lovely few hours in the town, wandering around, sampling the wine and people watching over a delicious lunch. Lucca’s so accessible from Pisa its well worth making your way out there for a couple of hours or a couple of days if you have more time. Here are five reasons why you should consider a quick trip to Lucca next time you’re near Pisa.
Have lunch in Piazza dell’Anfiteatro
Piazza dell’Anfiteatro sits on the site of an ancient Roman amphitheatre (the town dates back from 180 BC!) There are plenty of signposts to the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro within the pretty cobbled streets which have a real Venice feel to them. The amphitheatre site is now lined with tiny shops, restaurants and wine bars, still in a perfect oval. We ate at La Grotta Pizzicheria which translates to something like ‘Pizza Cave’ and watched locals and tourists come and go throughout the square over a long lunch of spicy spaghetti and red wine. The prices were really reasonable and the food was delicious!
Take a walk along the old town walls
The walls surrounding the old town of Lucca are still intact, and you can walk all the way around (about 5km in total) the tree topped promenade. There are lots of benches and pretty seating areas along the walls that you can stop and admire the town and surrounding hills from. The promenade is broken up with plenty of sets of steps down into the town, so you don’t need to do the full route if you don’t want to.
Visit the Duomo
Like Venice, we found Lucca full of surprises. There were lots of narrow cobbled streets that would suddenly open up into large squares with impressive buildings at the heart of them. Lucca’s cathedral is one of those buildings, located in a secluded location in the old city centre – San Martino Square.
The Cathedral looks squashed, a bit like it was shoe-horned into this small square, and it was. In the sixth century, when the cathedral was built, the most important areas of the city were already very congested, so architects chose this square because other religious buildings already looked out into this area. The cathedral also had to accommodate its bellower (which already existed) and you’ll notice one of its arches is slightly smaller than the other two, because architects had to squeeze the cathedral in to the space they had.
We didn’t go inside, but the cathedral does house relics such as The Holy Face of Lucca and a commemoration of Paolo Guinigi’s wife (an influential Lucca politician who contributed to the construction of the famous Torre Guinigi).
Even from the outside, the cathedral is an impressive sight, and worth a pause, or a rest on some adjacent steps to admire the architecture.
Climb to the ‘garden in the sky’
Torre Guinigi dominates the skyline in Lucca.
The tower is an 14th century old bell tower in the city that has a mini forest on the top – tall oak trees, planted by the Guinigi family to represent birth and renewal – and they give it a really distinctive look. At one time, Lucca and other similar towns were crammed with towers like these built by wealthy families. The higher the tower, the more prestige and importance the family enjoyed.
You can climb Guinigi Tower for about 4 Euros but it’s a steep climb! There are great panoramic views from the top though if you are feeling energetic. Try to get there early morning or later afternoon in the summer months, as there’s not a lot of room at the top, so it does get quite crowded!
Get some bargins in the local shops and markets
Lucca has formal shops and open air markets so there is something for everyone.
Check out the antiques market in Piazza San Giusto and Piazza Antelminelli every third Sunday and preceding Saturday of each month.
Via Filungo is lined with luxurious shops selling high end Italian goods, such as leather handbags for bargain prices and beautiful ceramics of all sizes.
If you are staying in Lucca, you’ll be spoilt for choice for food shopping too, with many bakeries and dedicated olive oil shops within the centre. Watch out though – some shops will close for up to an hour in the day so shopkeepers can go for lunch.
Despite being a relatively quiet town, Lucca hosts the Lucca Summer Festival and acts like Santana, Robbie Williams and Eric Clapton are some artists to recently play there. It also hosts the annual Lucca Comics and Games Festival, Europe’s largest festival for comics, movies and games!
Be sure to consider a trip to Lucca if you’re near Pisa for a Tuscan hillside town experience.