8 Reasons Why Lucca is The True Jewel of Tuscany
Lucca is a beautiful old town in the north of Tuscany. Only an hours drive from the more famous Florence, Lucca is known for its Renaissance architecture and its fortified old walls. With its well-preserved, centuries-old buildings and churches, a visit to Lucca truly lets you step back in time.
It didn’t take long for us to fall in love with this stunning little town. Here’s why:
1 – Lucca is picture-perfect
Lucca is extremely beautiful! As you lose yourself in its cobblestone streets, you can’t help but admire its colourful buildings and its stunning architecture. Warm, bold colours such as yellows, oranges, rich turquoise and emerald dominate, making Lucca totally photogenic. You’ll spend more time taking photos than doing anything else!
2 – The Great Walls of Lucca!
One of the main things to do in Lucca is to walk or bike along the top of its ancient city walls. These fortified walls are four kilometres long and surround the entire town. They were built to keep out invaders and they are now one of the few remaining, fully intact medieval walls in Italy.
If walking isn’t your thing, you can hire bikes or even a buggy from many shops around town. It’s a lovely way to get an elevated view of the town and to enjoy the fresh Tuscan air.
3 – The Masses haven’t found Lucca … yet!
When you think of popular towns in Tuscany, Florence, Pisa, Siena and maybe even San Gimignano spring to mind; but probably not Lucca. It’s still sneaking in under the tourist radar and for us, that’s fantastic news.
For me, there’s nothing better than a beautiful town that’s yet to be discovered by the masses. Yes, one of the main reasons that we really loved Lucca was that we didn’t have to queue for hours to get inside a monument or fight the crowds to take a photo.
Why Lucca’s not more touristy, I really don’t know. I guess most tourists prefer to stick to places that are heavily promoted. But their loss is our gain (but hey, let’s just keep it to ourselves ok?!). Lucca ended up being our favourite town in Tuscany, so we hope it stays unspoilt for many years to come!
4 – Lucca looks great from above
Lucca has nine remaining defence towers, Some of them are open to the public and with a small cardio workout you can easily check out the city from above. The Torre del Guinigi even has a small tree-lined garden on top. After climbing all those steps you can sit back in the shade of the trees to catch your breath while enjoying the views. The Torre delle Ore is the tallest of Lucca’s towers, so if you only have the time or energy to climb one tower, it’s probably your best bet.
5 – Lucca is full of churches
Lucca has been nicknamed “the city of 100 churches” due to the abundance of them scattered around it. There are churches from several eras such as the Renaissance, Gothic, Medieval and Roman periods.
Of course, you won’t want to visit them all, (well you might but I had to practically drag Simon through the few we visited!) but it’s always nice to check out a few of them to appreciate their different architecture and artwork. I enjoyed our visit to the Duomo di San Martino, the Church of Saints Giovanni e Reparata, the church of San Michele, and the Basilica of San Frediano.
6 – The Piazza Amfiteatro is a beautiful square
Lucca’s Piazza Amfiteatro is the best place in Lucca to sit down, relax and absorb the city’s atmosphere.
This circular square (huh?!) is absolutely one of the city’s highlights and is lined with restaurants and cafes. Sit down for a meal or a drink, soak up the atmosphere or enjoy some serious people watching.
7- Lucca’s food and wine are amazing.
Well, it is Italy after all, so how could it not be! Lucca is packed with little restaurants serving gorgeous Tuscan specialities and super tasty wines. Try the Tortelli Lucchese, the Farro soup, rabbit and salt cod and other specialities.
But if you’re a vegetarian, there are still yummy things to taste. You can’t spend a day in Italy without having a gelato, so make sure you head to La Gelateria le Bonta for ice cream!
8- Lucca is a great base for exploring the region
Lucca is a lovely medieval city and you could easily spend all of your time there. But you’ll probably want to explore the area around the city as well. There are numerous places worth visiting within a short distance of Lucca. Here are some of them.
The Devil’s Bridge
You’ll find the Devil’s Bridge in the small town of Borgo a Monzano, 30 minutes drive from Lucca. This bridge is a great photo stop. You can photograph it from the road to catch its reflection onto the river and then walk across the bridge to enjoy the views from the top. It’s a very impressive display of medieval construction and it’s definitely worth the detour to reach it.
Visit the hilltop villages of Svizzera Pesciatina
The mountain area of Svizzera Pesciatina surrounds the small town of Pescia (which is also worth a visit). This whole area is packed with ten little villages known as “The 10 Castella” (The Ten Castles). They all have two things in common, they are built out of Pietra Serena stone (a type of stone that was heavily used in the Middle Ages ) and they are built on hilltops.
The ten villages are Fibbialla, Medicina, Aramo, Sorana, San Quirico, Vellano, Castelvecchio, Stiappa, Pontito and Lignana (however Lignana is mainly in ruins these days).
You don’t have to visit them all but it’s worth doing a few of them as they each have their own charms. If you enjoy a good hike, there is a six-hour hike which connects all the villages to each other. We’ll have to save that one for next time!
I’d never seen the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa before, so I wanted to check it out, even if just to say “Been there, done that!”. The tower and the Piazza around it are beautiful but it was definitely not my favourite part of Tuscany.
Even visiting late afternoon outside of peak season, the area was crowded with so many people trying to get that famously tacky Instagram shot of them holding up the tower. I’m happy to have seen it, but I can’t say I’m in a rush to return.
Getting to Lucca from Florence or Pisa
Lucca is only 78 kilometres from Florence or 22 kilometres from Pisa.
If you have a car, it will take you about an hour from Florence or 30 minutes from Pisa to reach Lucca. Once there, you will need to find parking. There are a few parking areas outside of the city walls. Inside the city walls is mainly pedestrian or parking is reserved for local residents. During peak season you should arrive early, otherwise, you might struggle to find parking.
Taking the train is the simplest and easiest way to get to Lucca. Trains run fairly regularly and cost 15 Euros return from Florence or 7.50 Euros from Pisa. Once you arrive, the station is only 5 minutes walk from the entrance to the walls.
With a day tour
If you only have a day to spare to see Lucca, you can take an organised day tour there from Florence or even Pisa. But we’d recommend staying a bit longer there if you have the time.
Hotels in Lucca
There’s no shortage of hotels to choose from in Lucca:
- B&B Antico Cancello: Best reviews on booking.com
- Appartamento Giulia: Best location on booking.com
- Dolce Sosta: Best value on booking.com
If none of the above takes your fancy, you can use HotelsCombined to scan across all the top travel sites using the search box below. We use it all the time.