6 must-do things to do in Lucca

L’église San Michele in Foro

Going on vacation in Italy? Treat yourself to a stay in sunny Tuscany, and find out what you can’t miss when you visit Lucca!

Less well known than its neighbors Florence and Pisa, Lucca is nevertheless one of Tuscany’s jewels. Nestled within its perfectly preserved city walls, it conceals a number of medieval wonders.

From discovering the churches to visiting the marble-clad Duomo San Martino and strolling along the lively alleyways, here are the 6 must-do things to do in Lucca!

1. Guinigi Tower and Torre delle Ore

La tour Guinigi et la Torre del Ore

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Martin M303

Built in the 14th century by the eponymous family, Torre Guinigi is one of the city’s tallest buildings. Reaching a height of 45 metres, its summit, adorned with holm oaks, can be reached after climbing a flight of 230 steps. On arrival, you’ll enjoy breathtaking views of the city’s rooftops and the gentle Tuscan hills.

On the way down, don’t miss a detour to the Torre delle Ore (Clock Tower), 50 metres high. In addition to an extraordinary panorama of Lucca, it offers a fine view of the clock mechanism, which is still wound by hand.

2. Stroll along the ramparts

Se balader sur les remparts

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Viliam.M

Protected by a series of fortifications in a remarkable state of preservation, Lucca’s city walls were built between 1505 and 1645. Measuring 4,223 meters in length, the ramparts are punctuated here and there by bastions and curtain walls. Various gates allow you to enter the walls. Unless, of course, you’d prefer to take a tour from a height of 12 metres! You’ll have an excellent view of the botanical garden’s water mirror, churches and palaces.

In spring, enjoy the unique sight of magnolias blooming on certain sections of the ramparts. The unusual basements of the ramparts house permanent art exhibitions. A must on your Lucca bucket list!

3. Piazza San Michele

La Piazza San Michele

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Sandro Amato

Looking for a little excitement? Don’t miss Piazza San Michele! Built on the site of the ancient Roman forum, it was originally the place where business was conducted and speeches made. Almost 2000 years later, it’s still bustling with activity. Mingle with the locals in the many restaurants and sample the culinary specialties at the market!

Resume your wanderings with a first stop in front of the statue of Francesco Burlamacchi. Born in 1498, this Lucchese politician and conspirator suffered a tragic fate. He was beheaded for lèse-majesté in 1548. Lovers of old stones will want to stop in front of the Palazzo Gigli for a souvenir photo.

4. Piazza Antelminelli

La Piazza Antelminelli

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Roberto Lo Savio

Another must-do in Lucca is Piazza Antelminelli, where you can relax for a few moments away from the hustle and bustle of the city center. Formerly used as a parking area by the locals, it was given a new lease of life when it was declared a pedestrian zone in 2012.

The round piazza features a small marble fountain at its center. Give in to the Italian tradition of throwing a coin into the fountain of towns you wish to return to. Sitting in the shade of the café terrace (there’s only one, and it doubles as a restaurant), contemplate the city’s cathedral and the palace with its crenellated tower.

5. Religious buildings to visit in Lucca

A visit to Lucca also means knocking on the door of some of the places of worship that nestle here. As in any Italian church, you’ll be asked to cover your shoulders and knees.

San Martino Cathedral

La cathédrale San Martino

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Federico Magonio

Dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours and built in the 11th century, the cathedral, also known as the Duomo, is a superb example of the Tuscan Romanesque style. Take time to contemplate the exterior and soak up the delicacy of its marble façade.

Inlaid and finely chiselled, the columns are a feast for the eyes. 4 bas-reliefs above the entrance doors tell the story of Saint-Martin. Inside, you’ll discover refined marble floors, a brightly colored choir, an octagonal kiosk housing a 13th-century crucifix, and a tomb. A must-see in Lucca!

San Michele in Foro church

L’église San Michele in Foro

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Mildax

Standing on the square of the same name, this church was built in the 8th century. Many of its sculptures were reworked in the 19th century. Romanesque in style, it forms a cross, and its exterior is sure to impress.

Adorned with a profusion of marble inlays and sculptures, the façade is dominated by a statue of St. Michael the Archangel and another of the Virgin Mary. Inside, you’ll find a number of works of art, including a painting of the Virgin and Child by Della Robbia, a bishop’s tomb and a superb high relief.

Santi Giovanni e Reparata church

L’église Santi Giovanni e Reparata

Photo credit: Shutterstock – federico neri

Located in the heart of Piazza Santi Giovanni, this church dates back to the 5th century. From the early Middle Ages onwards, it underwent several modifications that gave it its current appearance. Far from the splendor of many Italian churches, this one is sober and uncluttered.

You can climb to the top of the bell tower for a prime view of the city, including the circular fountain in Piazza Antelminelli. Look towards the church of San Michele in Foro: you’ll notice a strange flight of steps on the back of its façade.

The Basilica of San Frediano

visiter Lucques : La basilique San Frediano

Photo credit: Shutterstock – lkonya

Another must-see in Lucca is the Basilica, one of the town’s oldest religious buildings. The colored mosaic pediment contrasts sharply with the white marble façade. The chapel’s ceiling is just as spectacular and well worth a visit. Inside, you’ll find a number of paintings, statues and a beautifully carved altar.

6. Palaces to visit in Lucca

What would Italy be without its palazzi? Lucca is home to a number of fine examples, which are well worth a visit.

Palazzo Pfanner

visiter Lucques : Le Palazzo Pfanner

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The first palace to visit in Lucca, Palazzo Pfanner is located on the edge of the walled enclosure. Don’t forget your camera! The Italian-style garden linking the walls to the palace is a true splendor, with its magnolias and fruit trees.

Next, you’ll discover a handsome stone edifice whose construction began in 1667. Pass through the entrance and atrium to contemplate the exterior staircase.

Palazzo Mansi

visiter Lucques : Le Palazzo Mansi

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Sailko

This former palace, acquired by the Mansi family in 1616, is now a pinacoteca. It preserves the codes of the Baroque style and is representative of the residences of the merchant families of the period. This residence-museum houses various collections of tapestries, paintings and weavings. A must-see in Lucca!

The Palazzo Ducale

visiter Lucques : Le Palazzo Ducale

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Aliaksandr Antanovich

Located in Piazza Napoleone, this imposing palace has undergone several reconstructions over the years. While the exterior remains rather austere, don’t miss the chance to step inside and take the full measure of its size. You’ll discover courtyards and porticoes, a monumental staircase, statues and a Flemish painting in the General Council Chamber.

Other things to see and do in Lucca

À voir et à faire aussi à Lucques

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Stepanek Photography

Despite this long list, you’re still wondering what to do in Lucca? Here are some other ideas to complete your stay:

  • The Comics Festival: nothing less than Europe’s biggest, it takes place in late October or early November;
  • Try focaccia and cantucci: plain or with rosemary, focaccia will satisfy your hunger. Complement this snack with cantucci, tasty almond cookies;
  • The botanical garden: open on the first day of spring, it offers a calm and fresh interlude for travellers;
  • The Nottolini aqueduct: neoclassical in style, it stretches for 3 kilometers near Lucca;
  • Museo del Motore a Scoppio: the museum of the internal combustion engine will delight fans of mechanical sports;
  • Devil’s Bridge: 30 kilometers north of Lucca, this bridge spans the Serchio River and offers a bucolic walk.

How to get to Lucca

There are several options for getting to Lucca.

By plane

There is no airport in Lucca; the nearest is in Pisa. After landing at Pisa San Gusto’s Galileo Galilei airport, take the extra-urban line served by Vaibus CTT Nord. Allow 1 hour and 3 euros to reach Lucca.

Another, longer option is to fly to Florence from Orly airport, then join Lucca by bus with Vaibus or C.A.P Consorzio Autolinee Pratesi(1h10 on average). To find a cheap flight to Lucca, use a flight comparator like Skyscanner.

By car

Lucca can be reached from France with your own car or with a rental car. You can park your car in the free parking spaces outside the old town or in one of the many paying parking lots.

By train

You can reach Lucca by train from Florence or Pisa. The station is located in Piazzale Bettino Ricasoli, just a few minutes’ walk from the city walls.

As Lucca is a small town, you can easily visit it on foot. Cycling is also a good alternative for exploring the cycle path around the city walls or the surrounding Tuscan countryside.

Where to stay in Lucca

Lucca doesn’t offer much in the way of accommodation, so you’ll need to book your nights in advance. If you use a hotel comparator, you’ll find several types of accommodation to suit your budget. For more authenticity, opt instead for an Airbnb rental.

Map of hotels and accommodation – Tuscany