Lucca is one of my favourite cities in Italy. One of the things I like most is that it is still a living Italian city. While many tourists visit Lucca, Italians still live and work here making a visit a true Italian experience.
A great place to join the locals in on the incredible wall that circles the city. The oldest parts of the wall are 500 years old and it is left from the days when Lucca was in a strategic position in the squabbles between Florence and Pisa. The 4.2 kilometre wall was once surrounded by a moat.
These days there is a walking path around the top of the wall. Huge plane, tiglio and chestnut trees provide shade in the warm months. Walk, ride a bike or sit and watch the world go by.
Lucca is a city of music. Puccini was born here and you can now visit the house of his birth. It is a museum, just off the pretty Piazza Cittadella. The citizens of Lucca have used this music connection to establish Lucca as a centre of music.
There are concerts every night in Lucca. There were once 100 churches in Lucca and they provide excellent venues for performances. There is a summer music festival held in the magnificent Piazza Napoleon and well known artists from all over the world to perform.
Piazza Napoleon has quite a history. It was named by Napoleon’s sister Elise, who was princess of Lucca in the early 1800s. Her palace was on the edge of what is now the piazza. At the time it was a jumble of medieval houses, so she had them removed to improve her view, thus creating the piazza.
Last century is was used as a car park until a forward looking mayor had it declared an open space…for which we are all grateful.
One of the magnificent churches that has survived is the stunning Chiesa San Michele. It is built on the site of the Roman forum. The facade seems too big for the church as a much bigger church was planned, but there wasn’t enough money so a more modest church sits behind the facade. The campanile, bell tower, is unusually set to one side.
The amazing Piazza Anfiteatro is another reminder of Roman times. There was once an amphitheatre on the site and houses were built around it. The amphitheatre has long gone, but now a lovely piazza is left in its place. It is a great meeting place, full of restaurants, cafes and shops.
Once a year it is filled with flowers to celebrate the life of Saint Zita, a Saint of Lucca.
Lucca was once full of tower houses and a few remain. The most famous is the Guinigi Tower with it cluster of Holmoaks on the top. You can climb to the top for excellent views of the city.
The main shopping street is Via Fillungo, which winds through the heart of Lucca. There is an excellent choice for fashion, jewellery and food. It is a delightful place to wander, shop and eat.
Lucca is on the train line between Florence and Pisa, making it easy to get to. Many people stop for just a few hours, but I think a few days is needed to really enjoy Lucca. There is a lot to see and do. The best time to visit is in the spring and autumn. The temperature is good, not too hot or cold and there are fewer crowds than in summer.