Lucca and Its Perfectly Preserved Historical Center in Tuscany
Take a break from the hills and visit the city of Lucca. Lucca is enclosed by massive 16th-century defensive walls which provide a tranquil promenade for visitors as well as locals. Flat with little car traffic (mostly pedestrian streets inside the walls) Lucca makes for a peaceful visit. Here are a few highlights to see while you are there.
Duomo di San Martino
Make your way to Via Della Rosa. Once on Della Rosa, you can visit Lucca's Duomo di San Martino which houses Ghirlandaio's Madonna with Saints on the west side.
But my favorite work of art is the 15th-century sculpture by Jacopo della Quercia from Siena. Paolo Guinigi, Lord of Lucca, commissioned the funerary monument to commemorate his wife after her death in 1405. The artist combined late gothic elegance with emerging humanism to create a monument of love and grace. And yes that is her dog at her feet.
From the tower head to the most famous square in town - Piazza dell'Anfiteatro. A gorgeous medieval piazza with shops and cafes. I bought some of my best linens from a tiny underground shop just outside the piazza. Sit for a spell with a glass of prosecco or mid-morning coffee and fresh-baked Buccellato. You can read more about the ancient sweet bread from Lucca here. Enjoy the everyday activities of the locals. Hardly any of the Roman amphitheater (180BC) survives but the piazza still takes the shape of the theater and the medieval houses that surround it were built into the amphitheater walls.
Basilica di San Frediano
Just behind the Anfiteatro you will find the Romanesque church of San Frediano. An Irish Priest had this church built in the later part of the 6th century. It has a gorgeous, golden mosaic facade that if you time it just right, is dazzling to see. Inside is a huge ornate 12th-century font that really takes center stage.
Lucca's Ramparts - Make for a great walk or bike ride
Back to the fully intact ramparts that surround Lucca. They are among the best-preserved renaissance walls in Europe. From Piazza dell'Anfiteatro head east to Via Fillungo and rent a bike from Biciclette Poli (Piazza Santa Maria, 42). Enjoy riding the wall's path with the locals. It's a little over a two-and-a-half-mile loop. I suggest grabbing a panini and a drink before you start. This way you can take a break mid-way and enjoy the view.
My Favorite Place to Eat
I love stumbling upon what we Americans call "Hole in the Wall" places. which really isn't a fair description since most anything is Italy is small compared to the United States. Regardless, I found Restaurant Des Arts when I was getting lost around Lucca's Duomo. It is good food and wine in a warm and cozy atmosphere.
Ristorante Des Arts
Address: Piazza S. Giusto, 9
Hours: 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM, 5:30 PM - 10:00 PM. Closed Thursday
My Favorite Place to Shop
If you like sweets, you will fall in love with Meucci la Pasticceria. I go in to buy gifts for back home but always wind up eating something myself. Did I mention that is in a seriously old former pharmacy? Step inside and notice the beautiful vaulted ceilings.
Meucci la Pasticceria
Address: Via Vittorio Veneto, 12
Hours: 7:45 AM - 7:00 PM. Closed Mondays
Events in Lucca to Plan A Visit Around
Summer Music Festival - every July. Various venues and musical performances are all over the city. For instance, Celine Dion and Simply Red are headliners for 2023 among others.
Official Website: Luccas Summer Music Festival
The Holy Cross Celebration - annually on September 14. A procession leaves from the Basilica of San Frediano and winds its way through the city to get to the Cathedral of San Martino, where the Holy Cross is preserved. Arrive the day before as they have a luminary procession on the eve of the celebration.
Lucca's Comics and Games - Last weekend in October. It is Italy's version of Comicon. Beware, it is very busy. If you don't mind the crowds, there are lots of great costumes and they all love to have their photos taken.
Official Website: Lucca's Comics and Games
Trains for Lucca leave Florence every hour and sometimes more frequently depending on the day of the week. The trip takes about seventy-five minutes and tickets start at $10 for one way. The train arrives south of the walls just outside Porta San Pietro. You can walk to the center of town from there. You can find Trenitalia train schedules and pricing here.