Step Back in Time With These 8 Charming Reasons to Visit Lucca
This ancient city offers the best of Tuscany with its food, wine, culture and history
Have you been dreaming of the perfect Italian getaway? Perhaps somewhere you can waltz around grand palaces during the day before sipping local wine as the sun goes down. Well, we have just the place for you. Tucked away amongst the glorious Tuscan countryside is Lucca, a historical city with plenty to see and do. Grandiose churches? Check. Lively events? Check. Delightful local cuisine? Check. Even if you fancy getting out and about, a stay in Lucca means you’re ideally positioned to explore the rest of Tuscany. If that hasn’t convinced you, then keep reading because the travel experts at Plum Guide have compiled the top reasons to visit Lucca. You’ll be saying ciao to la dolce vita in no time.
1. Fantastic views
The Guinigi Tower in Lucca, Italy
When it comes to exploring a city, a good vantage point should always be on the itinerary. Fortunately, Lucca is famous for its many towers. Like other medieval cities in Italy, Lucca was built with towers which were used as lookout points and defensive structures. It’s estimated that at one point there were around 250 towers in the city. Many of them have been destroyed over time, but there are still a few remaining today which you can climb for panoramic views. The Guinigi Tower is one of the most famous ones, where you’ll find a mini garden at the top complete with shaded trees. However, views of the tower itself are pretty remarkable, so we suggest climbing Torre delle Ore or the Bell Tower of the St Martin Cathedral for cityscape views which include the Guinigi Tower. As you wander through the streets, you’ll come across other towers around the city that have been converted into homes, restaurants or shops, giving Lucca its unique character.
2. It’s not too crowded
People sitting in a cafe in Lucca, Italy
Tuscany is one of Italy’s most visited regions with over 40 million visits per year. However, the droves of tourists have yet to overtake Lucca, perhaps in favour of other Tuscan cities like Florence and Pisa. You may find it a little busier during the peak summer months, but if you visit in the shoulder season (March to May or September to November) you can escape the crowds and still enjoy pleasant weather. The lack of tourists makes Lucca a great place to get a feel for the region and see what Tuscany has to offer, without having to book restaurants in advance or queue for hours for entry to attractions.
3. Exquisite food
Tuscan cuisine is often described as ‘cucina povera’ (literally ‘poor cooking’) which refers to traditional cooking techniques and recipes from rural peasant populations. Like much of Tuscany, the food in Lucca consists of simple but flavoursome dishes made with high-quality locally-grown ingredients like beans, tomatoes, mushrooms and herbs. Tuscany produces excellent quality olive oil which is used generously in dishes. Naturally, pasta is a staple food and anywhere you eat in Lucca you’ll come across a variety of homemade pasta dishes such as tordelli lucchese, a traditional pasta dish similar to ravioli and stuffed with beef or pork, Swiss chard, pine nuts, raisins, bread, spices and grated cheese, served with a rich and hearty meat sauce.
Those with a sweet tooth should try buccellato di Lucca, a sweet bread in the shape of a ring and filled with raisins and aniseed. Back in olden days it was traditionally eaten on Sundays, but luckily you no longer have to wait for the weekend to indulge in this – try some with your morning coffee or do as the locals and dunk a slice in a glass of red wine later during the day.
4. Delicious wine
Wine store in Lucca, Italy
With Tuscany being one of the most famous wine regions in Italy, staying in Lucca means you’re well positioned to visit some of the best wineries and vineyards the region has to offer. Some of our favourites include Fattoria Sardi, a family-run winery perched in the hills of Lucca. It produces a range of high-quality wines including Sangiovese, Merlot and Syrah – you can even cool down in their outdoor pool during the hot summer months. Another top winery is Fattoria del Teso, just a half-hour drive from the centre of Lucca. Surrounded by cypress and pine trees, this beautiful winery offers the experience of wine tasting accompanied by peaceful countryside views. Of course, no trip to Tuscany would be complete without visiting the world-famous Chianti region. Less than two hours drive away, sipping Chianti Classico here is an oenophile’s dream.
5. Bucolic countryside
Farmhouse on a hill in Val d'Orcia, Siena, Tuscany, Italy
Picture this: you’re driving along winding country lanes lined with tall cypress trees, nothing around you but fields of sunflowers and rolling green hills. In the distance, medieval hilltop towns rise above the atmospheric mist, vineyards stretching as far as the eye can see. Tuscany’s dream-like landscapes remain unchanged from centuries ago and are one of the top reasons to visit Lucca. We highly recommend hiring a vespa (or a Ferrari if you’re feeling fancy) and exploring the countryside at your own pace. There are plenty of pit stops you can make, including the idyllic Val d’Orcia with its olive groves, fields of grains and rows of cypress trees. Be sure to visit hill towns such as the UNESCO World Heritage town of Pienza to have a stroll around and pick up local products.
6. Beautiful architecture
Piazza San Martino and Lucca Cathedral at dusk
Lovers of beautiful architecture will come across a diverse range of architectural styles in Lucca. As you wander through the city, keep an eye out for the Cathedral of San Martino and the Church of San Michele in Foro, both well-preserved examples of Romanesque architecture with their round arches and robust stonework. Many of the churches and palaces were also built in the Gothic style, the most notable example being the Church of San Francesco with its elegant pointed arches and ribbed vaults.
While the neighbouring city of Florence is famous as the cradle of the Renaissance, Lucca also experienced economic prosperity during this time. This led to the building of grand palaces and buildings like the Palazzo Ducale and the Palazzo Pfanner. You’ll also spot stunning Baroque architecture in Lucca’s churches and public buildings. Visit the Church of San Giuseppe to admire its curved facade, intricate sculptural elements and detailed stonework.
7. Historical and cultural sites
The walls of Lucca, Italy
The churches and palaces mentioned above aren’t all that Lucca has to offer. There are plenty more sites dotted around the city where you can explore its rich historical and cultural heritage. A must-visit are the walls of Lucca. Built during the 16th-century, these well-preserved walls encircle the historic centre of the city. Today, you can walk, bike or jog along the top of the walls for views of the city and surrounding countryside. Another popular attraction is the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro. Originally a Roman amphitheatre, this public square is the best place to shop or grab a drink and sit back for a spot of people-watching.
Lucca is Giacomo Puccini’s birth town, and opera lovers can discover more about this great composer at the Puccini Museum. Located in the apartment he was born in, the rooms have been restored to their original appearance and you can find letters, furniture and other artefacts.
8. Exciting festivals
One of the most exciting reasons to visit Lucca is the number of festivals throughout the year. There’s something for everyone here, from music and arts to religious celebrations. One of the most popular events is the Lucca Summer Festival, a month-long event which sees international artists perform in historical venues – past artists have included Elton John, Bob Dylan and Lady Gaga. The Lucca Comics and Games is one of the largest comic and gaming events in the country, where you’ll find exhibits, cosplay events and tournaments. This is one to take the kids to if you happen to be visiting in late October or early November.
Another fall event is Settembre Lucchese, a month-long series of cultural events like music performances, art exhibitions and historical reenactments. Meanwhile, the Luminara di Santa Croce takes place in mid-September to honour the city’s patron saint, Santa Croce. It’s a true spectacle, where people in medieval costume parade through the streets in candlelight.
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