Lucca Tourist Information
Lucca is a city in Tuscany, northern central Italy, situated on the river Serchio in a fertile plain. It is the capital city of the Province of Lucca. Among other reasons, it is famous for its intact Renaissance-era city walls.
Lucca’s tradition has been one of sturdy independence rather than flamboyance, which means that the information boards you come across outside its more notable buildings are still usually in Italian only. In fact, the town boasts no famous showpieces, and therefore no crowds of tourists or rows of souvenir shops.
Lucca is roughly oval, flat and hardly a mile across. Within this span there are no wide roads to cross, but a multitude of old churches, little piazzas, towers and family businesses. Behind many an arching doorway there is a glimpse of vaulted passage or columned yard, usually private. This is a town where you can dispense with a map and simply walk or, like the locals, cycle: pretty soon you’re bound to come back to somewhere you recognise or to the city rampart, which offers a high and grassy promenade (generally only resembling a wall when seen from outside).
It’s possible to climb one or other of the two highest bell-towers to look out on the mazy rooftops of the town and the surrounding Tuscan hills. A small circular piazza with entrances at the four points of the compass stands on the site of the town’s Roman amphitheatre. The beautiful church of San Frediano, founded by an Irish saint, keeps the intact body of a later saint on show for the faithful, as well as a vast 12th-century font with figures carved with such force as to seem more Viking than Romanesque. For contrast, find the statue of Lucca’s favourite son, Puccini, relaxing with a cigarette
Lucca's other tourist attractions include the Duomo of San Martino, alongside its own museum, both of which contain fine work by Jacopo della Quercia. Located over the old Roman forum, and named for it, is another grand church: San Michele in Foro. Art-lovers will want to explore the Pinacoteca Nazionale, the town's art gallery and the Museo Guinigi, which contains sculpture as well as paintings.
Shoppers looking for smart boutiques should head for the Via Gallitassi; while more laid-back tourists will appreciate the coffee/tea shops and little places selling local wines and cheeses on Via Paulino. Both are on the western side of town but you will come upon them anyway as you explore the historic streets.
Lucca Travel Information
The obvious approach is from the Pisa airport, from which Lucca is only half-an-hour by car or by train, making the two cities a good double-bill. Trains and busses shuttle between Lucca and Pisa’s main station about every hour.
The main car parks are scattered around the main road which encircles the ramparts. The station is similarly placed, just south of the wall; on coming out you should aim half left to pass through the Porta San Pietro and then roughly straight on for a few more minutes to reach the big Piazza Napoleone.
There’s a lot to be said for Lucca as a base. It’s only a dozen miles from Pisa and fifty from Florence, while being less hectic than these honey-pots. Neither is the town so busy in summer as to go dead in winter. Going north from Lucca, the wooded hills soon turn into real mountains, often called the Apuan Alps or the Marble Mountains, which can be streaked with snow well into March. This area, the Garfagnana, is up-and-coming for those who like to combine their Tuscan villages with highly scenic walks: its main centre is Barga, but with transport one could explore the district from Lucca itself.