Imagine a beautiful little Tuscan town protected by massively thick 16th-century walls, featuring some of Italy's finest medieval and Renaissance architecture, superb dining, antique markets, classical and rock music festivals, easy access to stunning nearby villas in the surrounding hills and with endless beaches less than half an hour away. Lucca is one of Tuscany's best-kept secrets.
A wealthy and colorful town that draws a more discerning tourist than Florence or Pisa, it is sufficiently off the beaten track to have kept its civility and reserve. Lucca is a city of merchants who know how to woo the visitor and the shopper, but the pace of life varies between slow and slower.
The villas and farmhouses within 15 kilometers (10 miles) of the city, in the provinces of Lucca and neighboring Capannori, are already sought after as summer rentals by European visitors, and now the area is becoming an alternative to some of the more elite summer destinations in the United States.
Lucca has one particularly stunning feature - ancient ramparts that ring the old city. The inhabitants built these brick walls in the 16th century for defense. Today, walk (or bike) around the city on the wide shaded walkways atop the walls. If that doesn't tire you out, climb up the Torre Guinigi - the 130 ft. tower has an ancient oak tree on top!
Worth seeing are the churches San Michele in Foro and San Frediano, the cathedral San Martino, the shopping street via Fillungo, Palazzo and Torre Guinigi (14th c.), the latter is one of the few still existing, plant with stone oaks, clan towers (at the heyday of Lucca in the city there were, inclusive church towers, about 170 towers) and the Piazza Anfiteatro. On the ruins of the Roman amphitheater, churches and houses were built, which now form a beautiful oval square. The best ice, by the way, you can buy at the Gelateria Pinguino in Piazza Napoleone.
Lucca is situated 19 m. above sea level on an alluvial plateau, to the left of the Serchio river, not far from the Tyrrhenian coast. An important road junction in Roman times, Lucca was the capital of the Lombard Duchy of Tuscia and subsequently (8th century) the seat of the Carolingian Marquisate of Tuscany. Established as a free municipality (early 12th century), the town grew in political and economical importance, though it was often troubled by internal disputes and rivalry with Pisa. In the first half of the 14th century, it was under various Signorie and in 1369 it became a Republic remaining independent, except during the Guinigi Signorie (1400-1430) and the Napoleonic period, until 1847 when it was included in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, from then on sharing its fortunes.
The town lies within a circle of 16th century walls which, in the 19th century, were transformed into a tree-lined avenue; it has therefore maintained its characteristic medieval structure.
Lucca Walls - mura di Lucca
The San Frediano church (details)
Monuments: Duomo (11th-13th century, Romanesque) housing the Tomb of Ilaria del Carretto, a sculptural masterpiece by Jacopo della Quercia (1408), church of S. Maria Foris portam (13th-16th century), Case dei Guinigi (a complex of 14th century towers and buildings), church of S. Michele in Foro (12th-13th century, Pisan-Lucca architecture with a rich interior), church of S. Frediano (12th century, Romanesque, with a large mosaic of the Ascension, 13th century on the façade), Palazzo Mansi (17th century), Palazzo Pretorio (16th century), Villa of Paolo Guinigi (15th century), remains of the Roman amphitheatre (structure of the present Piazza del Mercato).
"Piazza Anfiteatro" Piazza of the Amphitheatre. - Built on the site of an original Roman amphitheatre, Piazza Anfiteatro is another ‘must-see' in Lucca. Some original Roman elements remain, particularly within the outer walls.
This ancient site constitutes one of the most characteristic and original monuments of the city. The ancient amphitheatre dates from the 2nd century A.D. It was built on an elliptical plan with two rows of 54 arcades and a maximum capacity of 10,000 spectators. Beginning in the Middle Ages, houses were built over the ruins. Over the course of time the piazza developed its characteristic elliptical shape, with buildings all around it. The ancient remains are still quite evident today. The colorful piazza was restored in 1830. Enlivened by shops and cafes, it is still at the center of cultural activities, music festivals, and fairs.
Lucca's economy is based on agricultural produce from the fertile surrounding countryside (olives, fruit, cereals, grapes) and the town acts as a commercial and transformation centre (oil mills). Industry is traditionally present in textiles and clothing but there are also chemical, engineering and building firms.
Guinigi Tower. The palace and the tree-topped tower, belonging to the prestigious merchant family of the Guinigi, are located in one of the most characteristic medieval neighborhoods of the city. It is the only remaining example of home of Gothic nobility, with elegant quadriforium on the facades, large internal rooms, and a second doorway for carriage access.
della S. Croce (13th September), Palio della Balestra (July
and September), Cartoon film salon (autumn).
Cultural Institutions: Academy of Lucca of Science, Letters and Arts, National Museum of Villa Guinigi, National Art Gallery, libraries, Giglio Theatre.
In the Province: Viareggio (seaside resort, famous
carnival), Pietrasanta, Camaiore, Forte dei Marmi. Massaciuccoli's
Lake (House of Giacomo Puccini)
San Michele in Foro church (above)
Almost certainly the most photographed view in Lucca, the
facade of San Michele in Foro is a delight. The upper section
gives the impression of a propped-up film set - the windows
look through onto thin air - as money ran out before that
part of the church could be raised to the level of the facade.
Every single column is different; some are elaborately carved,
some twisted and spiralling, others are like striped sweets.
Look up at the figure of the archangel - the wings are hinged
and may be retracted if the wind gets up!
Lucca is definitely the most peacefully-beautiful place we enjoyed in Italy. Well worth a visit. And a true paradise for a visit with kids and bikes!
Start the interactive virtual tour: it's free !
Selected website travel blogs about Lucca
and surrounded area
provincia.lucca.it - comune.lucca.it - Lucca Travel Blogs - TravBuddy - Lucca – Tuscany's best kept secret | TravelAbouts - Lucca Forum, Travel Discussion for Lucca, Italy - TripAdvisor - Lucca, Italy as a base? | Europe Forum | Fodor's Travel Talk - Best Lucca Travel Forum & Travel Answers - VirtualTourist - Lucca Italy - Lonely Planet - Visiting Lucca, a Tuscan Hidden Gem Blog -
Selected meteo weather conditions in Lucca and surrounded area
Meteo LUCCA - Previsioni fino a 15 giorni - Lucca, Italy Weather - The Weather Channel - Lucca Weather - AccuWeather Forecast for Tuscany Italy - Lucca, Italy 7 Day Weather Forecast - The Weather Network - Lucca Weather | euronews: Lucca, Italia ten day weather - Lucca Weather | Lucca Holiday Weather | Tuscany, Italy - Lucca Forecast Weather Underground -
Lucca is a place that you can just walk around and discover and enjoy and it's really close to Florence and far from the crowds.