Lucca, a Tuscan Town Full of Unique Surprises!
Lucca is a Tuscan town that holds many unique surprises. It’s not your typical Tuscan hilltop town. It is completely flat. There are no sweeping views. There are no huge “must-see” sights. Lucca must have other charms if it is to lure visitors. And it has many…
The first time I visited Lucca, I had been driving through the region of Emilia Romagna, after spending a few nights exploring Bologna. I had been moving around a lot and was looking forward to slowing my pace and relaxing in Lucca. So I focused on a recommendation to bike or walk the city walls and see the oval piazza. Those seemed to be the most interesting things about Lucca. I saw them both, had some nice meals, and felt like I’d “experienced” the best of Lucca.
I was completely wrong.
Not Your Typical Piazza in Lucca
One sight I did not miss the first time was Lucca’s main piazza. It is unique in that many folks expect to find a square or rectangular shape when exploring piazzas. The Piazza dell’Anfiteatro in Lucca is actually an oval because it is the site of a second century Roman Amphitheater. If you walk the exterior walls of the piazza, you will see remnants of the historic structure still there today. Instead of fights to the death, you can enjoy a nice meal or try some new gelato flavors. If you are really lucky, you will catch the local children playing a spirited game of football (aka soccer).
The Tower…with a Garden!
You must visit, and if you are up for it, climb Guinigi Tower. The Guinigi family were rich merchants. They built towers for protection but also for simply flaunting their wealth, typical of wealthy families at that time. The tower is unique in that it has a garden on top, filled with holm oak trees, planted as a symbol of rebirth. It is quite an easy tower to climb with only 230 steps to amazing views! I was rewarded with an amazing view of Lucca after making the climb!
Lucca’s historic walls are perfectly preserved. They offer a great opportunity to walk or bike the perimeter of the city. The walls perfectly encircle the city with 4.2 kilometers (2 1/2 miles) of wide paths surrounded by centuries-old oak trees. Rent a bike to enjoy this experience and easily explore the entire length which is well worth the effort. Afterward, don’t be afraid to bike through town as it is largely filled with pedestrian traffic. Just be mindful of the many locals that will be zipping around on their bikes as well!
Tis Tips for Lucca
Take a day trip to Pisa! Pisa is a 30-minute train ride from Lucca. Trains run frequently but as many people take this trip, you may find yourself in long lines to buy a ticket if you wait until the day you go. Either buy the ticket the afternoon/evening before or try purchasing them from the newsagent in the station which also sells train tickets. Then head off and see the famous Leaning Tower. Get there early if you want to buy a ticket to climb it. Afterward, wander through Pisa and grab lunch followed by some of the best gelato from La Bottega del Gelato on Piazza Garibaldi before heading back to Lucca.
Lucca is a small town without tons of traditional hotels in the center. However, many floors of old palaces have been converted to hotels and provide great options.
Looking for luxury? Try the Tuscanian Hotel, steps from Guinigi Tower and other attractions. The hotel occupies three floors of a 17th-century building. It combines old-world charm with modern touches to give you the best of both worlds.
Another more budget-friendly option is the Relais San Lorenzo. The hotel does not offer 24/7 front desk service so if that is something you can live with, book early to reserve the Madama Butterly suite. You will have a lovely sitting room AND a huge terrace all for a very reasonable price.
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