Lucca in Italy is one of those cities that surprise visitors with its astonishing architecture dating back to the Gothic Era just before the Renaissance. Lucca hides many treasures behind its iconic city walls. Once they protected the city from enemies, today they are the favorite place for the inhabitants for nice walks or bike rides.

Roofs of Lucca Italy from Guinigi Tower

Living on the Tuscan Riviera, just thirty minutes away, we went to Lucca many times. It is one of our best-loved towns in Tuscany, and every reason is good to go back, again and again. Lucca is enjoyable for its grace and its wonders, not overcrowded with tourists except for the very high season.

Where is Lucca on Italy’s map?

The town of Lucca belongs administratively to Tuscany, one of the favorite regions of Italy for tourists. Lucca on Italy’s map is in the central northern area, near the west coast and the Mediterranean Sea. The beaches of Tuscany, in particular those of Versilia, are only 30 minutes away.

Lucca located in the map of Italy

Pisa and its famous Leaning Tower are very close to Lucca, only 20 km or 13 miles. The best way to get from Pisa to Lucca and vice versa is by train. It takes only 25 minutes and you don’t need to stress yourself looking for a parking slot. In fact, the majority of tourists visit Lucca in combination with Pisa, spending half a day in both destinations.

Having time at your disposal, we highly recommend spending at least two or three days in Lucca, to truly enjoy the city and have the opportunity to discover the surroundings. The area of Garfagnana is a real heaven for lovers of nature and the outdoors.

How far is Lucca from Florence?

Lucca is only 80 km, 50 miles from Florence. By car, you can reach Lucca from Firenze in just over an hour. There are also a few direct Regionale trains that connect the two cities in about one hour and twenty minutes.

Unmissable Things to Do in Lucca Italy

To follow you find some of the best things to do in Lucca. We put the highlights you cannot miss if you come just for a day together with other unusual places to explore in case you decide to spend more days in Lucca.

Map of Lucca Italy

In this map of Lucca, I collected all the places I suggest in this article: museums, parks, squares, churches, and restaurants. On your smartphone you can widen the map using your fingers, to get closer to every point of interest. Clicking on every icon you get more details like addresses, phone numbers, website, and more pictures.

The Walls of Lucca

The massive ring of walls is the symbol of the town. They protect the old historical center of Lucca keeping the modern world out. The walls are the custodians of the secrets and the past of the town. Passing through one of the four gates, it seems to go back to another Era. Today The walls are Lucchese’s favorite green space. They climb the walls to walk, run, ride their bikes, and walk their dogs. Or simply rest in the shade.

Walls of Lucca

Read more about the Walls of Lucca, seen from above and below.

Via Fillungo

Via Fillungo crosses the historical center and connects some of the main sites inside the walls of Lucca. Starting from Piazza Anfiteatro, you will reach the church of San Frediano, the clock tower ends very close to San Michele Square. It is also one of the central shopping streets with shops and bars. Here is where you can also taste and buy the Buccellato, the traditional cake of Lucca.

the old buildings of Via Fillungo Lucca

Guinigi Tower

Torre Guinigi is the most important tower in Lucca. Made of stone and brick it is one of the few remaining within the city walls. The uniqueness of this tower is the hanging garden roof with seven holly oak. In the past, towers were symbols of power and economic well-being. The Guinigi family, in the fourteenth century, decided to build one to show the city their importance. The idea of planting seven trees on top made the gesture even more impressive.

Guinigi Tower Lucca

Roman Amphitheater

Off the Via Fillungo and in Piazza Scarpellini there were the ruins of a Roman Amphitheatre. But during the Middle Ages, some houses and a square were built in the area of the ancient amphitheater. Nowadays the Piazza Anfiteatro is famous for its particular round shape and hosts many concerts and international performers for the Anfiteatro Jazz Festival.

Under the arch to enter in the Piazza Anfiteatro in Lucca Italy

Duomo di San Martino

The Duomo di San Martino is a Romanesque cathedral that dates back to the 14th century. It contains an important example of acheiropoieta, the Volto Santo (Holy Face), which is a wooden crucified Christ. They say it came into existence miraculously and was not created by a human being. This is a must-see for those pilgrims who are walking along the Via Francigena.

View of the Duomo of Lucca

Torre delle Ore, Clock Tower

The Torre delle Ore is a clock tower and it’s the highest tower in Lucca (50 m, 164 ft). It was built in the middle age era, with the function of marking the time of the day, thanks to its bells and clock that you can see from Via Fillungo.

Torre dell'orologio Lucca

The Torre delle Ore is tied to the legend of Lucida Mansi, the woman who sold her soul to the Devil to remain beautiful and young. The devil, however, would be back after thirty years to demand payment of the debt. At the end of thirty years Lucida Mansi, (on the night of the 14th of August 1623) climbed the tower and ran panting to stop the bell, which was about to blink the hour of his death. At midnight, the Devil would take his soul. However, the legend is that Lucida did not reach in time the mechanism, so she couldn’t stop it and the devil took her soul away.

The Church of San Michele

Saint Michael’s Church is in the center of the city in the homonym square Piazza San Michele that host also Palazzo Pretorio, a wonderful renaissance building. The basilica was started in the 12th century and finished in the 14th century and contains a larger-than-life-size statue of the archangel Michael that crowns the gable.

San Michele in Foro church, what to do in Lucca for a half day

Basilica of San Frediano

Saint Frediano’s Basilica is dedicated to an Irish pilgrim monk. Here you find a gold mosaic with Christ in an aureole that dominates the façade, flanked by two angels with the twelve apostles in a row underneath. The interiors are Romanesque and I must mention the baptismal font from the mid-12th century with reliefs of the life of Moses around the outside. The fourth chapel of the left aisle, the so-called Cappella Trenta, contains a polyptych made in marble, with bas-reliefs by Jacopo della Quercia.

Basilica San Frediano Lucca

Piazza Napoleone

Piazza Napoleone is a large square with a monument of Maria-Luisa of Bourbon-Parma, who was popular among the citizens of Lucca. The entire west side of the piazza is taken by the Palazzo della Provincia. It is a construction from 1578 where once lived Elisa Baciocchi, the sister of Napoleone. Here you can visit the Museo del Risorgimento, in the Cortile degli Svizzeri, which holds documents of the Italian unification movement between 1851 and 1870.

Piazza Napoleone Lucca

Other Places to visit in Lucca, Italy

Museum of Palazzo Mansi

Palazzo Mansi is a 16th-century palace in Baroque style, which hosts a National Gallery with a focus on Venetian, Flemish, and Florentine paintings, such as the Mannerist Pontormo and Paolo Veronese, Andrea del Sarto, and Bronzino.

Palazzo Mansi Lucca

The Baroque Gardens of Palazzo Pfanner

Palazzo Pfanner was built around 1667 near the northern fortification belt. It holds a Baroque garden with statues and fountains, where is possible to take a breath and enjoy the silence. The beautiful ornate staircase connects the first floor to the second, where you can visit a small but precious collection museum of costume and accessories displays from the 18th and 19th.

Palazzo Pfanner Lucca

Puccini Concert at the Church of San Giovanni


Botanical Gardens

The Orto Botanico is located in Via del Giardino Botanico, 14. Established in 1820 by Maria-Luisa of Bourbon-Parma, the garden is a heart of green and calm just behind the city walls, which leads the visitor to another world in a few steps, thanks to its sounds, colors, and perfumes.

Botanical Gardens Lucca

A legend says that once, the Devil kidnapped Lucida Mansi to bring her into hell, to be repaid for the debt of having sold her thirty years of youth and beauty. He loaded her on a burning carriage, which went through the whole city from the Torre delle Ore. After making the round of the city walls because all citizens of Lucca could hear her heart-rending cries, she disappeared into the pond of the botanical garden. Some say that by diving in the waters of the pond you can still see the face of Lucida Mansi asleep on the bottom of the lake.

Others claim that on the night of October 31 just before midnight, in the silence, the wind gets up and you may hear the hooves of horses running to rush toward the pond. The lucky ones may even catch a glimpse of the fiery carriage, launched in her eternal and unbridled race to hell.

Domus Romana

Domus Romana or “Casa del Fanciullo sul Delfino” is an archeological site in the center of Lucca, discovered in 2010. This is the place where you can admire finds and walled structures dating back to the Roman Empire of the 1st century B.C., but not only. The history path continues through the Longobards, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance.

Domus Romana Lucca

Nottolini Aqueduct

The old aqueduct takes its name from its inventor Lorenzo Nottolini. It serves to bring water from the nearby mountains to the city. Today, walking under its high arches made of bricks, in just a few minutes you reach the surrounding countryside. The walk starts immediately behind the central station and has a length of about 4 km, 2,5 miles. I highly recommend it if you wish to take a break from history and culture and enjoy nature.

Did you know that …

  • Lucca remained an independent city-state until the end of the 18th century.
  • Giacomo Puccini, the famous Tuscan opera composer, was born in Lucca.
  • The garden of Palazzo Pfanner was filmed in the 1996 movie of Jane Campion’s The Portrait of a Lady, with Nicole Kidman, adapted from the novel by Henry James.
  • Every year, at the end of October, Lucca attracts thousands of colored and masked tourists for the Lucca Comics and Games. It’s the second biggest festival in the world of comics, games, and cosplay, after the Comiket of Tokio in Japan.
  • In July, the city center hosts the biggest music festival in Tuscany, the Lucca Summer Festival. Every summer, international stars walk the stage in the Piazza Napoleone. Robbie Williams, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Lenny Kravitz, The Eagles, Stevie Wonder, and many others played here In the recent past, some big concerts took place right under the walls. The Rolling Stones and Elton John gave some amazing performances that will remain in the history of the festival.

Where to Sleep in Lucca

If you plan to spend a few nights in Lucca Italy, first of all, you have to decide if staying inside the walls in the historical center, or outside the walls in the modern town. Both areas have pros and cons.

Inside the wall, the atmosphere is more charming, there are no cars, and is like living in the history of the town. You won’t find big hotels but small and cozy accommodations like B&B or boutique hotels. The con is that you may have trouble finding a parking slot for your car because of restrictions of the ZTL limited access zone.

Staying outside the walls is better if you have a car. You will miss the magical atmosphere of the old central buildings, but you can easily reach the accommodation and park in private parking or find a slot nearby. However, you are just a few minutes walk from the center so it is not a big problem.

Another option is to choose your accommodation in the countryside. There are beautiful villas, and an elegant bed & breakfast and you will be surrounded by nature and silence.


Restaurants in Lucca Italy

Here is a small list of nice restaurants where you can stop for lunch or dinner to enjoy the food of the local tradition:

  • Enoteca Osteria da Pasqualino Gubitosa. Open in 2011 in the heart of the city, this Osteria is an example of an innovative restaurant, where tradition meets new techniques of cooking. At Osteria Pasqualino Gubitosa you will appreciate good food and wine and the courtesy of the staff.
  • Osteria da Rosolo. Good food made with fresh ingredients. The plus is the location, relaxing but elegant, inside an internal courtyard between Piazza Napoleone and Piazza San Michele, two of the main attractions of Lucca.
  • La Bottega di Anna e Leo, beside the church of San Frediano. Terracotta floor, wooden and straw chairs, super relaxing atmosphere. Feels like being inside an old-time farmhouse. They offer a simple cuisine typical of Lucca and Garfagnana.
  • L’Imbuto. The Orangery of Palazzo Pfanner hosts this amazing restaurant honored with one Michelin Star. A creative cuisine, a modern decor without a fixed menu. Every day the excellent Chef Cristiano Tomei will propose his commensal dishes that look like artworks. It’s virtually impossible to taste the same dish twice.

With the pleasant spring weather or to refresh ourselves from the summer heatwave, there is nothing better than an excellent gelato. Here are two Gelateries we tried that we suggest trying:

  • La Crema Matta in Via Fillungo, close to the Piazza Anfiteatro
  • La Bottega del Gelato, not far from the Duomo

Where to park in Lucca

The huge walls separate the historical center from the modern town. Access to the center is possible, through the old gates, only for residents or people with special permission. So, going by car you necessarily have to park outside the walls.

Most of the parking lots are “pay and display”. Compared to other famous cities, parking in Lucca is not too expensive. With only six euros you can leave your car for the whole day. My suggestion is to park close to the train station which is just outside downtown.

However, you can also find some central areas where you can park for free. On Via Roosevelt Franklyn and its surroundings, you are allowed to park on the white line slots without paying and with no risk of fines.

Further Readings

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(Last Update on 02.04.2021)

16 thoughts on “Discover Lucca Italy and the Secrets Behind Its Walls

    • Edoardo says:

      Hello Lorelei, I agree with you, Lucca is a jewel. So rich of history, art and interesting hidden places to discover for who loves slow travel. After many years I still love the walls designed by Leonardo da Vinci and have a walk whenever I can. I hope you’ll visit Lucca one day.

    • Nicola Bandini says:

      Ciao Antonella, grazie mille per aver segnalato questa inesattezza che abbiamo subito provveduto a togliere. Tra l’altro abbiamo anche un altro articolo dedicato interamente alle mura che abbiamo scritto dopo aver partecipato ad un tour organizzato da TurisLucca nel quale, giustamente, non si parla di Leonardo.

  1. Susanne Monterosso says:

    I have visited Lucca several times and love the quaintness of it most of all. I loved having a glass of wine and appetizers at the restaurant in top of the wall near that unusual sculpture. I do remember hearing a legend of a lady whose tomb (?) Inside one of the churches that if you touched her nose you were supposed to find your true live shortly after. Have you heard of this?

    • Nicola Bandini says:

      Hey Susanne, to be honest, I have never heard of that legend. We know something about Lucida Mansi. Other stories are told about the crucifix of the holy face kept in St. Martin’s Cathedral. And also about the grave of Ilaria del Carretto (inside the Duomo) at whose feet lies a dog symbolizing fidelity.

    • Nicola Bandini says:

      It is difficult to reply and it depends on many factors. I would not suggest living in Italy to someone who is coming from abroad. Italy is beautiful for holidays. Weather and food are nice but the rest is a mess: jobs, services, bureaucracy, taxes… By the way, Lucca is a lovely quiet town, not far from the coast if you love the beach life.

  2. Debbie S says:

    Is Lucca a good home base for a trip to Tuscany? We would spend about 5 days in Rome then take a train to the Tuscany region. We would like to rent a car to roam Tuscany at our leisure! We would spend about 5 days in Tuscany. Thank you

  3. Sherri Smith says:

    My sister and I are traveling to Italy at the end of October. We are flying into Rome and staying in Sorrento, Pisa and back to Rome for a couple of days before flying back home. We will be doing day trips and Lucca is one of the stops. I look forward to seeing this quaint town.

    • Nicola Bandini says:

      Hey Sherri, thanks for writing. Pisa is a nice base to explore a bit of Tuscany. By train you can easily reach places such as Lucca, Viareggio, Pietrasanta, Livorno and Florence. Having the car, you have even more options. Hope you will enjoy our country. 🙂

  4. Kevin Lilly says:

    I am doing some research on my Italian ancestry and believe my grandfather Archimedes Fontanini came from an area of Tuscany known as GIAUGUGNANA. I cannot find this place on any maps and would be most grateful for any information at all on its location, what it is known for etc.

    Thank you in anticipation of an informative reply.

    Kevin Lilly
    South Australia

  5. Ted Ingersoll says:

    Nicola –
    We are coming to Tuscany this fall (2024) for 3-4 weeks. Plan to begin in Florence for 3-4 days, then pick a base from which to tour hill towns, wineries and other sites by car for about 3 weeks. Looking for a town that’s big enough to have a variety of good accommodations, restaurants and things to see but still walkable. Florence is too big; Montepulciano probably too small. We plan to rent a two-bedroom, too bath apartment in town. We’re only one couple but may want to invite friends or family for a few days. Have considered Lucca, Siena, Cortona as candidates. Do you have another suggestion? We’re especially interested in history, architecture, wineries and good food. Very familiar with Provence but do not know Tuscany at all.

    • Nicola Bandini says:

      Hi Ted thanks for your comment. Good idea to stay outside of Florence. Lucca seems to me to be a good choice. It is one of the most beautiful and rich towns in Tuscany. The historic center is stunning. The sea is only 30 minutes away (Viareggio, Pietrasanta, The marble quarries of Carrara). So is Pisa. Lucca is at the gateway to a beautiful natural region called Garfagnana with parks for beautiful nature walks and visiting small villages such as Barga and Castelnuovo. You might want to consider that between October 30 and November 3 in Lucca there will be the comics festival “Lucca comics and games” that attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists to the city.
      Siena is also a little gem. Close to villages such as San Gimignano and Volterra and closer to the wine areas of Chianti and the fairy-tale landscapes of Val d’Orcia.
      Cortona is very pretty and popular abroad but smaller than Siena and Lucca. Perhaps more isolated than the others because on top of a hill. with cooler temperatures than the coast.
      However, having a car, you will be able to visit many parts of Tuscany in three weeks.

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