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11 Best Things To Do In Lucca Tuscany (with Map)

Best things to do in Lucca Italy

Lucca Tuscany is filled with history and music. It is also a great place to visit but also an excelent central spot which will allow you to explore both Tuscany and Liguria, especially the gorgeous Cinque Terre. So let’s put on some comfortable walking shoes and explore the best things to do in Lucca Tuscany.

What do Expect When Visiting Lucca Tuscany

Lucca is a large town in Tuscany, but it is the medieval city that is especially interesting and really cool to visit. Even after spending two days in Florence, we found Lucca very interesting to visit and very relaxing. The center of the old town, Piazza Amphiteatro is lively and full of restaurants and people. In addition to beautiful old buildings you will also find many churches with wonderful works of art dating from the Renaissance times. Here is a list of my favorite things to do in Lucca Tuscany, along with a map I made for a walking tour of Lucca.

  • Piazza Anfiteatro is the lively center of the old town. Plan on spending some time here, especially if you have time to have lunch or dinner
  • Visit the towers. Both Torre delle Ore and Torre Guinigi are wonderful to visit as they give you panoramic views of Lucca.
  • Il Duomo is the large old church on the Southern side of town. Very interesting to visit along with other old churches.
  • Visit the gates. Take time to admire some of the very old entry gates that have withstood the long history of Lucca.

Walking tour map of Lucca Tuscany
Walking tour map of Lucca Tuscany
Red – see, Green – walk,
See my photos from Lucca Tuscany

Stay in Lucca at the beautiful Albergo Celide located just outside the walls. This is great especially if you have a rental car as you can easily park it. Or you can find more budget hotels in Lucca.
Book a local walking tour of Lucca which will take you to the major attractions.

With our walking tour map of Lucca in hand and a good mood we started exploring this old town in Tuscany.

1. The Renaissance Wall

Walking path along the ancient walls
Walking path along the ancient walls in Lucca Tuscany
See my photos from Lucca Tuscany

Book a Local Walking Tour. This beautifully conducted tour of old town Lucca will take you to all major attractions and immerse you in local history.

The Renaissance Wall is one of the key historical sites in Lucca, Tuscany. The Wall forms a 2.6 mile ring around the city and replaced a Roman wall built in 180 BC and a 12th century medieval wall. Designed by Leonardo da Vinci, the Renaissance Wall was constructed during the 16th and 17th centuries.

The Renaissance Wall originally had three gates, Santa Maria, San Donato Nueva, and San Pietro. Santa Maria, the northernmost gate, is particularly beautiful, with a marble statue of the Virgin Mary. Three additional gates were built. The Wall’s 12 enceintes and 11 bastions served as guard houses and wall fortifications.

In the 19th century, Duchess Maria Luisa of Bourbon had the Renaissance Wall converted into a walkway and added parklands, creating the most prominent recreation area in Lucca, Tuscany, with beautiful city and countryside views. Gardens, sculptures, statues, drinking fountains, and children’s play areas surround the walkway. Bicycle rentals are available along the Wall.

2. Piazza Napoleone

The smaller Piazza del Giglio is adjacent to the large Piazza Napoleone.
The smaller Piazza del Giglio is adjacent to the large Piazza Napoleone.
See my photos from Lucca Tuscany

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Piazza Napoleone, also called Piazza Grande, is one of the lively city squares in Lucca,Tuscany that’s home to restaurants, cafes, shops, concerts, and festivals. Piazza Napoleone is home to the Palazzo Ducale, or Ducal Palace, which was Lucca’s original government headquarters.

The Palazzo Ducale was originally the Augusta Fortress, which was the residence of Castruccio Castracani, the Duke of Lucca. After the Fortress was destroyed, rebuilt, and partially destroyed again, the Palazzo Ducale was built. The Palace, decorated with paintings, frescoes, and a gallery of statues, has an unfinished central court, a double portico with pillars, and an unfinished court dedicated to Lucca’s Swiss Guards.

In 1806, Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister, Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi, hired architects Giovanni Lazzarini and Pierre-Theodore Bienimé to develop Piazza Napoleone. Lorenzo Nottolini’s statue of Spain’s Maria Luisa, the Duchess of Lucca, sits in the Piazza’s center, replacing a statue of Napoleon.

3. Church of San Michele in Foro

The church of San Michele in Foro on Via Calderia.
The church of San Michele in Foro on Via Calderia.
See my photos from Lucca Tuscany

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Dominating the L-shaped Piazza San Michele, the Church of San Michele in Foro is Lucca’s most recognizable church. Dedicated to the archangel St. Michael, the Church was built over the ruins of the Roman forum. Pope Alexander II ordered the church’s rebuilding, with construction completed in the 14th century.

Considered one of the most beautiful churches in Lucca, Tuscany, the Church of San Michele in Foro has a tall, yet intricate Romanesque facade with marble columns. The facade has four layers of loggias, decorated with Gothic and Lombard style multi-colored marbles. Friezes of animals sit above the columns while a statue of St. Michael slaying a dragon sits above the portal.

Inside the Church of San Michele in Foro, the nave is supported by arches on monolithic columns. Three important pieces of art are on display inside the church: Andrea della Robbia’s Madonna and Child, Filippino Lippi’s Pala Magrini, and Raffaelio di Montelupo’s relief sculpture of the Virgin.

Tips for visiting Piazza San Michele: Behind the old church you will find the famous Buccellato Taddeucci bakery which makes the delicious breads, pastries and coffee.

4. Piazza Cittadella

A statue of Puccini with his childhood home in the background.
A statue of Puccini with his childhood home in the background.
See my photos from Lucca Tuscany

Piazza Cittadella is a small piazza surrounded by Romanesque buildings with shops, restaurants, and residences. One residence belonged to the prominent Cittadella family. Another residence was the birthplace and childhood home of composer Giacomo Puccini. A bronze statue of Puccini sits in the Piazza’s center.

Growing up in Lucca, Puccini studied at the seminaries of San Michele and the cathedral before graduating from the Pacini School of Music in 1880. Puccini was both in the Duomo di San Martino’s choir and a substitute organist. Continuing his music studies in Milan, Puccini went on to compose numerous operas, including La Boheme, Tosca, and Madama Butterfly.

Puccini’s home, restored to the way it was when Puccini was a child, is now one of the best museums in Lucca, Tuscany. The Puccini Museum’s collections include letters, working drafts, manuscripts, paintings, photographs, documents, and the piano Puccini used to compose Turandot.

5. Palazzo Pfanner

Entrance to Palazzo Pfanner in Lucca
Entrance to Palazzo Pfanner in Lucca
photo by Sailko

One of the most elegant palaces in Lucca, Tuscany, Palazzo Pfanner was built in 1660. After the Controni family purchased the Renaissance Baroque palace in 1680, they added a Domenico Martinelli designed grand staircase and vaults decorated with paintings by Bartolomeo De Santi and Lorenzo Castellotti. Quadraturista frescoes by Pietro Paolo Scorsini line the reception hall’s walls.

The Contronis sold Palazzo Pfanner to brewer Felix Pfanner, who used the palace as his brewery’s headquarters until 1929. Today, portions of the palace are open to the public, including the monumental hall, several residential rooms, exhibitions of Pietro Pfanner’s medical and surgical instruments, and the gardens.

Palazzo Pfanner is home to some of the most magnificent gardens in Lucca, Tuscany. The Baroque style garden was designed in 1700 by Filippo Juvarra. The linear patterned garden features centuries-old and seasonal plants, hedges, bamboo groves, flowers, and trees, including lemon trees planted in vases. An octagon-shaped fountain serves as the garden’s centerpiece, with statues depicting Greek deities lining the garden’s central pathway.

6. Basilica of San Frediano

San Frediano church is one of the favorite things to do in Lucca Tuscany
San Frediano church is one of the favorite things to do in Lucca Tuscany
See my photos from Lucca Tuscany

The Basilica of San Frediano is one of the most beautiful churches in Lucca, Tuscany. Located on the Piazza San Frediano, the Basilica is best known for the Byzantine golden mosaic of the Ascension of Jesus Christ with angels on either side and the Apostles standing below.

The Basilica of San Frediano was built by Saint Fridanus in the sixth century with an east facing facade since the entrance was close to Lucca’s walls. The church and canon house were expanded during the Lombard era, with the present Basilica built between 1112 and 1147.

The Basilica’s white marble interior’s columns’ capitals were recycled from Lucca’s original amphitheater. The 12th century baptismal font has a carved relief depicting The Story of Moses. Saint Fridanus’ remains lie underneath the main altar. A glass shrine holds Saint Zita’s preserved body. Other art works include ceiling frescoes by Amico Aspertini and a prized panel painting by Jacopo della Quercia.

7. Piazza dell’Anfiteatro

Piazza del Anfiteatro is the center of old Lucca
Piazza del Anfiteatro is the center of old Lucca
See my photos from Lucca Tuscany

Book a Local Food Tasting Tour. This tour introduces you to the flavors of Lucca as you go around the town.

Originally a first century amphitheater that held gladiator games and other events, the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro is the liveliest piazza in Lucca, Tuscany. Considered Lucca’s city center, the Piazza, reached by one of four arched entryways, has cafes, restaurants, and shops. The Piazza often hosts festivals.

The amphitheater became a fortification during the Gothic wars, with houses, storage structures, and a prison constructed inside. In 1830, Lorenzo Nottolini razed the buildings and created Piazza dell’Anfiteatro. Nottolini restored the amphitheater’s oval layout and constructed Tuscan-style buildings surrounding the Piazza using the amphitheater’s original structures.

It is a short walk from the Piazza to the Porta di Santa Maria, Lucca’s northernmost Renaissance Wall gate. One of the most beautiful gates in Lucca, Tuscany, the Porta di Santa Maria has a marble sculpture of the Madonna and Child outside the entrance. Stone panther statues sit on both sides of the gate. Frescoes of the Madonna and the Archangel Gabriel appear under the center arch.

Tips for visiting Piazza Anfiteatro: As you walk toward the Piazza make sure you take your time and enjoy the popular Via Fillungo with its old churches and palaces.

8. Torre Guinigi

Torre Guinigi seen from Torre delle Ore
Torre Guinigi seen from Torre delle Ore
See my photos from Lucca Tuscany

Torre Guinigi, or the Guinigi Tower, is recognizable by the holm oak trees growing on top of the tower. Thanks to its brick construction and mullioned windows, the Torre Guinigi is one of the finest examples of Romanesque-Gothic architecture in Lucca, Tuscany.

The Torre Guinigi was built in the late 1300’s by the Guinigi family as an addition to their Via Santa Andrea mansion during a time when Lucca’s wealthy families constructed refined, prestigious towers on their estates. The Guinigis created one of the most beautiful towers in Lucca Tuscany by planting a garden and trees on top of the tower.

As you climb the 230 steps to the top of the Torre Guinigi to enjoy the garden and take in some of the most beautiful views of Lucca, Tuscany, you will find coats-of-arms, cornices, plaques, and ancient paintings on display. From the garden, you can see the outlines of Lucca’s walls, the city’s Roman Center, and the city’s other towers.

Towers are a feature of many medieval towns in Tuscany with San Gimignano taking the first place with the most.

9. Torre delle Ore

Torre dell Ore in Lucca Tuscany
Torre dell Ore in Lucca Tuscany
See my photos from Lucca Tuscany

Torre delle Ore, at 164 feet, is one of Lucca’s tallest structures. Centrally located at the corner of Via Fillungo and Via dell’Arancio, the Torre delle Ore is one of the most spectacular towers in Lucca, Tuscany. Unlike Lucca’s other towers, the Torre delle Ore has both a clock and a bell.

Torre delle Ore was originally built in the 13th century when Lucca’s wealthiest merchants, seeking prestige, built tall towers on their properties. The clock was installed in 1390. In the 15th century, the Duke of Lucca ordered most of Lucca’s towers demolished. The tower was spared, likely due to the clock.

Inside the tower, visitors can see the clock’s mechanism. Visitors who climb to the top of the Torre delle Ore will see some of the most spectacular views of Lucca Tuscany. On weekends, reservations are required to climb to the top of the tower.

10. Church of San Giovanni e Reparata

The smaller Church of San Giovanni leading to the Duomo.
The smaller Church of San Giovanni leading to the Duomo.
See my photos from Lucca Tuscany

The Church of San Giovanni e Reparata, formerly Lucca’s cathedral, is one of the key archaeological sites in Lucca, Tuscany. The Church is home to an archaeological complex with structures depicting Lucca’s history from Roman times to the Middle Ages,

Built in the fifth century on a Roman settlement, the Church of San Giovanni e Reparata was Lucca’s cathedral until the eighth century. During the 12th-17th centuries, the church received a new edifice, a rebuilt baptistery with an ogival dome, and a new facade reusing much of the medieval facade. Paolo Guidotti’s Annunciation with the Eternal and Angels decorates the apsidal basin. Frescos from Ippolito Marracci depicting Saint Ignatius decorate the Chapel of San Ignazio.

A five-level succession of remains covering five periods of Lucca’s history sits beneath the Church. The remains include a first century AD Augustan domus floor, first and second century BC baths, early Christian mosaics, a Middle Ages baptistery, and a Carolingian crypt.

11. Duomo di San Martino

Duomo di San Martino is an impressive site.
Duomo di San Martino is an impressive site.
See my photos from Lucca Tuscany

The Duomo di San Martino is one of the most beautiful churches in Lucca, Tuscany. The Duomo, founded in the sixth century by San Frediano, became Lucca’s cathedral in the eighth century, and was rebuilt between 1060-1637.

The Duomo’s Gothic and Romanesque portico faces the square. The main entrance is adorned with sculptures and bas-reliefs depicting Saint Martin. The left entrance lunette displays Nicola Pisano’s Deposition. The right pillar has an embedded 12-13th century labyrinth. The quadrangle bell tower offers some of the best views of Lucca, Tuscany.

The Gothic Duomo’s interior artwork include Domenico Ghirlandaio’s Madonna and Child with Saints Peter, Clement, Paul, and Sebastian, Federico Zuccari’s Adoration of the Magi, Fra Bartolomeo’s Madonna and Child, and Jacopo Tintoretto’s Last Supper. The Holy Face of Lucca, a wooden crucifix carved by Nicodemus, is preserved in a Matteo Civitali built 15th century temple. A separate room houses the Renaissance sarcophagus of Ilaria del Carretto, merchant Paolo Guinigi’s wife.

Plan Your Trip to Lucca

Stay in Lucca at the beautiful Albergo Celide located just outside the walls. This is great especially if you have a rental car as you can easily park it. Or you can find more budget hotels in Lucca.

Book a beautiful local walking tour of Lucca. This tour will take you to the major Lucca attractions and will immerse you in the intricate history of this town.

Is Lucca Tuscany Worth Visiting?

The short answer is yes! Lucca takes you back in time, all the way to the Roman Empire and through modern times at Paganini and the Renaissance. We found walking around Lucca delightful and very relaxing, even with our two toddlers.

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