Dear Traveller friends,
after visiting the marble quarries in Carrara, our Grand Tour of Tuscany brings us to one of the most fascinating cities in the region—Lucca.
One day is enough to visit the city. However, since we spent the morning at the marble quarries, we decided to devote the afternoon to Lucca, spend the night in town, and finish our visit the following morning.
Where to sleep and eat
The simplest solution to visit Lucca is booking a room inside the historical city centre. We chose the bed and breakfast Lucca Charm, which turned out to be an excellent facility, both for its position and the courtesy of the owner.
If you decide to spend the night in the city centre, I strongly recommend leaving your car outside the ramparts. Reaching your hotel by car could cost you a lot of time and a migraine trying to navigate through the small alleys and crooked streets.
You can easily park your car in the area near the railway station and reach the city centre on foot. If you don’t want to bring your entire luggage with you, take care to prepare a small overnight bag to bring with you on this stop.
However, if for some reason you absolutely need to reach the hotel with your car, take care. The old city centre is a restricted traffic zone. You need to get in touch with the hotel and ask them to tell the authorities your license plate so that you can enter and exit the area without getting a ticket.
For what concerns eating, you can find a great variety of restaurants inside and in the area surrounding Piazza dell’Anfiteatro. We decided o try the Osteria Baralla, a place serving delicious local dishes for a fair price.
After the needed introduction, it’s time to dive into Lucca’s monuments and attractions.
The first place to visit is the Church of Saint Michael, in the central plaza. The most suggestive part of the church is the facade. It’s imposing and widely decorated, with a statue representing the Archangel Michael killing the dragon on top of it. The rest of the exterior is interesting as well, decorated with blind arches and balconies. The interior, instead, is definitely more austere.
After visiting the Church of Saint Michael, head to Via San Paolino. Here you can find several shops selling local culinary specialities. You may find yourself tempted by the smells and sights in the shops, however, before buying tasty souvenirs, ask the shopkeepers about the shelf life and the best way to preserve the products.
Walking along this street, you’ll find yourself at one of the entrances to the old town. From here you can climb up the wide ramparts and enjoy a walk all around the city centre. If you walk around town clockwise, you’ll reach the Basilica of San Frediano. The facade is characterized by a fantastic mosaic depicting Christ’s Ascension.
Not far from the Basilica, you can finally reach Piazza dell’Anfiteatro. Built during the Middle Ages over the remains of an ancient Roman amphitheatre, the plaza was restored to its elliptical form during the XIX century. You can enter it from one of the four arches and, even if it’s a public space, it almost gives you the feeling of being a private closed courtyard.
Heading towards the south, you can reach the Guinigi Tower. During the Middle Ages, Lucca had 250 towers but now only two remains. Even if the name of this tower doesn’t strike a chord with you, you couldn’t possibly miss to recognize it. In fact, this is the tower with holm oaks on the rooftop, which makes it unique. If you want to try and climb the stairs to the top of the tower, you can do it for 5 euros. The cost of the ticket and the effort are amply repaid by the beautiful view over Lucca.
Our tour of Lucca goes on with the Cathedral of San Martino. This church is atypical because its naves are asymmetrical. When the cathedral was expanded towards the end of the XIV century, the bell tower was already there and was incorporated in the new structure, making it asymmetric.
The tall decorated ceilings and the inlays, which resembles the floors in Siena’s cathedral, are just a small part of the many marvellous elements. Here you can also admire several pieces of art, such as the Madonna Enthroned with Child and Saints by Ghirlandaio.
Our tour ends with the other tower in town, the Torre delle Ore. This is the symbol of Lucca and contains a hand-wound clock, installed in 1754 so that the citizens could always read the hour instead of counting the chimes. If you want, you can climb the tower and see the mechanism. If you are interested in this kind of activity, you can skip the visit to the Guinigi Tower, and spend your time here.
With the Clock Tower, our tour of Lucca comes to an end.
Don’t miss the next post about a quick tour of Pistoia.