Holidays in Lucca: Top 15 Points of Interest
In the ancient city of Lucca there are many interesting places for tourists – ancient churches, palazzos, spacious squares. Families with children can go to the natural parks and the fairyland of Pinocchio. Walking around the city, you can stop in local cafes, taste the famous wines of Tuscany and national cuisine. Read more about the most interesting places in the city in the article.
List of the Best Sights
Lucca is the only city in Italy, surrounded by a fortress wall around the entire perimeter. It is also the birthplace of the famous composer Giacomo Puccini. The rich history of the city is imprinted in many ways: monuments, buildings, parks – everything bears the imprint of times and events. We suggest you get acquainted with the main sights of the “heart” of Tuscany.
National Museum of Villa Guinigi
The Villa Guinigi Museum is housed in a 15th century Gothic building. Since its construction, the villa has changed its purpose several times. In 1924 the restoration began, for the opening of an art museum. Exhibits from the Palazzo Pubblico (museum in Siena) were subsequently transferred here.
Now the public can see a collection of paintings by Lucca and foreign artists, as well as an exhibition of archaeological finds in the vicinity of the city.
San Martino Cathedral
Founded as early as the 6th century, the cathedral was rebuilt several times. The major changes took place in the 13th century, after which only the bell tower retained its original appearance. The central facade with open galleries attracts attention with a variety of decorations of the columns. According to local legend, a competition was held for the best decoration, but they could not choose a winner and left all options.
Within the walls of San Martino there is a historical archive and a collection of works by famous Italian artists and sculptors.
San Rossore Massacuccoli Nature Park
The park is located in a swampy area. During the reign of the Medici, reclamation work began: canals were laid and the soil was drained. The sediments brought in by the waters of the rivers from the Tyrrhenian Sea also contributed.
Today, the landscape is striking: coniferous and deciduous forests, dunes, beaches, a huge number of reservoirs. Flora and fauna include rare plant species (sundew, Florida fern, marsh orchid) and a variety of animals and birds. You will encounter deer, wild boar, badgers and squirrels, nesting harriers and herons in the marshes. There are horse races at the San Rossore Hippodrome.
It will take several days to fully explore the park.
Apuan Alps National Park
The mountain range is part of the Apennine Mountains system, known for its karst rocks and valuable marble. The peak of Monte Pisanino, 1946 m high, offers a stunning view of the Mediterranean Sea.
The park has equipped trails and campsites that allow you to enjoy the scenery, visit ancient settlements and historical monuments, get acquainted with the flora and fauna.
A large area of the mountains is occupied by bushes and forests: macaws, hornbeams, chestnuts and oaks. The caves are home to many bats, and on the surface a variety of mammals: bears, lynxes, deer, mountain goats and mouflons. Among the birds, the symbol of the park, the red-billed alpine eider, stands out.
It is here that you can see the famous 70 km long labyrinth of the Anthro del Corchia, represented by numerous tunnels with altitude differences of 1210 m.
The Torre Guinigi is one of the nine towers built in the 14th century to defend and protect the city. It was opened to tourists in the 80s of the 20th century after restoration. Steps in the number of 225 will take you to a bird’s-eye height (44 m) in a small oak grove overlooking the old city. The inner walls of the building are decorated with paintings of life compositions from the time when the tower was built.
Approximate time of erection of the Torro del Ore is the 18th century. In 1390 the city council decided to equip the tower with a clock, whose author was Labruccio Cerlotti. It had no dial and rang at midnight exactly. Later it was modified several times, today it uses the mechanism of 1754 with figured hands and Roman numerals. The bells chime every quarter hour.
The clock tower is about 50 meters high and the ascent is difficult, but the scenery is worth the effort.
The house of the famous composer Giacomo Puccini is located in a picturesque location on Lake Massaccioli. It was turned into a museum after Puccini’s death in 1924.
The building is surrounded by an English garden, and the interior has preserved the environment in which the musician created: a study with a piano, furniture, and a fireplace. Available to view: a collection of paintings, a gun collection and hunting trophies. The composer himself is buried in the chapel on the 1st floor.
The second name of the largest square in the city is Piazza Grande. It was built during the reign of Napoleon’s sister Elisa Bonaparte-Bachocchi. To carry out the work, the area in front of the Ducal Palace was cleared and nearby buildings – residences, warehouses and a church – were demolished.
Beautiful plane trees grow along the perimeter of the square. Previously, a huge statue of the emperor was supposed to be installed in the center. But after Marie Louise de Bourbon came to power in 1815. The monument was erected in her honor.
In winter there is an ice rink on the square and in summer there is a music festival. In late autumn the Piazza Grande is decorated with the fallen leaves of ancient trees, giving your walks a very romantic and peaceful atmosphere.
The botanical garden of Lucca
The garden, similar to a triangle in shape, was laid out in 1820 for the Royal University. Since 1920 it is owned by the city. It is divided into several parts:
- An arboretum with exotic trees and shrubs;
- a lake;
- small seedbeds;
- a botanical school.
The reservoir is studded with lilies, and on a small island grows Taxodium. This unique tree has adapted to the abundance of moisture, releasing “breathing” roots above the surface. From the bridges you can watch the carp and turtles.
The equipped paths in the garden offer a glimpse into every corner of the garden. Here you can get acquainted with 2 hundred representatives of the world of flora. Here grow heather, ferns, a variety of medicinal plants, unique trees. In the park there are many sculptures and alleys. Ceramic medallions reflect significant events in the life of the park.
One of the main attractions is the Lebanese cedar. It was planted in 1822. The circumference of the trunk is more than 6 m. The top reaches 22 meters.
The museum is located in a 16th-century mansion that was completed to its present size by the Muncie family. The construction was completed by the end of the next century. On the 1st and 2nd floors are the private rooms, summer and ceremonial apartments with old furniture, frescoes and tapestries. There is also a spinning studio, weaving looms, fabric and clothing samples from different eras.
A wing of the 2nd floor is occupied by the picture gallery with 4 rooms divided by epoch and style: Venetian (Titian, Tintoretto), Bolognese (Domenichino, Guido Reni), Flemish (Mabuse and Paul Brill) and Tuscan (Bronzino, Andrea del Sarto) paintings. The paintings were a gift from Duke Leopold II.
San Gervasio Gate
The ancient Romanesque city gate with two towers of defense used as an entrance since the 13th century. Its arch is 8 meters high and depicts the Madonna and Child. The work is presumably from the 16th century.
The strong structures with battlements served as protection during defensive operations, but today they are used as living quarters.
The square was formed on the site of the ancient Roman amphitheater. It has retained its oval shape. At the beginning of the 19th century on a project by Lorenzo Natolli the buildings were ennobled, some of them were torn down and some residential buildings were added.
Today there are many stores and cafes on the lower floors. Piazza Anfiteatro has 4 entrances, but only one of them has survived from ancient times – a low vault, through which spectators entered the stands.
The facade of the palace closes Napoleon Square on the east side. The building was erected on the site of the former residence of the commander Castruccio Castracani, destroyed in a riot in 1370. The next ruler Paolo Guinigi built the complex, which was again partially demolished.
In 1578 Bartolomeo Ammannati reconstructed the left part of the building, the right one was completed in 1728 by Francesco Pini. At the beginning of the 19th century it was slightly enlarged under the direction of Lorenzo Natolli.
In the courtyard are a double portico with colonnade and a statue by Augusto Passaglia. A monumental staircase from the beginning of the 19th century leads inside. Today the palace houses the administration, the Historical University of Lucca and the UNESCO Forum.
Basilica of St. Fridian
The church was built in the 6th century and was founded by St. Fridian, Bishop of Lucca. Over the centuries, it has been completed and renewed several times, but the Romanesque style has been preserved. The façade is decorated with rich mosaics of Christ and the apostles.
Inside the temple, the interior is decorated with carved marble; by the entrance, there is a baptismal font from the 12th century decorated with a relief depicting the “History of Moses”. Near the altar is a 15th century baptismal font.
The chapel is decorated with scenes from the lives of the saints – Zita, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Augustine, Ubaldo, Fridian and Anne. The relics of St. Fridian are kept in the main altar.
Church of San Pietro Somaldi
The 8th-century church stands on St. Peter’s Piazza Somaldi. It was reconstructed in the 12th century, another century later the upper half of the façade was completed. Its lower part is made of gray sandstone and is decorated with 3 marble strips and arched door portals.
The carved bas-relief above the main entrance depicts the scene of the handing over of the keys to St. Peter. A collection of paintings and a 12th-century fresco of the Virgin Mary have been preserved in the church.
What to see in Lucca in a day?
Wandering around the ancient city can take forever, but if time is limited, be sure to visit the historic center. For a self-guided itinerary will do:
What’s interesting in the surrounding area?
The surroundings of Lucca are not inferior to the city in the number of impressive places. Here are just a few of them:
You can also learn about the sights of Lucca from the video:
A walk around Lucca will not leave you indifferent. If you determine the route in advance, you can not only see a maximum of interesting things, but also enjoy the cozy atmosphere of the streets, parks and squares of this amazing city.
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Lucca. What to see in the most pleasant city of Tuscany
Lucca is another city that everyone loves. I found some bourgeois research, and according to it, Lucca leaves the most positive emotions for tourists, leaving behind Pisa and Florence in this ranking. I confirm, the city is very pleasant and interesting, just a kind of resort-like atmosphere. It is difficult to formalize all this grace in words, but I will try to give it in a visual form in my report about Lucca.
Immediately open the continuation of the story, because in Lucca there are so many interesting places that they do not fit into one post: Lucca. Continuation of the sightseeing walk
A sightseeing map of Lucca:
I got to Lucca by train from Pisa, the cities are very close, so it took me less than half an hour to get there. If you go from Florence, it will be a little longer, about an hour and a half. In general, the location of the city in terms of the usual tourist routes in Tuscany is very convenient.
Already at the station I felt the local grace. Around was not Italian clean, there were no homeless people and migrants, even a working fountain and a reading girl in the station square.
The Lucca city wall
Lucca is one of the four unique Italian cities, where the city wall survived completely (!). The map above shows it well; the entire central historic part of Lucca is fenced around the perimeter.
I crossed the station square and saw. a blank wall. Fortunately it wasn’t too early, people were rushing to the center, so I followed. It turned out that the narrow passage into town was hidden behind this bend in the bastion wall.
At the top, a large park is arranged along the entire length of the wall. One could walk around all of Lucca without leaving the wall.
At nine in the morning the walls are pretty deserted, mostly runners. It is not a bad distance for them, if you run all around Lucca on the wall, you get a run of four and a half kilometers.
Just beyond the wall I came across the local cathedral. It was unexpected, for some reason I thought Lucca’s main temple should be in the center of the city, not at the wall itself. It turned out that at the time of the construction of the cathedral there was no place in the densely built center of the ancient city, because it was on the outskirts of the city.
Wandered around for a while in search of the main entrance to the Duomo.
The Cathedral of St. Martin (12)
The first thought that came to my mind when I saw the facade of the cathedral was: “Ha, yes, they stole it from Pisa.
took it from Pisa They stole it from Pisa.” And, indeed, Lucca’s cathedral was built to surpass neighboring rival Pisa.
You can admire the facade of St. Martin’s endlessly, there are so many details.
Let me get a little closer. Immediately striking are the columns of the portico, each with its own design! On the right is St. Martin of Tours holding a sword to the throat of a passerby. Not really. The saint is cutting off a piece of his cloak to share his clothes with a beggar.
A picture of a labyrinth. To the right is the inscription “the same labyrinth that Daedalus built on Crete, from which no one who enters it can find his way out except Theseus, who was saved by love and Ariadne’s thread”. Lucca stood at the crossroads of the pilgrimage routes, and the labyrinth was meant to remind pilgrims of the difficulty of their journey. In Lucca, though, the scale of the labyrinth is much more modest than in Chartres.
As I said, one can look at the facade endlessly, but I will confine myself to one more picture. At the top of the stone are scenes of the life of St. Martin of Tours, and on the bottom row is a calendar and the signs of the zodiac. Each month symbolizes a scene from the life of a peasant. I was particularly moved by the picture of a man trampling grapes in a large vat.
Immediately at the entrance, my Venetian “favorite” Tintoretto was waiting for me, it’s amazing that he made it to Lucca.
This composition has a slightly revolutionary title, The Altar of Liberty. Christ the Deliverer (center) frees the people of Lucca from the domination of the evil Pisa.
The Roman guards are a bit comical. They look theatrically frightened.
In the cathedral is Lucca’s greatest masterpiece. Messrs. Vasari and Muratov agree with me completely, and I will quote the latter.
The best thing in this city is created by a stranger, the great Sienese sculptor Jacopo della Quercia. In the cathedral this contemporary and worthy rival of Donatello made a tombstone of the young Ilaria del Caretto. The young woman rests on the lid of the sarcophagus in a sleeping or resting pose, her beloved dog lying at her feet. Around the sarcophagus circles a frieze of infants supporting very heavy garlands. Quercia has added nothing more; it is as if he had deliberately even taken away any amusement from the cupids, which so often entertain and bore with their smiles on Florentine tombs. The slenderness and seriousness of the monument is undisturbed by anything, the young woman deeply immersed in the regal sleep of death. The grandeur of the theme is simply and strongly expressed in the rhythm guiding the massive garlands of vines.
Hilaria is beautiful and seems asleep, seemingly waiting for her prince to resurrect her with his kiss. But perhaps enough of rapture and tenderness, or after Siena the attentive reader will suspect something: “It is astonishing that he has not described a single male dead man, for it is certain that men do not die. But of course they do, and only travel-blogger Koshak is not at all interested in them. He has bred a whole board of stone dead women-and not old women (not one), but all young and pretty.”
Iliria’s beloved dog watches over her mistress’ eternal sleep.
41. Church of Santi Giovanni e Reparata
On the same square as Lucca’s cathedral is another notable church. Incidentally, it was first the local cathedral, and it wasn’t until the 7th century that the pulpit moved to nearby San Martino.
I did not have the goal of going into all the churches of Lucca. For myself, I identified three of the most significant churches, and e-Reparata was not purely among them.
The façade of the church, as you saw in the previous picture, is more modern, but some details have survived from Romanesque architecture, for example the lions on the façade are having fun.
How I love these kinds of streets.
With the very compact size of the city, there’s a huge number of churches. Nearly every other building is a church. Most of them are not marked on the tourist map and awarded a couple of lines in the wiki, for example, San Giusto, only the 12th century, there is a lot of it.
I’m telling you, there’s something in Lucca. Like, say, a flower pot.
And look how decent people are here.
20. Tower of the Clock
Torre delle ore was erected at the end of the 14th century. Of course, it did not have a clock face back then, the time was marked by the sound of bells. The tower is possible to climb, but I do not recommend to do it, because in Lucca there is a much more interesting tower, but about it a little later.
There is an urban legend connected with the Clock Tower about the fatal beauty Lucida Mansi. According to which Lucida sold her soul to the devil in exchange for 30 years of youth and beauty. When her time was up, Lucida climbed up the tower to hold the bell’s tongue and stop the passage of time. But then a carriage full of infernal flames appeared and drove Lucida away into the netherworld. Allegedly, this carriage can still be seen on the streets of the city at night.
There is a museum of Leonardo da Vinci in San Cristoforo.
7. San Michele in Foro
This is the second of Lucca’s great churches. It is located right in the center of Lucca on the site of an ancient forum (hence the name). Apparently, because of its central location and imposing view, I’ve encountered the misconception in some reviews about Lucca that San Michele is Lucca’s main temple.
I was even more impressed by San Michele than the cathedral. The façade is even more flamboyant, and some art historians (e.g., Muratov) think it is even too much.
At the very top of the church is a marble statue of the Archangel Michael. Allegedly, a ring on his finger is inlaid with a real diamond, a gift from a rich parishioner. And when dusk falls over the city, then from a certain place on the square, if you look closely at the hand of the saint, you can see an unusual bright shining dot.
The imagination of the builders of San Michele worked perfectly, just look at these fabulous creatures on the bas-relief above the entrance.
But inside, after the gorgeous facade, I do not remember the church for some reason.
Only the vivid painting by Filippino Lippi remained in my memory and on my flash drive. Who does it look like? Botticelli, of course.
2. Puccini Museum
Lucca is a musical city, in the sense that Paganini and Puccini are directly related to it (I think everyone has heard “Tosca” and “Madame Butterfly” at least once). The great violinist lived here some of his most prolific years, and for Puccini Lucca is the native city.
The church of Santi Paolino e Donato is a few steps away from the Puccini’s house; the little Giacomo once learned to play the organ. By the way, it is the only church in Lucca completely built during the Renaissance at the beginning of the 16th century.
One of the city gates of San Donato . Hey, where’s the wall? After all, all of Lucca is supposed to be surrounded by a wall. It turned out to be the old gate, when the city grew a bit, they kept it, and the wall was moved and the new San Donato Gate was built.
No, there is definitely something nice about Lucca.
The sign says, “Lemons are real, please don’t check it.”
In Rome, I complained that Italians had stopped riding Vespa’s. But you just had to come to the Italian countryside.
This picture, in my opinion, characterizes Lucca quite well. It is very quiet, comfortable, beautiful.
In the next series will be a continuation of the review of Lucca, Lucca just can’t be crammed into one story.