Holidays in Lucca: Top 15 attractions
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, to open 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, bobcats, 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. The 225 steps 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 sharp. 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 combat has been 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 general 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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15 interesting sights in Lucca, Italy
Lucca is one of the most atmospheric cities in Italy in the region of Tuscany. It is known for its predominantly Gothic style churches; the 15th century walls surrounding the settlement; and the narrow cobbled streets and squares that are so pleasant to walk through, as well as other interesting sights. It is also home to the opera composer Giacomo Puccini, of which the city is quite proud.
What sights to see in Lucca in 1 day
If you decide to spend a day and see the incredible city on your own, you definitely need to go to the historic part of town. Don’t waste time at the beaches and cafes, get right to it.
Torre Guinigi Tower – For a bird’s eye view of the village and the Apennine mountains, climb the stairs of the 15th century tower. Once a symbol of Lucca’s wealth and power, it is now one of the few remaining defensive towers in Tuscany.
And don’t forget to take a look at the city from one of the observation decks.
San Martino Cathedral – Out of more than 100 churches, this is the main cathedral. Inside is the famous sculpture “Volto Santo Di Lucca”.
Basilica of San Fridiano – The Byzantine style mosaics decorated with gold that cover the façade have adorned it since the 1200s. San Michele in Foro – One can stand for hours in front of this church with its magnificent facade.
If you have time, be sure to visit the wonderful cities of the Tuscany region such as Siena, Florence and Livorno. You can reach them by bus or train.
San Rossore Massacuccoli Nature Park
The park, located in Italian Tuscany, is divided into several zones: Lake Massaccioli and the surrounding lake lands, the former presidential estate of San Rossore, the forests of Tombolo and Migliarino, and the Arno and Serchio rivers. About three thousand hectares of the park are covered with marshes and unique vegetation, while a third of the park’s surface is covered by forests, mainly consisting of poplar, oak and pine. The marsh fauna of the park consists of free-ranging birds such as white Ibis or herons, while the woods are home to wild boars and fallow deer. The park’s flora includes contentedly rare plants, such as the carnivorous dewdrop, the Greek obovine and the marsh orchid.
Giacomo Puccini Museum
Lake Massaccioli is known not only for the park, but also for the fact that on the shores of this lake once lived the legend of the city – the great composer Giacomo Puccini. Now there is a museum named after him, and tourists can visit the museum and learn about the biography of the composer, his life path and connection with the city. Combined with the emotions gained from the park, a visit to the museum can be called the ideal experience of visiting Lake Massacuccoli.
Apuan Alps National Park
Majestic peaks from which you can enjoy incredible views of the Mediterranean Sea, deep caves, blue lakes and almost Alpine scenery. The Apuan Alps, a few kilometers from the coast of Versilia and stretching to the summit of Mount Pisanino at two thousand meters, are a true wonder of nature. The park stretches between the resorts of Versilia, the sea side of Apuana, Garfagnana, the inner slope and the province of Massa Carara.
The splendid Villa Torrigiani in Camigliano (Capanori), province of Lucca, was built by the architect Alfonso Torreggiani together with the park of the same name in the sixteenth century – at that time it belonged to the powerful Buonvisi family. In the second half of the 17th century both were bought by the ambassador of Lucca, the marquis of Santini, who transformed the house into his own luxurious mansion, with flowering gardens and sumptuous baths reflecting the façade of the villa. He also built the garden theater “Flora” with grottos and fountains, which still work beautifully. Santini’s descendants still live in the residence. The inside of the villa, decorated with 17th century frescoes and original 18th century furniture, is open to tourists at any time.
Reale di Marlia is a beautiful 15th century villa near Lucca, at the foot of the Pizzorn Hills. It is made in modernist style and has on its grounds a large lemon garden, many fountains and its own theater. Napoleon’s Duchess of Lucca Elisa Bonaparte Bacchiocchi once lived here. It consists of a 16 hectares estate with works of art and gardens, which are always open to the public, even though it is currently closed for renovation.
San Martino Cathedral
Lucca Cathedral (St. Martin’s Cathedral) is the oldest basilica in Tuscany. The floor is made of colorful marble, and the facade of the cathedral is decorated with balusters, inlays, loggias, and relief decorations. The cathedral houses an ancient labyrinth, the construction of which is usually attributed to the Templars. The cathedral also contains great works of art, such as Tintoretto’s Last Supper and the Tombstone of Ilaria Del Carretto by Italian sculptor Jacopo della Quercia. Of course, it is impossible not to visit the cathedral without looking at the famous Sacred Face, the main symbol of Lucca, in the form of an ancient wooden crucifix of Christ, kept in a small octagonal chapel.
San Michele in Foro
The Church of San Michele is located in the square of the same name in the historic center of Lucca. The church was erected in 1070 by Pope Alexander II. The architectural style of the basilica can be described as Gothic with Roman motifs. The interior of the church consists of three naves, a transept and a semicircular apse; a bell tower was erected on the southern transept of the building. The exterior of the church is known for its very tall façade, reaching four meters in height, and for its gorgeous inlays and sculptures, many of which were restored in the nineteenth century.
Palazzo Pfanner was designed by a Genoese architect for the Moriconi family, a merchant family that traded silk in the mid-17th century. It was bought by the Pafnner family, to whom it still belongs today. The palace was opened to the public in the 1990s. Tourists can see the monumental hall decorated with 18th-century frescoes and a collection of surgical instruments and medical works belonging to Pietro Pfanner, a doctor who was mayor of Lucca from 1920 to 1922.
The tower stands on Via Sant’Andre. Built in brick and stone, 45 meters in height, it stands out sharply from all the buildings of the old city by the trees growing on its top. Among all the medieval towers owned by wealthy families, this is the only one left from the 16th century. At the top of the tower is a hanging garden which consists of a walled box filled with earth in which seven oak plants were planted. The exact date of the garden’s erection is unknown, but an image contained in the Chronicles of Giovanni Sercambe (15th century) shows that the crowns of the oaks were visible on many of the towers of Lucca.
The botanical garden of Lucca
The botanical garden of Lucca was created in 1820, during the reign of Duchess Maria Luisa of Bourbon. The garden is divided into several sectors: the arboretum mainly includes exotic trees and shrubs; the lake contains mainly local fauna; over two hundred species of heather, ferns and medicinal plants grow in local beds; various tropical plants grow in greenhouses; the local attraction is the Lebanese cedar (Cedrus libani) with its circumference of over 6 m, a height of 22 m and a crown of 500 m? Today the garden is managed by the city administration.
While traveling around Lucca, don’t forget to visit the Palazzo Mansi National Museum. This is a real museum residence, which is, in fact, a kind of model merchant’s house of Lucca of the seventeenth century. Built at the request of the Mansi family, in the then fashionable Baroque style, today the Palazzo Mansi is a true “museum within a museum”. The rooms of this residence contain ancient furniture and a collection of valuable Brussels tapestries, a pinacotheca with paintings of the Italian school, from the 16th to the 18th century. On the second floor are sections devoted to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and in the rooms where the palace kitchens used to be located is the Maria Niemak weaving studio, where 19th- and 20th-century utensils are on display.
The wonderful historic building of Palazzo Tucci on Via Cesare Battisti is the result of the restoration of an old 18th century house located in the historical center of Lucca, close to the main monuments and museums of the city. This charming hotel offers its guests a modern service and a tranquil atmosphere enriched by the luxury of its interior. The elegant rooms are very spacious and decorated with colorful frescoes, probably by Giovanni Domenico, antique paintings and original furniture, including antique pieces of furniture.
The Doge’s Palace of Lucca “Palazzo Ducale” is located on Piazza Napoleon. It is a large ancient palace, rich in works of art and Renaissance architecture. In the palace you can visit the gallery of statues, decorated with stucco and marble sculptures imitating classical ones – we especially recommend paying attention to the works of artists of the Carraresi family (Carrara).
San Fridiano Basilica
The Basilica of St. Fridiano is one of the oldest Catholic churches in Lucca, located in the square of the same name. The church is built in classical Romanesque style. The facade of the church is decorated with mosaics from the 13th century, which is interesting because it is a rarity in the medieval style (in Tuscany only the facades of the churches of San Fridiano and San Miniato are decorated with mosaics). The Basilica was built by Bishop Fridian in the 6th century. For the tourists will be interesting to visit the following attractions: the altar of St. Zita in which her relics are kept, the altar of Trent with the icon of the Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus, the chapel of the Holy Cross that preserves the paintings of Amico Aspertini.
National Museum of Villa Guinigi
The Municipal Museum of Villa Guinigi is housed in one of the oldest buildings in the city, built in 1413. The main façade of the building is characterized by a spacious loggia and a succession of triforas with three-leaf arches on slender columns. This is roughly how the Late Gothic style was expressed in Lucca at the time. The works on display are closely related to the history of Lucca, each part of a reconstruction of the city’s fine art. The upper floors contain masterpieces from different eras, such as the painted cross by Berlingero, Maria Maddalena and Catherine of Siena by sculptor Matteo Civitali, Madonna and Child Jesus by painter Fra Bartolomeo, and frescoes by the eccentric artist S. Frediano.