Lucca is a city of some 90,000 people in Tuscany. Its long history goes back to Etruscan and Ancient Roman times, and the city retains pieces of ancient architecture. Lucca's heyday was in the Gothic era just before the Renaissance, and the city contains much marvellous architecture from that era. Lucca remained an independent city state until the end of the 18th century. Giacomo Puccini, one of the best-known opera composers, was born in Lucca, and his house is visited by many opera-lovers every year.
The area of most interest to visitors is still enclosed within the old city's defensive walls. The top of these broad walls is a ring park, a pleasant place for walking.
The Tourist Center (daily 09:00-19:00) is just outside the railway station, by the San Pietro south entrance to the walled city. You can deposit luggage here (€1.50 per hour) and hire bikes.
Rail and road links provide easy access from nearby Pisa and Florence.
Pisa Galileo Galilei International Airport (PSA IATA) is 2 km south of Pisa. Flights from most large cities are available daily, and from major airports several per day. Car hire is available from all the major providers.
There's a direct "Viabus" from the airport to Lucca, one hour; buy your tickets (€4) beforehand at the kiosk within the arrivals hall. Otherwise take the "Pisamover" light railway to Pisa Centrale, and change there for trains to Lucca.
Viabus 11 calls at Florence Airport on its way to Florence Santa Maria Novella.
The 1 railway station is just south of the old town walls. Deposit luggage at the Tourist Center just outside.
Trains from Pisa Centrale run every 30 minutes. Lucca is also on the main line from Viareggio to Florence Santa Maria Novella, so there is a direct train at least hourly from both cities.
The main local operator is Viabus, with regular runs to Pisa, Florence and Barga. The 2 bus station is at Piazzale Verdi, just inside the walls west side of the old town.
Driving inside the walls is mostly reserved to residents, so park your car (there are car parks outside the walls and a couple inside, accessible by non-residents) and rent a bike. Several bicycle rental locations can be found near the North entrance to the city, Porta Santa Maria, near Porta San Pietro and walking from Porta Elisa towards the center. It is not a large city within the walls, so you may find it more enjoyable to simply walk around.
The city has many car parks located outside the wall, the largest two are on the North and South side. The A11 (E76) Runs from the coastal A12(E80) Autostrada across towards Firenze.
On foot: the old city is compact.
By bike: hardly necessary for the old city, but helpful if you've edge of town accommodation. Hire bikes from the Tourist Center at the railway station.
By bus: little navetti potter through the streets: a map of their nine routes is available at Vaibus. The only one you're likely to use is #11 from railway station to bus station, and #12 in the other direction. Last buses are at 20:00. As for other Italian buses, buy your ticket at any tobacconist, and cancel it when you board. A single ticket is €1.
- 1 Piazza dell'Anfiteatro (off the Via Fillungo, main entrance by Piazza Scarpellini). A former Roman amphitheater, but the remains of the amphitheater are gone. The houses there are of medieval origin, built where the spectator stands were.
- 2 Duomo di San Martino, Piazza di San Martino. Romanesque cathedral dating to 14th century. Contains the must-see Volto Santo and Ilaria del Carretto's Sarcophagus by Jacopo della Quercia (as of May 2014 you have to pay an additional 4 € to see this). Includes a sculpture of the crucifixion attributed to an eyewitness, Nicodemus. Some interesting carvings in the marble exterior, including a labyrinth. 3 €.
- 3 Torre Guinigi. This is a tower with trees atop it, a very dramatic sight, with good views of the city. No lift, many stairs. As of May 2014 the normal entrance price is 4 € and the reduced price is 3 €. It is also possible to buy one ticket for both Torre Guinigi and Torre delle Ore for 6 € total.
- 4 Torre delle Ore. Ancient clock tower with original clock still working. It is possible to go upstairs in this tower for a beautiful view of the city and a good perspective of Fillungo street. Great views of Torre Guinigi's trees. No lift. As of May 2014 the normal entrance price is 4 € and reduced price is 3 €. It is also possible to buy one ticket for both Torre Guinigi and Torre delle Ore for 6 € total.
- 5 Puccini Museum, Corte San Lorenzo, 9, ☎ . This was Puccini's birthplace and is now a museum about the composer.
- 6 Palazzo Mansi.
- 7 Saint Michael's Church (in the center of the Roman Forum).
- 8 Saint Frediano's Church.
- 9 Via Fillungo. Main street full of shops and bars.
- 10 Palazzo Pfanner, Via degli Asili, ☎ . Preserved rooms formerly inhabited by the Pfanner family, as well as a pleasant garden. Also on display, some 19th century medical equipment. 4 €.
- 11 Piazza Napoleone. Lucca's largest square. Contains the large Palazzo Ducale, now a government building.
- 12 Domus Romana, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Remains of an old Roman home, have been partially excavated, and may be seen at via Cesare Battisi 15 (at via San Giorgio). €3.
- Statue of Luigi Boccherini.
- Lucca has many old churches, some of which now house art galleries.
- City Walls. One can walk or cycle on top of the ancient city walls. The entire perimeter is approximately 4 km. This gives a good introduction to the city layout. Expect crowds in the summer months.
- Puccini opera & recitals: The composer Puccini (1858-1924) was born and grew up in Lucca. His works are regularly performed here throughout the year. From 1891 he lived at Torre del Lago on the coast 20 km west, and built a villa there; the annual Puccini festival is held nearby. In 1921 a peat works polluted the neighbourhood so he moved to neighbouring Viareggio. His villa at Torre del Lago is nowadays a museum and he's buried in the chapel there.
- Puccini festival. An opera festival dedicated to Puccini, staging all his best-loved works. It is held July to August in Torre del Lago on the coast near Lucca.
- Bagni di Lucca's spa. Bagni di Lucca is laying between the Appenine Mountains giving a semblance of a climatic mountain resort despite it's 152 meters above sea level, perfectly integrated by the River Lima and Serchio, from which the Valley takes its name, can be considered an oasis of peace and serenity. Decentralized from the traffic which reaches the nearby Lucca (27km) and Versilia (48km).
- Lucca summer festival. A series of concerts by major international rock stars, held annually end of June into July. It's not like a "greenfield" rock festival with concentrated venue, time-span and mud. Most events are in Piazza Napoleone in the old town centre. Standing-room tickets are available, these are released separately as each act confirms their dates.
- 1 Lucca Comics and Games, Piazza San Romano. The largest comic book and gaming festival in Europe, held in the long week-end around November 1, a national holiday in Italy. It includes many events, guests and open-air market stands around the city centre, and the city is full with cosplayers in colourful costumes. 2018 festival is Wed 31 Oct - Sun 4 Nov, dates for 2019 not yet confirmed. Around 15-20 Euros per day.
- LIS Lucca Italian School. If you want to learn and have fun at the same time, this school is a good choice. It provides courses and private lessons for students of any age and level in Italian language and culture.
The main shopping street is Via Fillungo which runs roughly north/south through the centre of the city. It has a mix of high to mid-range shops selling a range of Italian designer labels such as Missoni, Armani, Max Mara, etc.
- Enoteca Vanni, Piazza del Salvatore 7, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. closed Sundays?. A decent wine and liquor store. One could spend some time poking around the four cellar rooms.
Only in Lucca you can find a special sweet-bread in shape of a small baguette or a bun. It's called Buccellato and it has raisins inside and has a unique taste of anise. You can find it in a small shop called Taddeucci, behind Saint Michael's church in the main square.
- Trattoria da Leo, Via Tegrimi 1, ☎ . Fairly typical Tuscan cuisine with some Luccan touches (e.g. pine nuts). The menu is only in Italian. Vegetarian friendly. Reservations are a good idea or arrive around 7:00.
- Pizzeria La Bersagliera, Via Pisana 2136, ☎ . If you happen to have a car, do check out this pizzeria, just ten minutes drive outside of town, it's worth. The owners come from Calabria, so you are likely to find all kinds of spicy salami, olives, mushrooms on top of your pizza. A different meal, served by distracted waitresses. Beware: You can't have your espresso coffee there. Being asked for coffees, the old owner – I don't think she's still around – used to reply: "Yeah, go get that at La Cubana", which is a bar downtown. Oh, and you can't make reservations: Be there by 7PM.
- Forno a vapore Amedeo Giusti, Via Santa Lucia 18/20, ☎ . Strolling along the Torre Guinigi (the one with trees on top), you'll probably sniff some irresistible oily and flory smell. It's called focaccia, the Lucchese idea of a snack.
- Vecchia Trattoria Buralli. It is practically hidden on via San Giorgio and one of the best restaurants. With a constantly changing menu and an extensive wine list.
- Buca di San Antonio (situated just off the Piazza San Michele). Enjoys a high reputation for local dishes prepared in the traditional Lucchesi style.
- Ristorante Giglio (in the Piazza Giglio). Offering wonderful Lucchesi cuisine, attentive staff and a delightful terrace overlooking the square.
It is safe to drink the water that comes out of the public fountains. Many locals fill gallon jugs and it is their primary source of drinking water. It is delicious and quite refreshing. In fact, it tastes better than most bottled water.
The digestive tonic China Massagli is produced at the Farmacia Massagli in Lucca. This is an eminent example of the "china" style of amaro (Italian potable bitters). If you ask for an "amaro locale" at a restaurant, this is likely what you will receive.
Biadina is another local style of bitters, bottled by Massagli and other producers; this drink is often sold with a small pack of pine nuts.
Compared to Florence or Siena, there is relatively little late night activity on the streets of old Lucca. The San Colombano, on top of the walls, overlooking the train station, the Betty Blue (near piazza Santa Maria), the Rewine near San Michele and the Cupido and McCulloughs, outside the walls near the station are some of the bars open late, especially in the summer.
Most locals tend to make the short trip to Viareggio on the coast, which offers a far better selection of clubs, such as 7 Apples and La Canniccia.
It's the opposite of Florence: budget to mid-range places cluster in or near the old walled city. Splurge places are a few km out in the Tuscan countryside, and you'll need wheels.
Places within walking distance of the railway station and available at less than €50 a night include:
- Hotel Eurostars Toscana, 2 km south at intersection wioth Autostrada
- Corte de Templari 2 km southwest on Via Perduta
- B&B La Colonna in old town
- B&B Relais Puccini, west outside Porta S Donato
- Casa Alba, Via Fillungo 142, ☎ . 3 star with only 5 rooms, and on the second floor with no lift, this place is charming nonetheless. In old town centre. Double from €60.
- 1 B&B Camera con Vista, Via San Paolino 8 (Next to Gelateria de Coltelli, Piazza San Michele), ☎ , , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 15:00-18:00, check-out: 07:30-11:00. B&B in a historic building. First floor has a lounge and a double room with a patio. The second floor houses a brightly lit and spacious breakfast room with computer and internet access, terrace is on the third floor. Doubles €50-70.
- Hotel Hambros, Via Pesciatina 197 55012 (5 km east of Lucca), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Four-star hotel set in the 18th C Villa Banchieri in the countryside east of the city. Doubles from €90.
- Relais Corte Benedetto, Via Pollinelle 19, San Martino in Colle (10 km east of Lucca off via Pesciatini), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. In rolling countryside east of Lucca, hotel has two suites, five rooms and three apartments all stylishly and originally furnished. The restaurant has a main kitchen with a wood oven and barbeque and two spacious dining areas. With swimming pool. Doubles from €60.
- Albergo alla Corte degli Angeli, Via degli Angeli 23, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Small family run hotel within the walled town, a few steps from Piazza Anfiteatro and the main shopping street. Each room is decorated with a fresco on a floral theme, which continues into the bathroom. The rooms are spacious, comfortable and well-equipped. The breakfasts are excellent – as are the quirky egg-cups and ceramic coffee beakers. The staff are very friendly, helpful and professional. B&B doubles from €90.
- B&B al Porto di Lucca, via Lorenzo Nottolini 10 (just south of railway station), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Large house with a garden, dating back to 1700. Four guest rooms, each with a private bathroom, 300 meters from entrance to old town. Doubles €80-120.
- 2 B&B Lucca Fora, via Pesciatina 143, Capannori (4 km east of centre), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Clean friendly B&B. Capannori is straggly ribbon-development along the Lucca road, good if you're coming by car. B&B doubles from €55.
- Palazzo Tucci, Via Cesare Battisti, 13, ☎ . Boutique hotel and historical residence located in the heart of the old town. Closed for much of Nov & Dec. Doubles from €140.
- Resort dei Limoni (formerly Locanda L'Elisa), via Nuova per Pisa (2 km south of rwy station on SS12), ☎ . Five star hotel 2 km south of Lucca in an 1800s Tuscan Villa.With ten quiet and cozy rooms, restaurant, garden, swimming-pool and free parking. Doubles from €125.
- Pisa is an easy day-trip by train. For sights around the leaning tower, get off at Pisa San Rossore only 400 m west - Pisa Centrale is 1.5 km south of this area.
- Florence is also an easy day-trip, much better done by train (90 mins) even if you have a car.
- Garfagnana is a hilly, forested area north of Lucca, with the historic small town of Barga.
- Versilia is where the glitterati come to the seaside.