Lucca is one of the most famous medieval towns in Tuscany. It is often compared to Siena, but in my opinion it is less touristy and more representative of Tuscan life. The town is surrounding by high walls, the tops of which have been converted to parks and walkways. Although the town does not give off that “fairy-tale” vibe like Siena, it is very lively and has many beautiful churches, hence the nickname “the city of 100 churches.” Lucca is a place where you can leisurely walk through without planning any activities or sites- the liveliness inside the walls are enough to keep you occupied.
As Lucca is one of our favorite cities, it warranted several few visits with family and friends that I want to highlight for future travelers.
When I visited with my friend Lauren on a rainy, dreary day, Lucca happened to be quite deserted. I don’t think it did the justice to the city that is typically bustling with locals and tourists. However, it did make for a good museum day. We visited the Puccini Museum, located at the famous opera singer’s childhood home. Each room shows original furnishings, letters, and artifacts from his life. It took us about 30 minutes to walk through. It was a nice visit for a rainy day, but nothing to go out of your way to visit unless you are a devout Puccini fan.
Another site we visted was the San Martino cathedral in gothic style. It is worth a 20 minute walk-through if you are looking to get a small dose of art from Italian Renaissance artists. We also bought admission to the Cathedral Museum, located in a 13th century tower house which houses additional collections from the church, such as the crown and shoes below. Again, it was good for a rainy day but do not think it is a main highlight of Lucca.
We wanted to climb to famous Torre Giunigi in Lucca, but unfortunately it was closed in February. Despite our rainy day, we did indulge ourselves in some local treats, including the chocolate shop Calvasani, which sells gourmet blocks of unusual flavored chocolates and decadent truffles. It is impossible for anyone to leave empty – handed from that ship! Likewise, I recommend trying Lucca’a signature Buccellaro bread, the best which can be bought at Taddeucci in Piazza San Michele. We got an original flavor with raisins. It is definitely worth a try to get a taste of local flavor!
The best activity in Lucca, however, is to take a bike ride around the city walls, which we experienced for the first time with Ryan’s parents. Bike rentals are amazingly cheap at 3 euros an hour- which is all you need for a ride around the city walls. It is a great activity to get a new perspective of the city from above and watch the local Luccans enjoying their afternoon strolls. Lucca is with no doubt a wealthy city, and you can sense this by the well- dressed Italians walking by and the abundance of beautiful mansions outside the city walls. With all its charm, Lucca was one of the favorite towns Ryan’s parents visited during their 10 day stay.
On our first visit to Lucca, we had lunch at Ristorante Giglio in Piazza del Giglio. We shared an antipasti of beef tartare topped with foie gras, which was so rich you could only withstand a couple bites. Next, Ryan had the Luccenese meat-filled ravioli, a local specialty, and I had an excellent tagliatelle with white truffles. We finished it off with a fruit tart with a custard filling. Overall it was a very satisfying meal and would certainly recommend to future travelers.
With Ryan’s parents, we went to a restaurant outside of Lucca’s walls called Antics Locanda di Sesta. According to Frommer’s, this is one of the top eating experiences in Tuscany. It is located about 15 minutes from the city center in a small village. The restaurant is a homey trattoria with homemade pasta on display by the entrance. We dined on a Luccanese tordelli, a ragu bolognese, salmon carpaccio, Florentine steak, and a side of vegetables. We thought the steak and tordelli were outstanding, and everything else good but not great. Unfortunately I do not have more pictures, but my recommendation would be to stay in town to eat unless you have a itching desire for Florentine steak.