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Best of Lucca, Italy: The Ultimate Guide + tips

Need to know

Closest airport: Pisa International Airport (PSA), 25 km from Lucca.
Population: 88.000
Region: Tuscany, Italy

Known as the city of a hundred churches, or the native place of Puccini, Lucca is big on charm. Old and modern at the same time, it is undoubtedly delightful. I am ready to share with you the very best of Lucca, my personal version.

In this travel guide you will find everything you need to know, whether you are up to a longer stay in Lucca, or you are just passing by. The best places, the city’s hot spots, visiting sites, day trips in the area, recommended tours, as well as eateries and bars. Our personal experience as we lived and perceived it. So, let’s squeeze the essence of this small, yet seductive Italian city!

Best of Lucca: Piazza dell'Anfiteatro
View over Piazza dell’Anfiteatro before sunset

Travel to Lucca! Enjoy the best of Lucca and experience the essence of Tuscany! City of culture, but also modern and chic, Lucca will get your heart!

Taste the typical dishes, but also soak in the Italian atmosphere of a peaceful and relaxed town, Lucca!

Feel the true Italian spirit by using the most powerful tool: get in touch with locals!


Good to know
How to get to Lucca
Our trip to Lucca
How many days should I plan for Lucca?
Best time to visit Lucca
Travel Guide: The best of Lucca
Other ideas for visiting
Best Lucca Festivals
Eating in Lucca

Good to know

Since I set foot in Lucca (after the hustle and bustle of Florence), vacation mood was truly on.

  • Lucca is a tranquil and beautiful Tuscan city. Full of churches at every corner (called the city of a hundred churches), lively squares, chic boutiques and good food, Lucca’s got everything for a good holiday. Basically car-free in the historical centre (you will see a few unexpected traffic lights in the cobbled streets), Lucca is the perfect place for an evening passeggiata (stroll), a delicious ice-cream or an aperitivo!
  • To enjoy the very best of Lucca, climb up the tree-covered Torre Guiningi to marvel at the city from a bird’s eye-view. Explore some of its churches, soak in the atmosphere of Piazza dell’Anfiteatro and enjoy the evening at a traditional trattoria! What more could you want? (more info on these later in the blog post)
  • Lucca is just around 20 km from Pisa, the city with the leaning tower, and around 1.5 h drive from Florence, Tuscany’s capital. However, if you prefer the sea, why not go to Viareggio, even if on a day trip? Or take your time to explore the picturesque Cinque Terre situated a bit up north.
  • Join one of the many tours suggested by GetYourGuide. You can opt for something tailored to your needs, be it a guided e-bike and wine tour (a bike-ride around the charming surrounding villages and wine tasting), aperitivo evening food and wine tour (experience the local culture of aperitivo), or even a cooking class to discover the untold secrets of chefs.
One of the many churches
One of the many churches in Lucca
Image of Lucca
Typical image of Lucca

How to get to Lucca

Lucca is a relatively big city in Tuscany, in north-western Italy. Keep in mind that it takes over an hour to drive from Florence, the main city in the Tuscany.

  • By plane – If you plan a trip to Lucca by plane, you will land either in Florence (95 km) or in Pisa (25 km), as there is no airport in Lucca.
  • By train – it is a simple method that will spare you the headache of parking in old town Lucca. I decided not to drive this time, so we took the train from Florence and it was just fine. The thing with the train is that you have to switch in Pisa, but all in all the ride is simple and short, and regional trains are just fine. The price/person is around 8-10 euros.
  • By car – this is by far the most convenient method. Renting a car is a good choice, considering that it will take you places all over Tuscany. The complicated part is that cars are not allowed in the old town. So, you can either choose an accommodation that offers parking, or consider putting aside around 30 euros/night.
  • By bus – see here more info.
  • With a tour – an easy way to get from Florence to Lucca and Pisa is to join an organized tour.
One of Lucca's attractions: Piazza San Michele
San Michele Square and its share of lively terraces – part of Lucca’s attractions

Our trip to Lucca

Sometimes things don’t go as planned. They go better!

I undertook this trip to Italy with my 2 teenage daughters. I was so eager to share with them some of the beauties of this fabulous country called Italy! So, I carefully planned the bookings and train tickets to have everything under control and enjoy the best of Lucca.

As we arrived by train in Lucca, we first discovered that the bus that was supposed to take us to the accommodation was out of order. Then, surprise with the room we had booked… Due to a hydraulic problem (and vacay period), there was an issue with the bathroom and our room was unavailable. So, we got an upgrade! We received an entire old-style fully equipped house with a garden … totally updated to today’s needs and technology.

Casa di Babbo was more than we hoped for, and as a compensation for the situation created, it all came with free breakfast. Thanks a lot, La Gemma di Elena!

Torre Guinigi and me
Me in Lucca
A typical trattoria
A beautiful cobbled street

How many days should I plan for Lucca?

Lucca is not only charming, but it also has the perfect size to visit in one day.

If you are in a rush, you can visit the main highlights in half a day.

If you are ready to explore more than just the very touristy area, you may want to set aside two days. We spent two nights here and no, don’t regret any bit.

Best time to visit Lucca

I know that summer comes mostly at hand, but it may not be the best option. Italy is not only crowded with hordes of tourists in summer, but temperatures can also get very high. For example, we visited at the end of July and the constant temperature throughout Tuscany was around 37 degrees.

However, if you combine a few days’ visits with seaside, it may be the right choice. Also, keep in mind that the summer timetable for visiting monuments is longer from March/April to November.

Tuscany in itself is best in spring and autumn when it reveals its true self unabashed to you.

Torre Guinigi is one of Lucca's highlights
View from Guinigi Tower

Travel Guide: The best of Lucca

So here are the TOP attractions & things to do in Lucca for first-time visitor (and not only):

Piazza dell’Anfiteatro

This is the one main thing you have to see in Lucca, even if you are just passing by. True, it would be hard to miss, as all tourist attractions are within walking distance from it. Built on the ruins of the former Roman amphitheatre, hence the oval shape, the main tourist square of Lucca is today a display of typical Tuscan houses and lovely trattorias. This is the main meeting place in Lucca (along with Piazza Napoleone) and one of Lucca’s highlights.

Insider tip!: Despite the crowd of restaurants and cafés in the area, this square is rather touristy, and I would recommend it for the vibrant night atmosphere and less for the food. There are better spots to indulge in delicious food!

Piazza dell'Anfiteatro is part of the very best of Lucca
The Italian dolce far niente in Piazza dell’Anfiteatro

Torre Guinigi (Guinigi Tower)

Price: 5 euros (combo-ticket with Torre delle Ore 9 euros)
Official website:
Torre Guinigi

Guinigi Tower is one of the few remaining towers (45 m high) within the walls of Lucca. Long ago, rich families used to build these skyscrapers to prove their social status. The Guinigi was a rich merchant family, who, in the 14th century built this tower in the traditional Romanesque-Gothic architecture.

What makes this tower unique is the small garden from the top, planted by Guinigi family. It symbolizes birth and renewal. Of course, besides the holm oaks you will also enjoy a fantastic view over Lucca and the surrounding mountains.

Insider tip!: If possible, prepare to conquer the 230 steps at sunset to enjoy the best view! Expect windy atmosphere on top!

Guinigi Tower
Guinigi Tower
View from Guinigi Tower
View from Guinigi Tower

Lucca Cathedral (San Martino Cathedral/Duomo di Lucca)

Price: Cathedral 3 euros, bell tower 3 euros
Official website:
Lucca Cathedral

Situated outside the main tourist itinerary, San Martino Cathedral is a typical example of Gothic and Romanesque style. The cathedral is home to the famous Holy Face of Lucca, a venerated wooden crucifix, with a robed Christ. 

The duomo surprises both on the outside and inside. Started in the 13th century, the cathedral is covered in pink, green and white marble to boost effect, just like other Tuscan churches. The knight on a horse (outside, but also inside) represents no other than San Martino who was a knight in armour. Also, pay attention to the fact that one of the three arches is smaller than the two others. This is because the already existing bell tower had to be accommodated, so this is how the problem was solved.

The beautiful duomo
One of Lucca’s attractions
Lucca and the duomo
San Martino Cathedral in Lucca

The inside is a celebration of Renaissance. Besides works of Italian artists, such as Tintoretto or Ghirlandaio, you will also see the tomb of Ilaria del Carretto, Paolo Guinigi’s wife (whose family built Guinigi tower). We particularly liked the simple and plain interior, highlighted by a pleasant purple light. And also the brilliant blue ceiling!

Insider tip!: You can also climb up the bell tower to watch the best of Lucca. However, grating makes the view less pleasant and clear than the towers. (Especially for taking pictures!)

The duomo on the inside
The inside of Lucca Cathedral

City walls (Mura di Lucca)

Lucca is still surrounded by its city walls, as earlier. Their history goes back to the mid-16th century. Despite their fortification, they were not used for defensive purposes. The 4 km belt that encircles the old town comprises some gates that make the entrance to the old centre easy. They are in perfect shape even today.

Popular with tourists and locals alike, the walls are one of Luca’s highlights and trademarks. The best thing is to rent a bike, a hoverboard or an e-scooter and explore Lucca within the walls.

Insider tip!: It is very convenient to rent a bike especially if your time in Lucca is limited.

Church San Michele in Foro and piazza San Michele

Free entrance

Another church in Lucca, San Michele dominates the piazza with the same name. It is one of Lucca’s main squares, meeting point of young and old alike. It is a lively place filled with good atmosphere, especially late in the afternoon. You can drink something at the cafés nearby.

Built over the ancient Roman Forum, many centuries ago, the church is more impressive on the outside. Its façade contains four layers of small superposing arcades that culminate with archangel Michael, the patron of the church.

San Michele church is one of Lucca's highlights
San Michele church
richly decorated San Michele facade in Lucca
Detail from the richly decorated San Michele facade
Piazza San Michele, one of Lucca's highlights and meeting points
Piazza San Michele, one of Lucca’s highlights and meeting points

Palazzo Pfanner

Price: Garden and Palazzo 6.50 euros
Official website:
Palazzo Pfanner

I have to admit that I have never heard of Palazzo Pfanner before. But, during the visit to Torre Guinigi, I saw a billboard with some of Lucca’s highlights. I knew instantly we would all love the palace. And we were right!

The story of the palazzo goes back to the 17th century, when members of Lucca nobility wanted to exhibit their social status and built this imposing mansion. Of course, it underwent some changes. However, the Pfanners made appearance in this story only later, towards the middle of the 19th century. Felix Pfanner was a brewer from Austria who bought the palace to set up the equipment to brew beer. Today, the palazzo continues to belong to Pfanner family, who opened it to the public and organize events here.

Palazzo Pfanner garden
The garden from Palazzo Pfanner
Palazzo Pfanner inside
Chandelier and ceiling in the palace

If the budget is not a problem, you can plan your wedding, or attend a fancy reception here. You can experience luxury by living in the exact room where Prince Frederick of Denmark witnessed his love story with a noblewoman from Lucca way back. The palazzo’s fame grew with every movie shot here, the most famous one being the Portrait of a Lady with Nicole Kidman and John Malkovich.

I was particularly fond of the gardens, a perfect combo between colourful flowers, vases of lemons, octagonal basin with fountain or marble statues representing Greek divinities. The interior is beautiful, but unfortunately you can only visit some rooms.

The best of Lucca - Palazzo Pfanner
An image of the beautiful garden

San Frediano church

Price: 3 euro
Official website:
San Frediano church

The San Frediano Basilica is one of the oldest worship places in Lucca, and trust me, there are plenty. What caught my eyes was the large mosaic on the façade, dating back to the 13th century. This is one of the rare ornamentations in Romanesque style.

Insider tip!: Make sure to enter the salumeria next to the church. It contains lots of tasty delicacies from the area!

San Frediano church
San Frediano church and good vibes at the terraces

Torre delle Ore

Price:  5 euros (combo-ticket with Torre Guinigi 9 euros)
Official website:
Torre delle Ore

You can’t miss this tower as it is the tallest from Lucca (50 m) and has a huge clockface on it. The view from this tower is somewhat similar to Guinigi Tower, but spectacular as well.

Other ideas for visiting

Filled to the brim with attractions, here are some other Lucca highlights you might find interesting.

Giacomo Puccini, the famous opera composer was born in Lucca, so you can visit Puccini’s house. But Lucca boasts more than a Puccini Museum. You may also attend a concert (held daily in summer) at Puccini e la sua Lucca in the church where he was baptized.

The Botanical Garden is another spot to explore especially if you are a fan of nature and may seek shadow in the hot summer days.

Palazzo Mansi is a beautiful Baroque building hosting tapestry collections and Lucchese art collections. For more info, click here.

Puccini statue
Giacomo Puccini and his Lucca – Puccini statue in front of the museum

Best Lucca Festivals

These are Lucca’s main festivals, in case you’d like to attend or avoid more crowd.

Every July, Lucca turns into a huge concert hall in the open air. Lucca Summer Festival is already a legend after over 20 years of memorable concerts. The line-up contains important names in the music industry, such as Justin Bieber or Celine Dion, to name just a few.

Lucca Comics and Games is the largest comic books festival in Europe (and second in the world). In fact, it is more than a festival, it is a gaming convention comprising video games, comic books, manga, movies and lots of other dimensions. The festival takes place in autumn.

Eating in Lucca

Before some concrete tips related to restaurants, I would like to share with you two insider tips. We visited Lucca in July and due to the crowds of tourists, it is good to have a reservation for dinner.

This is also necessary because Italians are famous for their siesta, which means that restaurants are only open for lunch around 12-14 and dinner around 18.30-21.30. The first evening we only managed to eat some cake in a bar as the kitchen had already closed.

Bars: Bar S Frediano (in San Frediano Square – here we had some delicious cookies because the restaurants had already closed) or Bar Martini.

Restaurants/trattorias: Osteria Baralla, La Bottega di Anna & Leo (mandatory to book in advance) or Trattoria da Gigi.

Ice cream is a trademark of Lucca
One of the many places with ice-cream
Dinner time in Lucca
Dinner in Lucca

Recommended by TTF:

  • Charming and peaceful Tuscan city, but not boring;
  • Compact enough to visit in one day;
  • Lots of tourist attractions: towers, churches, palaces, piazzas, even good festivals;
  • Good eating places and bars.

Have you already been to Lucca?  Did you enjoy your visit there? Or maybe you discovered some interesting places worth sharing with other travellers?  I am really looking forward to your additional tips.

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