Lucca, the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini is a lovely walled city. Its thick swathe of Renaissance walls, the almost entirely medieval street plan, its palaces and houses make Lucca one of my favorite cities in Italy.
The most enjoyable way to get your bearings is to follow the path around the top of the walls - or even better, to rent a bike and cycle around. Lucca can be easily explored on foot (or bike), entering the medieval streets, walking along ancient house facades and doing some shoppings in one of the small and lovely shops in and around Via Fillungo makes you feel just fine. If you are interested in religious art, enter the 14th-century cathedral Duomo San Martino to see Nicola Pisano’s Descent From the Cross or have a look at the multi-patterned columns at "San Michele", the church of the archangel. Climbing up the Guinigi Tower, where an old oak tree grows on top is even as romantic as entering the Piazza Anfiteatro, the ancient amphitheatre, with its marvellous facades and balconies.
Lucca is famous for its olive oil and has become a favorite spot for artists and writers. Although you can see Lucca in half a day as a day trip from either Pisa of Florence you may want to linger to soak in its tranquil atmosphere and enjoy the many fine restaurants. In July you can enjoy pop cncerts in the open air at Lucca Summer Festival (some names of recent years: Eric Clapton, Elton John, Oasis, Paul SImon, Peter Gabriel, Rod Stewart, Macy Gray, Pink, Dido). Every August Lucca hosts the Puccini Music Festival. If you have some time left, try to visit a few of the villas of lucca.
Lucca sits on an alluvial plateau near the Serchio river, 19 meters above sea level. Lucca is located 30 kilometers northeast of the Pisa airport and 85 kilometers west of Florence in Northern Tuscany. Lucca was an important junction in Roman times, you'll see it in the north-south grid pattern of main streets and in the elliptical plan of the "Piazza Anfiteatro" . To the north of Lucca lie the Apuane Alps with their famous marble quarries, spas and mineral water springs, streams, woods and caves.
Getting to and from Lucca Lucca's train station is two blocks outside the ramparts (enter at Porta San Pietro) on the south side of town in Piazza Ricasoli. Lucca is on the Florence-Viareggio train line, with frequent service to Florence. It takes 70 minutes to an hour and a half to go from Lucca to Florence. Here's a map of Lucca showing the train station, a suggested walking route, and the major attractions. Buses run daily to Florence and Pisa as well, and leave from Piazza Verdi, adjacent to the tourist office. Lucca is on the A11 Autostrada between Viareggio and Florence.
Lucca from Above: Guinigi Tower
Casa Guinigi was the fifteenth-century home of Lucca's leading family. Like rich folks of the period, they built a tower. This one, however, is unique for the oaks that grow from it (and down into the room below). You can climb up and get wonderful views of Lucca in all directions. Check your camera battery before you go--it's 230 steps back down.. Our Lucca Photo Gallery has pictures from Guinigi Tower.
Lucca and Giacomo Puccini
Lucca was the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini (in 1858), one of Italy's most famous operatic composers. Today you can visit his birth house, which is now a museum, at Corte S. Lorenzo, 9 (via di Poggio) in Piazza della Cittadella, featuring a bronze statue of Puccini in the center. Entrance fee is 3 Euros. The Puccini Festival, held in an open-air theater in nearby Torre del Lago, allows opera lovers to feel the inspiration of the surroundings Puccini chose to live in. The theater opens out directly to a view of Lake Massaciuccoli with the Apuan Alps in the background. The Puccini festival is held May-August. See the official Puccini Festival web site for more. If you go, take some good mosquito repellant.
Lucca's Ramparts - The Medieval Wall
Lucca is surrounded entirely by 16th century walls. In the 19th century, trees were planted and now the ramparts can be walked or cycled. It's approximately three miles around the oval. Bicycles can be rented; the top is paved.
The Villas of Lucca If you have a car, or find a tour, you can take in the Villas of Lucca, a string of grand villas and their formal gardens located to the north of Lucca open to the public. If you do the whole tour, you'll end up in Collodi, where you can visit Collodi, the birthplace of Pinocchio, where you can visit the Pinocchio Park, great for the kids.
Lucca Churches The Romanesque Duomo di San Martino, completely rebuilt between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries, contains the Volto Santo (Holy Face), a wooden figure of Christ. The Volto Santo is believed to be the face of Christ, carved by Nicodemus who was present at the crucifixion.
The facade of San Michele in Foro found in Piazza San Michele is probably the most photographed in Lucca. If it looks tacked on, it's because they spent all the money on it, and didn't have enough left to raise the church as high as the facade. The columns in the facade are all different, and the archangel crowning the church features retractable wings to survive high winds. Puccini sang in the choir here. Open daily 7:40-noon and 3-6.
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