Lucca, Italy: Best Things to Do, Photos & Helpful Tips
Lucca is a walled city that sits in western Tuscany, not far from Pisa, the Cinque Terre, and the Ligurian Sea. Walking the Renaissance-era walls, climbing the numerous towers for a view over the city, and having lunch in Piazza dell’Anfiteatro all top the list of the best things to do in Lucca.
Since it sits so close to Pisa, Lucca and Pisa can be combined together into one day trip from Florence. If this sounds like something you would like to do, we will give you a brief overview in this guide, but we have more details about how to plan your day trip in our article One Day in Lucca and Pisa.
Table of Contents
Interesting Facts about Lucca
Like many towns in Tuscany, Lucca was first inhabited by the Etruscans and later by the Romans. Lucca’s streets follow the original Roman street plan that dates back to 2000 years ago. The outline of the original Roman amphitheater can still be seen at Piazza dell’Anfiteatro.
Lucca is the birthplace of several famous composers, including Giacomo Puccini (Madame Butterfly and La Bohème), Nicolau Dorati, and Francesco Geminiani.
Best Things to Do in Lucca
Below is a list of 15 things to do in Lucca. At the end of this list, you can see all of them on a map.
1. Walk or Bicycle on the Town Walls (Le Mura di Lucca)
The walls the surround the city of Lucca were constructed as part of a massive project that started in 1504 and did not finish until 1648. These fortifications replaced the older, smaller medieval walls and they are over 4 kilometers in circumference. The Lucca walls are considered to be one of the best-preserved Renaissance fortifications in Europe.
Lucca Walls | Best Things to Do in Lucca
There are six gates in the walls that lead in and out of Lucca, including Porta San Donato, Porta Elisa, and Porta San Gervasio.
In the early 1800’s, Maria Bonaparte (Napoleon’s sister) had the walls converted into a public garden.
Wide paved paths run along the top of the walls, sheltered by large trees. This is a very popular place to go for a stroll or to ride bikes. If you want to see all of the Lucca walls, the best way to do it is on a bike (it would take a very long time to walk the entire circumference of the walls).
We walked a short portion of the southern walls, getting off once we got near the Lucca Cathedral. Throughout town, there are numerous staircases that lead on and off of the walls.
2. Visit the Lucca Cathedral
The Lucca Cathedral, also called Duomo di Lucca and St. Martin’s Cathedral, is the seat of the archbishop of Lucca. The original cathedral was founded in the 6th century by Bishop Frediano and then rebuilt and enlarged several times.
On a visit to the Lucca Cathedral, there are several places to visit: the cathedral, the Cathedral Museum, and the bell tower, plus with a combined ticket you can also visit the Church of Saints Giovanni and Reparata. Each individual site has its own ticket for a few euros, or for €10, purchase the combined ticket, which includes everything. You can get pricing and hours on the official website.
Lucca Cathedral | Best Things to Do in Lucca
Inside of the cathedral, don’t miss the Volo Santo (a wooden crucifix), the Last Supper by Tintoretto, and the Ilaria del Carretto, which is the funerary monument commissioned by Paolo Guinigi, the Lord of Lucca, for his wife. It was sculpted by Jacopo della Quercia, who also created the fountain in Piazza del Campo in Siena.
Inside the Lucca Cathedral
The altar of the Lucca Cathedral and the Volo Santo
Ilaria del Carretto
3. Climb the Bell Tower of the Lucca Cathedral
Climb 217 steps to the top of the Lucca bell tower for one of the best views of Lucca.
This is included on the combined ticket for the Lucca Cathedral.
When we did this (2022) there was mesh netting surrounding the observation deck but the holes were large enough for a cellphone camera (but not a DSLR camera).
Steps of the Lucca Cathedral bell tower
The top of the Lucca Cathedral bell tower
The view of Lucca from the Lucca Cathedral bell tower (iPhone photo)
Another view from the bell tower (iPhone photo)
4. The Church of Saints Giovanni and Reparata
There are several reasons why you should visit the Church of Saints Giovanni and Reparata.
First, this church sits on top of an archaeological site. The excavations span a time period from the first century BC to the 12th century AD. A crypt, Roman baths, and the foundations of the former basilica can be seen here.
Inside the Church of Saints Giovanni and Reparata | Best Things to Do in Lucca
Excavations inside of the church
From the inside of the church, you can also climb 119 steps to the top of the bell tower for another great view of Lucca. This observation deck also has a mesh netting, but when we were here, there was an opening that was large enough to take photos with a DSLR camera.
View from the bell tower | Best Things to Do in Lucca
The Church of Saints Giovanni and Reparata can be visited on the combined ticket with the Lucca Cathedral or you can spend a few euros to enter, if you don’t want to also visit the Lucca Cathedral. This church is a one-minute walk from the Lucca Cathedral.
Church of Saints Giovanni and Reparata | Best Things to Do in Lucca
5. Visit the Church of San Michele in Foro
Located on Piazza San Michele, near the very center of Lucca, is the Church of San Michele in Foro. This church is dedicated to Saint Michael. It was first constructed in the 8th century and later rebuilt. Inside, you can see the mummy of San Davino Armeno, who died in Lucca in 1050.
Church of San Michele in Foro | Best Things to Do in Lucca
San Davino Armeno
6. Torre Guinigi
If you only have the time or energy for one tower climb in Lucca, this is the one that we recommend.
Torre Guinigi is the most unique tower to climb in Lucca. This tree-topped tower provides another spectacular panoramic view of Lucca.
Torre Guinigi | Best Things to Do in Lucca
This tower was built in 1384 by a wealthy silk merchant as a personal defensive tower. The top of the tower was later planted with several oak trees, forming a rooftop garden in Lucca.
To get to the top, you will climb 230 steps. Here is the view.
Top of Torre Guinigi | Best Things to Do in Lucca
The view of Piazza dell’Anfiteatro | Best Things to Do in Lucca
You can purchase your ticket onsite or online in advance. Only so many people are permitted to visit the tower at a time, so tickets are sold in time slots.
Here is the link to the official website where you can get hours for your visit and the link to purchase your ticket online. We had a hard getting the ticket website to work (both in Lucca and months later, when we published this guide). Hopefully you will have better luck. When we visited the tower, we were able to purchase our tickets onsite for the next available time slot.
7. Torre dell Ore (the Clock Tower)
For yet another bird’s eye view of Lucca, climb the 207 steps to the top of the Clock Tower. This tower sits in the center of Lucca so it is a great place to get 360° views of the town. Tim and I both really liked the view from this tower.
The Clock Tower | Best Things to Do in Lucca
When we did this in 2022, we tried to climb the Clock Tower before Torre Guinigi. The clerk at the bottom of the Clock Tower did not sell tickets. We were directed to use a QR code but could not get the website to work. So, we walked to Torre Guinigi, purchased a combination ticket for Torre Guinigi and the Clock Tower, and then climbed both of them. This combination ticket cost €12 and also included the botanical gardens.
Here is the link to the official website where you can get hours of operation. It states that a reservation is mandatory for weekends, but again, I could not get the website to work. Here is the link to purchase your tickets online in advance.
Top of the Clock Tower
From the Clock Tower, you get one of the best views of Torre Guinigi
The view of the Lucca Cathedral
The view of the Church of San Michele in Foro
8. Piazza dell’Anfiteatro
This elliptical square is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Lucca. The ring of buildings that surround this square follow the outline of the former Roman amphitheater. Outdoor cafes and shops line the outside of the square, making this one of the best places to have lunch or a drink.
Piazza dell’Anfiteatro | Best Things to Do in Lucca
Many of the restaurants in Piazza dell’Anfiteatro get mediocre reviews. However, Ristorante Trattoria L’Angolo Tondo gets outstanding reviews. In fact, it is one of the highest rated restaurants in Lucca.
We tried several traditional dishes, all which were amazing. La Nostra Carabaccia is an appetizer that was so good we ordered another one. I had the Tordellone della Casa, ravioli stuffed with meat and Tim ate the Tagliatella Selvatica, which is pasta with wild boar ragu. We finished lunch with Cheese Cake Santo and Buccellato All’uva.
This lunch was our favorite experience in Lucca.
La Nostra Carabaccia
Lunch at Trattoria L’Angolo Tondo
Dessert was amazing too!
9. Take a Stroll on Via Fillungo
Via Fillungo is a pedestrian shopping street in Lucca. This street runs through the center of town and around a portion of the outside of Piazza dell’Anfiteatro. The Clock Tower is located on this shopping street.
There are a mix of shops, from chain stores such as Foot Locker and Sephora, to smaller retail stores and boutique shops.
Via Fillungo | Best Things to Do in Lucca
10. Visit Palazzo Pfanner
This palace was commissioned by the Moriconi family in 1660. These wealthy Lucca merchants became bankrupt not long after construction of the palace and were forced to sell it to the Controni family. The Pfanner family acquired the property in the 19th century. In 1995, the palazzo was restored and opened as a museum.
Palazzo Pfanner | Best Things to Do in Lucca
Visitors can tour the palace and the gardens. Palazzo Pfanner has been used as a filming location several times, including in Portrait of a Lady starring Nicole Kidman and John Malkovich and in Il Marchese del Grillo.
For hours and pricing, visit the official website.
11. Get a History Lesson at Domus Romana
This small museum preserves 2000 years of history. What’s even more amazing is that these excavations are rather recent, dating back to 2010.
Your visit starts off with a quick movie about the history of Lucca and Domus Romana. Afterwards, you will tour the few rooms of artifacts and excavations in the museum with a guide.
For those with an interest in history and archaeology, this is not to be missed.
Get hours and pricing on the official website.
12. Visit the Basilica of St. Frediano
The Basilica of St. Frediano dates back to the 6th century, commissioned by Frediano, the Irish Bishop of Lucca. 600 years later, the basilica was enlarged. In the 13th and 14th centuries, the mosaic of The Ascension of Christ the Savior was added to the façade of the basilica.
Inside, there are several chapels decorated with paintings and frescoes created between the 12th century and 17th century.
The body of St. Zita, the patron saint of Lucca, lies in rest in a side chapel of the church. She lived in Lucca during the 13th century, worked as a servant, and frequently gave away bread and food to the poor. After her death, she was mentioned in Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. Her body was later exhumed and still found to be mostly intact. It was put on display in a silver casket and in 1969 she was canonized as a saint.
Basilica of St Frediano | Best Things to Do in Lucca
Inside the Basilica of St Frediano | Best Things to Do in Lucca
Chapel of St. Zita
13. The Puccini Museum
Giacomo Puccini was born in Lucca on December 22, 1858. He spent his early years in Lucca and went on to compose Madama Butterfly and La Bohème.
Puccini’s childhood house has been converted into this museum. On a visit here, you will learn about the life and legacy of Puccini.
Get hours and pricing on the official website.
14. Piazza Napoleone (Piazza Grande)
This piazza gets a lot of mentions but we only think it is worth the visit if you will be near here. This wide piazza is partially surrounded by trees but it lacks the ambience and beauty that you see in many other Italian piazzas.
15. Aqueduct of Nottolini
The Aqueduct of Nottolini sits just outside of Lucca. With Lucca’s history dating back to Roman times, one would assume that this aqueduct has Roman origins from 2000 years ago. However, that is not the case. This aqueduct is relatively young, having been built in 1823 by Lorenzo Nottolini.
This is a popular place to go for a walk or for a bicycle ride, similar to the Lucca Walls. We parked next to the Aqueduct and walked along a small part of it. It’s a nice visit if you have a lot of time in Lucca, but I don’t think you miss much by skipping it.
Aqueduct of Nottolini | Best Things to Do in Lucca
Best Things to Do in Lucca: On a Map
How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers. You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.
If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.
How Much Time Do You Need in Lucca?
If you want to do everything listed above, plan on spending one day in Lucca. With less time (for example, half of a day), pick one to two towers to climb (we recommend Torre Guinigi and the clock tower since they are included on the same ticket), visit the Lucca Cathedral, go for a short walk on the Lucca walls, and have lunch in Piazza dell’Anfiteatro.
Where to Eat in Lucca
We highly recommend lunch at Ristorante Trattoria L’Angolo Tondo, mentioned earlier. It is located on Piazza dell’Anfiteatro and has a fabulous setting and serves traditional food.
Forno a Vapore Amedeo Guisti is famous for their pastries and focaccia.
If you want to satisfy your sweet tooth, we also recommend Cioccolateria Caniparoli, which serves decadent chocolates.
Osteria de Bastian Contrario is a tiny restaurant that serves lunch and dinner. We did not eat here but loved the décor.
Osteria de Bastian Contrario
Osteria Da Pasquale is another very highly rated restaurant in Lucca that is open for dinner.
How to Get to Lucca
Lucca is very well connected to Florence, Pisa, and the Cinque Terre by public transportation.
It is very easy to travel to Lucca by train.
The train station in Lucca is located on the south side of the city, just outside of the Lucca walls. From here, it is a 10-minute walk into the center of town. If you want to rent bikes, you can do so at the Lucca Tourist Center next to the train station.
Trains from Florence to Lucca run every hour and the fastest journeys take 1 hour and 15 minutes. To get to Pisa by train, it takes 15 to 20 minutes.
It takes longer to travel by bus, so we recommend using the train if you plan to use public transportation. Learn more about the bus here.
It is also very easy to get to Lucca by car. Here are the distances and travel times from nearby destinations:
- Florence: 95 km, 1.25 hours
- Pisa: 20 km, 30 minutes
- Cinque Terre (Riomaggiore): 95 km, 1.5 hours
- San Gimignano: 80 km, 1.75 hours
- Siena: 145 km, 2 hours
- Livorno: 50 km, 1 hour
As for parking, there are numerous parking lots located outside of the city center. Parcheggio di Via del Pallone, Parcheggio Cittadella, and Parcheggio Palatucci are all convenient parking lots to mark on your map as options.
Tours of Lucca
Here are some unique activities to add to your visit to Lucca.
This 2-hour walking tour includes the highlights of Lucca.
If you want to rent bikes and tour Lucca on your own, you can rent bikes here.
This 3-hour tour combines a bike tour with a food tour with quick visits into several cafes and a chance to cycle along the Lucca walls.
You can also take a cooking class, a food tour, and an e-bike wine tour from Lucca.
Things to Do near Lucca
It is possible to combine Lucca and Pisa into a day trip from Florence. Get the full details on how to do this in our article One Day in Pisa and Lucca.
If you have plans to stay in Lucca, you can day trip to the Cinque Terre, to Florence, and to San Gimignano.
Where to Stay in Lucca
Micheli Suite Anfiteatro Square is located on Piazza dell’Anfiteatro. Rooms have a view of the square and come with a small kitchen. There is a family room that can accommodate 4 people.
Stence Apartment is located in the city center, has a kitchen and washing machine, and has 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, so it’s another great pick for families. Plus, it gets excellent reviews.
Locanda Sant’Agostino is a bed and breakfast that gets rave reviews and is located in Lucca. It has a lovely garden like setting.
If you like the idea of staying outside of town in a villa, check out Villa La Preziosa and Agriturismo Casa Rosa.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Lucca worth visiting?
With its scenic piazzas, numerous towers to climb, and local foods to try, Lucca is a joy to visit. Lucca is worth visiting for those who are looking a nice day trip from Florence or the Cinque Terre. If you like the idea of seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa on the same day, Lucca and Pisa can easily combined together into one day.
How do I spend one day in Lucca?
With one day in Lucca, start your visit by strolling or cycling along the historic city walls. Visit the Lucca Cathedral, climb the clock tower and/or Torre Guinigi for lovely views over the city, and then have a late lunch in Piazza dell’Anfiteatro. In the afternoon, go shopping and you have the option to visit several palaces, museums, and churches.
Can I visit Lucca and Pisa on a day trip from Florence?
Combining Lucca and Pisa into a day trip from Florence is easy to do. Both towns are easily accessible from Florence by train. Start your day in Pisa by visiting the Leaning Tower and then spend the remainder of the day in Lucca, visiting the churches and towers and having lunch or dinner in Piazza dell’Anfiteatro.
More Information for Your Trip to Tuscany
FLORENCE: Get started with our guide to the Best Things to Do in Florence. We also have a guide about how to visit the Florence Cathedral and related sites, the best rooftop bars in Florence and the best viewpoints in Florence.
FLORENCE ITINERARIES: Learn how to plan your time with our articles on how to spend One Day in Florence and Two Days in Florence.
DAY TRIPS FROM FLORENCE: Here are 15 day trips to take from Florence, with practical information on how to plan your day.
TUSCAN HILL TOWNS: Check out our detailed guides to Siena, Montepulciano, Pienza, Montalcino, San Quirico d’Orcia, San Gimignano, Monteriggioni, Volterra, Arezzo, and Cortona.
TUSCANY: Get started with our guide to the Best Things to Do in Tuscany. Learn how to plan your visit with our Tuscany Itinerary, which has sample itineraries, whether you have 3 days, 5 days, or an entire week in Tuscany.
SIENA: Plan your visit to Siena with our articles Best Things to Do in Siena, One Perfect Day in Siena and How to Visit the Siena Cathedral.
CINQUE TERRE: One of the best experiences in the Cinque Terre is to hike between all five towns. If you are traveling on a budget, get our money saving tips for the Cinque Terre.
If you have any questions about the best things to do in Lucca, let us know in the comment section below.
More Information for Your Trip to Italy
ROME: For a list of the top experiences in Rome, read our article Best Things to Do in Rome. Learn how to put these together in our 2 Day Rome Itinerary. And don’t miss our guides to the Best Views of Rome, best Rooftop Bars in Rome, and our Rome Restaurant Guide.
VERONA: Verona is a beautiful city in northern Italy. Learn how to spend one perfect day in Verona.
DOLOMITES: We cover important things to know before you go and travel tips in our article How to Plan a Trip to the Dolomites. For ideas on what to do, read our article Best Things to Do in the Dolomites. Check out our Dolomites Hotel Guide for recommendations on where to stay. And for links to all of our articles, take a look at our Dolomites Travel Guide.
MILAN & LAKE COMO: Learn how to visit Milan on a day trip or while traveling between the Cinque Terre, Florence and Venice. Lake Como and Bellagio are two more beautiful places in Italy that are great day trip destinations.
MATERA: Matera is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Italy. Here is a list of the best things to do in Matera.
We have TONS more information about Italy in our Italy Travel Guide, including Rome, Florence, Venice, Tuscany, the Dolomites, the Amalfi Coast, the Cinque Terre, Basilicata, and Puglia.
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