Tourism in Lucca, Tuscany: are you wondering what are the things to do and what to see and visit for sure? The first answer that comes to mind is: The Walls.
Before talking about the things to do in Lucca, Italy and its history, we dedicate ourselves to its main feature. From the original structure of Roman times walls to the project and their realization in the Renaissance period, the Walls of Lucca are regarded as a perfectly preserved example of modern fortification in Europe. Once you are above this majestic rampart you will realize its breadth and, above all, its length! There are six gates that allow you to enter the city and the entire perimeter is framed by ancient trees (oaks, sycamores, horse chestnuts) and lush vegetation. The main feature of the walls is to create a great city park, where there is room for everybody. You are on the top of Lucca: what are the things to do in Lucca at this point? There are sports and quieter areas for those in love and special spots from which to take great pictures…it is an ideal harmony between city and nature! You could hire a bike, roller skates, tandems or simply go for a walk (unless you are so sporty to go for a run!) and enjoy all the city of Lucca. Tourism on two wheels or on foot? The choice is yours! This may be a first dynamic idea, to experience it in a special way, from the top of its Renaissance city walls! You will feel like lords walking in front of such majesty. If you are more athletic and do not like the aristocratic style, you can visit Lucca by bike all the time. The Lucca inhabitants often use this natural theatre and these vast spaces for shows and artistic events (including Murabilia in September, a fantastic exhibition of flowers and gardening) The walls are the soul and the symbol of Lucca. What to see in Lucca, after this first essential step, which is also beautiful and charming?
If you are interested in trees and love plants, one of the best things to see in Lucca, Italy is in the centre of Lucca, which boasts a beautiful 19th century Botanical Garden containing a variety of vegetation, plants from different parts of the world, a library and even a museum full of precious herbs: on entering you get in contact with nature in every aspect. If your holiday to Lucca was fully ‘a green holiday’ then you can also make a tour to Villa Bottini, located in the historic centre. Lucca, however, is not just for fans of gardening and botany experts! We at toscanainside.com would like you, at this point, you discover all of Lucca.
It is time to speak of the streets, in the centre. The history and prestige of Lucca will take your breath away. Firstly, the origins of the city are Ligurian although, as usual, evidence shows that the Etruscans may have been here too. Whereas there is clear evidence that the Romans had settled in this area. The Latins, fortunately left a trace: the characteristic orthogonal design of the main streets and the remains of an amphitheatre on which Amphitheatre Square by Lorenzo Nottolini was established. Maybe you did not know the name of this 19th century architect, but you will not fail to admire what every guide of Lucca describes as one of the most beautiful squares in Italy. Stand in the centre to observe the special doors, small openings, the shops, the world around you and surrender: you will definitely fall in love at first sight!
If your breakfast is now a distant memory, here you are in the right place to sit and dedicate yourself to Tuscan cuisine! Lucca obviously has its traditional dishes that are definitely worth more than just a taste... So let us quickly guide you over the food and drinks of Lucca. First we must warn you that the bread in Lucca is salty! On the other hand, with struggles between Guelphs and Ghibellines, ancient hatreds between neighbouring cities and medieval rivalries... there had to be something different, don’t you think?
The dishes that you must try for example are: tordelli (ravioli) with meat, garmugia (soup with legumes and meat), rabbit stew, the delicious rovelline (bread fettuccine with tomato sauce) and, only for the experts or those wishing to be adventurous, biroldo (blood and pork offal!) ...at the end of the day 'of a pig nothing is thrown away' as they say in Tuscany! You can finish with something sweet, choosing between the castagnaccio (cake made with chestnut flour) or the inevitable buccellati (donuts with raisins and aniseed), accompanied by a glass of biadina (digestive drink from Lucca). For wines, if you have time, we strongly encourage a stroll around the hills of Lucca.
After being refreshed, do not fall asleep! You have yet to see Lucca and its wonders! Do not you get lost in conversation with the waiter, take a nice coffee and resume your visit. From this magnificent square, head straight for the St Martino Square to visit the splendid Cathedral of Lucca. In addition to the statue of the saint and the facade of the church there is the tomb of Ilaria del Carretto, by Jacopo della Quercia. This sarcophagus, wanted by her husband, the nobleman Paul Guinigi, is a masterpiece of the 15th century. You will be impressed by the face of the statue as it will seem as if the noble woman is asleep and the statue has its own soul! Here is what to visit in Lucca Tuscany before moving to other destinations!
Lucca Cathedral is also home to another symbol of the city: the Holy Face. It is a crucifix that, according to an ancient medieval legend, is the true face of Jesus Christ. Revolving around it are stories of miracles, literary quotations - including a quote from ubiquitous Alighieri (in the XXI poem of Hell) – and many churches in Italy are dedicated to this sacred face. In Lucca it is worshiped with the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross every September 13: a night procession, lit by candles, evokes along the streets of the city the miraculous journey of the holy relic from the village of Luni (Liguria). In this church, you will also find two works of art of immense value: the Madonna with Child and The Saints by Ghirlandaio and the Last Supper by Tintoretto. Visiting Lucca churches and monuments may require more than one afternoon because this city is known as the "city of 100 churches." Do not worry, we will only talk about the most important ones! The Church of St Michele in Foro will impress you for its unusually high facade (it goes beyond the roof) and where there is a statue of the Archangel Michael engaged in killing a dragon. It is said that an emerald is embedded in the statue, and that, with a little 'luck you can glimpse the sparkle in a moonless night... If you do not know what to do in Lucca after midnight ...!
For lovers of mosaics the St Frediano Basilica is certainly more fascinating. This Romanesque church has, on the facade, a beautiful mosaic representing the Ascension of Christ, while inside it houses a remarkable baptismal font and a chapel decorated with the Gospel stories with an intense blue background which is very striking.
Among the monuments of Lucca, Tuscany that you can photograph in total freedom there are two medieval towers. You can go up the Torre Guinigi and at the top you will be surprised to find yourself suddenly in a roof garden! Look out to see Lucca’s churches and the city at your feet! The Clock Tower is located in via Fillungo and is very high: use a wide lens for your artistic photos. When visiting it, in addition to the beautiful landscape and Luccas’s sights, you will also find the clock mechanism (which involves manual winding!) dating back to the early 19th century.
If you find over your head a grey sky and beautiful clouds coming, do not panic! In fact you can devote your time to other places and discover an unusual atmosphere and a more mysterious side to the city. Things to See in Lucca on a rainy day? First, the National Museum of Villa Guinigi! You have already met the name of the villa on several occasions during your tour in Lucca: it was the most powerful noble family in the city during the 15th century. The Museum has a substantial section devoted to archaeology with Etruscan and Roman ruins and is home to masterpieces ranging from the Middle Ages to the 18th century, including, in particular, paintings by Donatello and Giorgio Vasari.
Speaking of famous people and artists, Giacomo Puccini is also known to those who are not fond of opera. It would be difficult not to visit in Lucca his house-museum! Here you will find his most important piano, letters, original scores and historical documents. Think for a second of gelida manina from Boheme… or nessun dorma from Turandot…orperhaps you are feeling hopeful with un bel di vedremo from Madama Butterfly? Each to their own aria!
If your holiday is reasonably lengthy then no doubt you may be interested in visiting Lucca’s surroundings. A charming and fun area is the Serchio River Park, where you can enjoy a shore excursion or on the river when you rent a canoe! There are areas for exercise, to play football, archery and skateboarding. The park is rich in flora and fauna. In addition to enjoying the nature, you can engage yourself in a historical walk, where you can admire the Nottolini Aqueduct or the famous Devil's Bridge! Take a bit of oil focaccia (found in bakeries in the town centre) to take a quick break between activities! At Capannori, in the Villa Carrara at Gragnano, you will find another beautiful park that houses the great Oak of the Witches, famous for its ancient legends and said to be the secret place of the money of Pinocchio. If desired, from here, you are also not far from Collodi ...
Finally, if nature and unspoiled spaces are what you seek in your holiday in Lucca, we at toscanainside.com suggest you go Lucca sightseeing to places like Garfagnana, which will welcome you with its lakes and its paths through woods and hills.
For those feeling stressed or for those who simply want to relax there are the Spa of Bagni di Lucca: its natural beauty and the healing power of the springs will revive you once again!
For those who do not like the idea of Spas.... Remember that from here, if you prefer, you are close to the beaches of Versilia, so you can in a short time find yourself under the sun umbrella enjoying a drink and relaxing!
In the summer, there is the music Summer Festival that takes place every year in the largest square in the centre, Piazza Napoleone. Speaking of events and other things to do in Lucca, Tuscany we could not leave out the Lucca Comics (in late October), a must for lovers of comics. Masked heroes, innocent monsters and sailor moon willingly queue for an autograph of their favourite designer! And leave prejudices at home: the comics are now considered class A literature!
The things to see in Lucca, Italy are numerous, and if you venture outside of its spectacular walls, you can find activities and scenery to suit all tastes. Its historic centre will leave you spellbound in a medieval atmosphere and is full of fascinating legends. A visit to Lucca will allow you to taste its culinary tradition with prestige Tuscan recipes that will leave you with the memory of very tasty yet simple meals!
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