Lucca, Italy

“Lucca Over Here… This Tuscan Town is Amazing”!

If you read the title of this post with your best impression of an Italian accent, then you probably nailed the pronunciation of one of our new favorite Italian towns.  Lucca has been on our bucket list to visit for quite some time and now we can happily say we’ve been.

Lucca, Italy
Lucca, Italy viewed from the Torre Guinigi
Torre Guinigi - Lucca
Another angle from Torre Guinigi
Lucca viewed from the city walls
Lucca viewed from the city walls

The city is renowned for many things, not the least of which is the giant annual gathering of comic book nerds and fantasy film geeks. Lucca plays host to Europe’s version of Comic-Con, the Fiera Internazionale del Fumetto (International Festival of Comics) or as it’s commonly referred – Lucca Comics and Games.
lucca_comics_and_games_2013-questione-di-stile

Some participants of Lucca Comics.  Photo courtesy of Francesco Petrucci
Some participants of Lucca Comics and Games. Photo courtesy of Francesco Petrucci

For those of us that don’t have any desire to put on a Superman costume (yes, I’m just enough of a geek to know the term cosplay), there is more than enough to do in Lucca, which I will detail below.  Thanks very much to some free press bestowed on me by Italia Living, I have recently picked up a few new readers (benvenuto a Sipping Espresso)  and so I’m going to treat this post a little differently than in the past. As opposed to running through our little vacation part by part, instead I will opt to go a bit more “mainstream” and simply highlight the featured attractions of the city.  Of course, I haven’t boiled it down to a “Top 10 Things To Do In Lucca” just yet.  I like to hear myself talk far too much!

Piazza del Giglio near our hotel
Piazza del Giglio near our hotel

During Medieval and Roman times, it was quite common to fortify entire cities behind massive protective walls.  Today, Lucca is a preeminent example of such fortification and one of the few cities left in Italy with her ancient walls fully intact.  It is a wonderful experience to drive your car through the same gate that was quite possibly used by Julius Caesar himself.  Of course, in this scenario,  I’m simply the chauffeur and my own little Julia is the royalty riding in the back of the chariot.  Even though I can’t positively date the existing walls as far back as Caesar, I can place him in Lucca for the well documented Lucca Conference, along with Pompey and Crassus in 56 BC.  The origin of the city itself date back as far as 180 BC.  Eventually Lucca rose in importance to the Roman empire and achieved immense wealth and status in the 11th century, thanks to the silk trade.  The result of this wealth is evident today; the city is very well maintained. Nearly every street features an ancient church boasting a façade clad with expensive marble.  Well designed piazzas are now the gathering places for tourists, street performers and restauranteurs.  Streets lined with charming shops and wonderful cafes full of patrons keep the vibe of the city humming well into the night.

Walls of Lucca
The ancient walls completely enclose the city
You can find many fine example of sculpture and statues along the top of the walls
You can find many fine examples of sculpture and statues along the top of the walls
The walls are wide enough for cars to pass along the top, but it is solely pedestrian
The walls are wide enough for cars to pass along the top, but it is solely pedestrian
Churches of Lucca
One of the many churches that can be found on nearly every corner in the city

Our reason for being in Lucca was to visit our good friend, Beth (although here she goes by, Elizabeth which is better understood in Italian). We had an amazing time when we stayed at her home in Tuscany last year, which I wrote about HERE and HERE.  She hosted us once again, but this time it was in the Bed & Breakfast she recently purchased, Le Violette.  The place matches her personality perfectly; warm and inviting with an extra pinch of charm.  I’ll write a full review of her B&B in an upcoming post.  After we unloaded our bags in the room, Beth started our tour of the city beginning with the walls, which were widened centuries ago.  In fact, not that long ago they used the walls for racing cars.  Today, they are purely pedestrian.

Lucca Walls
View of the main bell tower of Lucca from on top of the walls
Lucca Walls
We made our way to the walls several times throughout our trip
Lucca Walls
Julia wanted to walk on her own
Lucca Walls
Jen and Julia stop for a photo on the wall

We hopped off the walls and strolled through the city, enjoying Lucca as only a pedestrian can.

Via del Fosso has a canal running through the center
Via del Fosso has a canal running through the center
Via Cenami is one of the main shopping streets
Via Cenami is one of the main shopping streets
Beth helps Julia take a drink of water
Beth helps Julia take a drink of water
Piazza San Francesco
Julia takes a picture with me in Piazza San Francesco
The old market building where vendors would set up
The old market building where vendors would set up their stalls

Most Italian cities feature outdoor markets one-two times a week. We made our way to one of the fabulous Lucca mercato (market), which is held every Wednesday and Saturday.

Lucca Walls
Vendors set up for the market twice a week
We discovered that we accidentally strolled outside the walls by following the long line of vendors
We discovered that we accidentally strolled outside the walls by following the long line of vendors
Beautiful flowers are just one of the many things you could buy
Beautiful flowers are just one of the many things you could buy in the market
Lucca markets
I catch Jen for a photo in the market
Markets Italy Lucca
The markets can get crowded but they are a great place to pick up a picnic lunch

While in Lucca, you will want to position yourself in a vantage point that will command a view of the entire city, valley and mountains. You can choose to scale the Torre delle Ore (Clock Tower) or the Torre Guinigi (Guinigi Tower).  We opted for the later, because it is the only tower in the city that has trees planted on top.  But the ascent is not for the faint of heart; it’s a steep 230 steps until you get to the top. Compared to other similar towers, I found the €6 entry fee a bit steep, considering you don’t get anything other than the view (many similar sites also feature other historical items – this was purely just the tower).  I quickly reversed my position on the fee when I actually took in the view.  Breathtaking might be an appropriate word to describe the panorama.

Torre Guinigi steps
The final staircase ascending toward the top of the tower (shooting from below, looking up)
I lost my cool when I thought this was the top and I would have to view through a cage - when I cooled down, I realized there was a door and simply pushed on
I lost my cool when I thought this was the top and I would have to view the city through a cage.  When I calmed down, I realized there was a door and simply pushed on
View
View of the city with the prominent Cattedrale di San Martino in view
Lucca, Italy
More of the city and Torre dell Ore (clock tower)
View
Lucca is a beautiful city set with a backdrop of luscious green mountains
View
Panoramica da Torre Guinigi – I just noticed that almost this exact shot is in the Lucca city guide
Students in Lucca
I noticed a few groups of school children; Lucca is a popular destination for Italians

You will certainly want to pay a visit the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, a Roman amphitheater that has been reconstructed into a piazza compete with charming shops and cafes.  We sat and enjoyed a few drinks while Julia enjoyed running around with Beth’s son, Indi.

Lucca Amphitheater
Panoramic of the Piazza inside the amphitheater
Lucca Amphitheater
Julia and Indi play inside the Piazza Anfiteatro
Lucca Amphitheater
Julia loves chasing pigeons!
Outside the Lucca Amphitheater you can see the remains of the original Roman structure
Outside the Lucca Amphitheater you can see the remains of the original Roman structure

Of course, no trip to Lucca would be complete without a visit to the Piazza San Michele and a tour through the Chiesa di San Michele in Foro.

Chiesa di San Michele
Chiesa (church) di San Michele
Chiesa di San Michele
The Romanesque architecture is clearly demonstrated in the façade, which was built in the 13th century
Chiesa di San Michele
The wealth of Lucca is demonstrated by their larger churches
Piazza San Michele
The piazza hosts some performers that loved playing American 90’s rock (primarily Nirvana)
Piazza San Michele
Julia can’t hear the words of Kurt Cobain without being moved to tip
Piazza
Jen and Julia in Piazza San Michele
Piazza
Julia pushes Beth’s son, Indi across the piazza
Piazza
Playing in the piazza
Chiesa di San Michele at night
Chiesa di San Michele at night

I hope you enjoyed our tour through Lucca together and consider adding it as your next Italian destination.  Below are a couple more pictures to temp you even further…

Buccellatio di Lucca
Buccellatio di Lucca is a typical bread that is eaten year round
Streets of Lucca
We constantly commented on how clean and well maintained the city is
Gelato in Lucca
Julia enjoys some gelato after dinner one night
"Come along for an upcoming post all about a couple restaurants in Lucca!"
“Come along for an upcoming post all about a couple restaurants in Lucca!”

Ci vediamo a presto (I’ll see you soon)!

 

Le Violette - A Bed & Breakfast Full of Charm
Wine in the Springtime

3 thoughts on ““Lucca Over Here… This Tuscan Town is Amazing”!”

  1. Ah, this brought back great memories of our day in Lucca, clearly not enough time. I have just sent your blog to Larry and Bill via FB as they have rented a home for a month in the hills outside Lucca. They are excited!

    1. Bill, I’m so glad that you enjoyed the post and we were able to bring back some happy memories. I’ll bet you recognized a lot of the scenes in the photos. I’m pleased that you shared the post with Larry and Bill – I saw on Facebook that they got a chance to see it. Hopefully the blog will give them a couple ideas while they are here in Italy.

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