Guide to visit Lucca
Everyone knows Lucca, or at least they should, because it is one of the most beautiful cities in Italy; enclosed between imposing walls, its historical center is able to give surprises to every corner. The city has an enviable historical and artistic heritage that places it among the unmissable stages of a tour in Tuscany.
10 things to do in Lucca
Although it’s not easy, let’s try to make a list of things to do in Lucca.
- Cathedral of San Martino
- Torre Guinigi
- Piazza dell’Anfiteatro
- Basilica di San Frediano
- Torre delle Ore
- Chiesa di San Michele in Foro
- Museo Nazionale di Palazzo Mansi
- Piazza Napoleone
- Lucca Comics & Games
Walls of Lucca
If I think of Lucca, the first thing that comes to mind is certainly the walls. The walls of Lucca are a magnificent work, an architectural masterpiece known throughout the world that amazes for its incredible length of over 4 kilometers! Built between 1504 and 1645 with the aim of defending the city from external aggressions, the walls were never put to the test except by a flood so, during the nineteenth century, it was decided to convert them to civilian use. The result is a spectacular tree-lined avenue ideal for a relaxing walk overlooking the city’s rooftops and the main monuments of Lucca. A truly special and very well preserved monument that, with its 11 ramparts, protects the historic center like a treasure chest.
Cathedral of San Martino
If you arrive in Lucca by train, you will probably cross the walls through Porta San Pietro. From here you can quickly reach the Cathedral of San Martino, Duomo di Lucca, which overlooks the square of the same name. Beautiful monument in Romanesque-Gothic style, the Duomo has an asymmetrical facade that seems to have been cut to make room for the bell tower, which is actually older than the church. On the façade, characterized by a beautiful front porch and three series of arches, we can admire the statue of San Martino who divides his cloak with a poor man and a series of bas-reliefs including a maze inspired by the myth of Ariadne and Theseus.
The interior, with three naves, preserves many works of art of great value, including the funeral monument of Ilaria del Carretto, made by Jacopo della Quercia around 1406, the Madonna Enthroned with Child and Saints by Domenico Ghirlandaio (1479) , the Last Supper by Tintoretto (1592) and the Volto Santo di Lucca (Holy Face of Lucca), a wooden crucifix made by Nicodemo, kept in the homonymous small temple located in the left aisle. Object of great veneration, according to tradition, the Holy Face would have been realized on divine inspiration and would represent the true face of Christ.
Like many other Tuscan cities, Lucca also was filled with towers during the Middle Ages: at the beginning of the fourteenth century the city had as many as 250! Today, however, only two are left: the Torre Guinigi and the Torre delle Ore. Built in the 14th century by the powerful Guinigi family, the tower has a height of 44 meters and more than 200 steps are required to reach its summit. The feature that makes this tower unique is the tree-lined garden that sits right on top of the tower; it is not known when it was built, but it seems that in the fifteenth century it already existed. I think it’s useless to say that from the tower you enjoy an exceptional view…
Piazza dell’Anfiteatro is one of the most characteristic things to see in Lucca. Built in the nineteenth century where the ancient Roman amphitheater once stood, this beautiful square has a characteristic oval shape that follows that of the ancient Roman arena. Completely enclosed by a series of buildings along its perimeter, Piazza dell’Anfiteatro is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and well-known squares in all of Tuscany. In addition to its architectural beauty, I recommend you visit the square also to take advantage of the numerous bars and restaurants that overlook it.
Basilica di San Frediano
The Basilica di San Frediano is one of the oldest churches in the whole city. In the 6th century, in fact, San Frediano, which at that time held the role of bishop of Lucca, founded here a church dedicated to the saints Vincenzo, Stefano and Lorenzo; the present Romanesque church instead, dates back to the first half of the 12th century. The main peculiarity of this building is the large mosaic on the façade depicting the Ascension of Christ among angels in the presence of the Apostles. Inside you can admire some interesting works such as the beautiful 12th century baptismal font.
Torre delle Ore
The only other survivor along with the Guinigi Tower among the medieval towers of Lucca, the Torre delle Ore was equipped with a first clock during the fifteenth century while the current one was installed in 1754. It is a very slender tower that reaches 50 meters height. If you are passionate about watches, surely you will not want to miss the opportunity to visit the tower since inside you can see the original mechanism, returned to work following a recent restoration.
Chiesa di San Michele in Foro
Among the most beautiful squares in Lucca, we must certainly mention Piazza San Michele. Here we can admire numerous historic buildings, including the Palazzo Pretorio of Lucca, and above all the beautiful Church of San Michele in Foro. Looking at the very high façade you will notice on the top a large statue of San Michele killing the Dragon. It seems that on brighter days it is possible to see a sparkle coming from the statue; according to tradition, this light derives from an emerald set in the statue in a remote age that was never found.
Museo Nazionale di Palazzo Mansi
The seventeenth-century Palazzo Mansi is the seat of an important national art gallery. Here are the works that were donated by the Grand Duke Leopold II to the city of Lucca on the occasion of the annexation to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Distributed in four rooms, the Palazzo Mansi collection consists of works by great artists such as Andrea del Sarto, Guido Reni, Luca Giordano, Pontormo and Tintoretto. If you are passionate about art, this is a museum not to be missed!
Piazza Napoleone, also known as Piazza Grande, is the largest square in the historic center of Lucca. Here, among historic buildings such as the Palazzo Ducale of Lucca, events such as the Lucca Summer Festival concerts are often organized. At the center of the square is the statue of Maria Luisa di Borbone who was Duchess of Lucca between 1814 and 1824.
Lucca Comics & Games
Lucca is a lively city that is appreciated not only for its great historical and artistic heritage, but also for some events that every year attract thousands of visitors from all over Italy. In addition to the aforementioned Lucca Summer Festival, the main event is undoubtedly the very famous Lucca Comics & Games. Born in 1993 as Lucca Comics (it became Lucca Comics & Games since 1995), this festival dedicated to comics, animation cinema and gaming has now become the most important event of its kind on a national level.