Discover 8 great things to do in Lucca. Climb an ancient tower, pay a visit to the legendary Volto Santo, try the traditional buccellato cake and follow in the footsteps of Giacomo Puccini. These are just some of the things that await you in Lucca, a welcoming and delightful town protected by impressive city walls.
Are you ready to explore some quintessential lucchesi experiences?
8 Unique Things to do in Lucca
1. Take a stroll along the top of the city’s wall.
The massive walls that embrace Lucca’s historic centre are an impressive sight, and a feature the town is very proud of. It was in fact thanks to this defensive structure that Lucca kept its independence until the 19th century. Today this masterful architecture is loved as much as it was in the past when it was defending the city.
It’s not every day you can take a relaxing stroll along the top of some Renaissance ramparts. But in Lucca you can. Take it slowly and bring your camera, to capture every different view of the city and the colour of the trees that change with the season. In Autumn there’s an extra surprise for you, as the trees turn all shades of orange and yellow.
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2. See the Volto Santo in Lucca’s Cathedral
The Volto Santo, or “Holy Face”, is an ancient wooden crucifix guarded inside Lucca’s Cathedral of San Martino. This ancient artefact has been collecting centuries of legends and prayers, and every September it has its own festival, the light-filled Luminara di Santa Croce.
When you visit the beautiful Cathedral, look for the Volto Santo inside the small ‘tempietto‘, a little chapel in white marble set in the right hand nave. You’ll notice the unusual appearance of the crucifix, the long tunic worn by Christ and his open eyes, a symbol of victory over death. The thought that countless pilgrims have travelled across Europe to pray at this spot throughout the centuries, is a humbling experience.
⇒ Discover the most beautiful churches in Tuscany outside of Florence.
3. Have a drink in Piazza Anfiteatro
Sit in a square that was once an amphitheatre. The shape has remained the same, and some of the original stones have been used for the buildings that surround the square today. Piazza Anfiteatro is Lucca’s heart and soul, and one of people’s favourite hang out spots. There was a time when people would gather here to cheer on the raucous ancient Roman shows, but today they come here for endless aperitivi and cappuccinos at one of Piazza Anfiteatro’s open air cafes.
4. Climb the Guinigi Tower
In Tuscany there’s no shortage of Medieval towers, and part of the fun is that some can be climbed. But the Torre Guinigi in Lucca has something that you won’t find anywhere else. Atop this 14th century tower that dominates the town’s centre you’ll find a group of holm oaks.
The Guinigi family, masters of Lucca, created this roof garden to show off their wealth and power, and the tower’s green summit is still one of Lucca’s symbols today . It offers magnificent 360 degree views over Lucca.
In case one isn’t enough, there’s another tower to climb, slightly taller than the Guinigi Tower, the Torre delle Ore (Via Fillungo, 207 steps). These are just examples of ways you can travel back in time in Tuscany.
5. Try a local speciality: from zuppa di farro to bucellato
When visiting an Italian town, you should always try one of the local dishes. Food is very much part of the Italian culture, and even the smallest town has its very own recipes and specialities.
While you’re in Lucca there are two things you should definitely try: the zuppa di farro and the buccellato. The first is a hearty soup made with farro, or spelt, a signature dish in the lucchese cuisine. The buccellato is Lucca’s traditional aniseed-flavoured cake. Pasticceria Taddeucci is famous for its buccellato, and as a plus you find it in one of Lucca’s most scenic squares, Piazza San Michele.
6. Shopping in the Via Fillungo
Fillungo is Lucca’s main street, at the heart of the historic centre. This narrow and picturesque street winds its way through beautiful palaces and is home to many shops, elegant clothes and shoe boutiques, bakeries and gelaterie. If you love shopping you could spend an entire day here browsing, or indulging your sweet tooth at one of the fabulous pasticcerie. And it’s great for people watching too!
7. Meet the beloved Santa Zita in San Frediano Church
Lucca, known as ‘the town of 100 churches‘, is certainly a devout town. After the Cathedral, the other religious ‘hot spot’ in town is the Romanesque Church of San Frediano. Here you can have a weird and slightly macabre encounter with Saint Zita who died eight centuries ago. Her mummified body is exhibited in a glass cabinet.
The revered Saint Zita, the patron saint of maidens and domestic servants, was living and working in Lucca as a servant when she started performing miracles. She was hardworking. humble and peaceful and despite the unjust treatment she had to endure in her life, she kept up her good deeds. After her death, a cult was initiated in her name. St. Zita was exhumed in 1580, her body strangely intact and in 1696 she was canonised by the Catholic Church.
8. Giacomo Puccini home and villa
Another famous and beloved character associated with Lucca is Giacomo Puccini, the Italian composer author of famous operas such as La Bohème and Madame Butterfly. He was born in Lucca in 1858 and in Piazza Cittadella you can visit his birth home. There’s bronze statue of him just outside.
⇒ An unmissable experience for all opera lovers is to take a trip to his villa in Torre del lago Puccini, half an hour’s journey from Lucca. Overlooking the beautiful Massaciuccoli lake, you can experience a full immersion in Puccini’s world, see the piano where he created his operas and get a real feel for his life and character, helped by an informative audioguide. The Villa, still in the hands of the Puccini family, has been carefully restored and brought back to its former glory, when the melodies of the master used to fill the rooms. Opening hours & tours: Official site.