When most people think of Italy, usually the major cities come to mind – Venice, Rome, Florence, Milan, etc. Though we went to a few of those cities as well, we also made a quick 1.5 day stop in Lucca. I actually really liked this city as it was not as busy or touristy as the other cities. It was a lot more leisurely and relaxing and I enjoyed just casually exploring the city.
Rent a bike and ride on the wall
I swear the last time I rode a bike was probably at least 5 years ago, but it’s true what they say about never forgetting how to ride a bike (though no one ever mentions anything about struggling your first time back on one…).
Some history about the wall: it was first built in the 11th century and went through 4 rounds of expansion. The purpose of building the wall was to keep up with military technology in 1504 and to guarantee better defense of the city in fear of the Medici’s expansionist policy.
Today, the wall is 30 foot high and lined with trees and is paved so people can walk or ride the wall. It’s about 3 miles to go the circumference. We rented bikes for a couple of hours and had a fun time leisurely riding around.
Climb the Torre Delle Ore (Clock Tower)/Torre Guinigi (Guinigi Tower) for an amazing view of the city
You can climb either tower and get really similar (but amazing) views of the city. The Guinigi Tower is a bit taller if you want to go for that one, though the clock tower is easier to climb (the stairs are more stable and the walkway is wider). Both have about a gazillion steps though.
View from Guinigi Tower:
View from Torre Delle Ore (with it’s shadow):
Check out the Botanical Garden
There are hundreds of species of plants that you can check out here. I thought it was really green and pretty, but it wasn’t anything that sparked any major interest.
Watch a Pucchini concert
Lucca is the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini who is one of the world’s best opera composer. He’s best known for La Boheme, Tosca, and Madame Butterfly. You can come here for a concert of some of his best work by local opera singers.
Go exploring within the wall
It’s really walkable within the walls. We walked in and out of all the streets just exploring the area. Here were some of the major attractions that we saw (that are not already listed):
Wandering through the city streets
Checking out different architecture
Piazza Anfiteatro: a 360 degree ring of shops and restaurants
Piazza S. Michele: Roman Church
Palazzo Ducale: Palace
Admiring the artwork in churches (forgot which one this was)
& just exploring and shopping the piazzas (public squares or marketplaces) – there are a lot!
What we ate
Pizza, pasta and gelato! We didn’t have too much time here but some of the places that we went to were:
Bar Cupido Sas for a quick ham and cheese breakfast. It was good as a quick snack, but I would recommend grabbing something else if you have time to eat.
Pizzeria da Felice (recommended by our airbnb host as the best pizza inside the walls). They have a simple cheese pizza as a base and a few toppings you can choose to add. I chose spicy salami and did not regret it at all. They cut you a slice from their whole pizza and charge you depending on how much it weighs (the bigger the slice, the more it costs). Although this wasn’t the best pizza I’ve ever had, it was pretty damn good – especially the salami. I also got a “slice” of chickpea (I had no idea what it was at the time, but everyone else was getting it) and a coke to balance out all the salt. Delicious!
Gelato from one of the shops in the Piazza Anfiteatro. Delicious afternoon treat from a day of walking.
Franchesca’s (also recommended by our airbnb host). We came here for a super affordable meal. I got the carbonara as I was feeling carb-by. It was decent, but I think they overdid it with the sauce. The flavor was still good and the panchetta they added in there was perfectly cooked and the meaty flavor saltiness from it was a great addition to the flavor of the pasta.
Pan di Strada (also recommended by our airbnb host) was a great place to grab cheap sandwiches. It’s a to-go place, but there are benches nearby you can eat them at or you can find a place on the wall to eat them. They have 80 sandwiches to choose from! Being that I’m super indecisive, we asked them for recommendations. I shared a #61 (top sandwich in picture) with lard, gorgonzola cheese, rucola and olive paste and a #63 with cuiatello ham, burrata cheese and dried tomatoes. To my surprise, I really liked the lard sandwich. Lard = animal fat (typically pig). Yes – a sandwich made with the primary ingredient of fat was my favorite (actually, I don’t know why that’s surprising). It was super melt-in-you-mouth and had a nice butter-y flavor and went well with the salty olive paste, fragrant gorgonzola and bitter arugula. I liked the ham sandwich as well as the burrata was so soft, but that animal fat…
Another gelato. Does it really matter where you get it from? They’re all delicious!
Another pizza by the slice and weighed by the kilogram place at Alice Lucca. It’s nice that all your options are laid out for you to see. I got a couple of small slices from a few different pizzas so I can try more than 1. The pizzas are toasted perfectly and all the pizzas were delicious. You can’t go wrong with any choice that you pick!
Where we stayed
We stayed near the train station at a super cute airbnb – Camila’s Home. Paola is a great host who gave us a map and shared with us recommendations of where to eat and what to do. The airbnb was centrally located to where we wanted to go (near the wall and near the train which we took to Pisa). It was also very spacious and very clean. I would definitely recommend staying here.
I like this tiny town of Lucca. It’s a small community and you can see and eat a lot of it in just a day. I love the slow place and relax feeling of this town and really enjoyed my time here.
Check out my other Italy posts
Things you should know: Random things to know before visiting Italy
Cinque Terre: One day in Cinque Terre, Italy
Pisa: Day trip to Pisa, Italy
Florence: What to see and do in Florence, Italy
Rome: What to see and do in Rome, Italy
Milan: Half a day in Milan, Italy