If you want to spend a day off the beaten path in Italy, make time to enjoy the quiet Tuscan town of Lucca. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that this historic center is completely encircled within intact medieval walls. These walls, which date back to the Renaissance measure four kilometers in distance, are 40 feet high and 100 feet wide at their base.
On top of the wall
Lucca is easily accessible by train from Florence or Pisa, and once you arrive at the train station in Lucca, it is less than a 10-minute walk to the town. You can’t miss seeing the wall, and walking or bicycling along it is the best way to begin your experience in Lucca.
On top of this promenade are trees and grass and the area has a park-like appearance, with plenty of spaces to walk, ride, or sit and enjoy the scenery. The views are phenomenal, and at various points along the walkway, you will find entrances that lead down into the town inside the walls.
The town of Lucca is exceptionally clean, and you will even find that the residents take responsibility for cleaning up after their dogs. By installing reminder signs (Fido Lindo) with bag dispensers, at intervals along the walls, Lucca encourages pet owners to clean up after their animals.
Within the walls
Inside the walls of the city of Lucca, the homes, buildings and 100 churches date back to the 16th century, and no modern or new construction exists here. You truly feel as if you have been transported to another time, especially as you see gelato vendors on bicycles, Lucchese men playing chess outside, and Italian women dressed in long skirts, pushing bambini in their strollers.
Lucca is an easy town to navigate either on foot or by bicycle, and you can rent bicycles at various locations within the city. The only automobiles that you will see in Lucca are registered to the residents, but there are some areas of the town that are closed to automobiles completely.
Walk down the famous Via Fillungo (long-lined street), which cuts across the city from north to south. Cars are banned from this street, and this is the city’s main promenade. In the evenings, this is the place for the Italian custom of passeggiata, where everyone is outside strolling and socializing. Italians of every age, from children, with their parents, to the oldest citizens, greet each other with “Buon passeggiata.” On the weekends, passeggiata lasts until past midnight.
Sights not to miss
You can climb the stairs to the top of Torre Guinigi for a breathtaking view of the entire city and Tuscan countryside. The tower is 44 meters high, with oak trees growing on top of it.
*Casa di Pucini
For anyone who is a lover of opera, you will be thrilled to visit the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini, famous composer of the well-known La Boheme and Madame Butterfly. His 15th century home is now a museum, where you can view his Steinway piano, which he used while composing his last works.
*Piazza San Michele
This is the city center and it is situated in the area of the ancient Roman forum. This is also the home to the financial and trade meetings of local Italian businesses. If you are an architecture lover, you will easily be able to spend many hours in this piazza alone. The 15th and 16th century banks in the piazza are former palaces, and the Church of San Michele is a 12th century cathedral which dominates the piazza.
You can easily spend a few hours or a few days in this Tuscan city of 85,000 inhabitants, but you will undoubtedly treasure the experience for a much longer period of time.