1. Old City Walls
Even by Italian standards, Lucca is remarkable for its old city walls. It's because these fortifications, built during the Renaissance, are almost completely intact. One of the best things to do in Lucca is walking around the top of them on a series of well-maintained paths. Along the way, admire the bulwark of San Martino, Porta San Pietro, and nine more impressive defensive bastions which are still standing. The views out over the Tuscan countryside are fantastic, too.
2. Torre delle Ore
If you want to get truly unspoilt views over the terracotta rooftops of Lucca, though, then Torre delle Ore is the place to find them. Built in the 14th century as a defensive structure, this dominant tower has had a changing role over the centuries. As the need for stern defence lessened, it became the town's clock tower. If you're up for climbing the series of stairs to the top, you'll be rewarded with unrivalled views over Lucca.
3. Guinigi Tower
While Torre delle Ore has the best views among Lucca's ancient towers, it can't compete with Guinigi for the quirkiest construction. Built in the 14th century and standing 45 metres high, the exposed-brick Guinigi Tower is a dominant example of Romanesque and Gothic architecture in Tuscany. However, its most interesting feature is not its construction or history. It's the majestic holm oak trees that protrude from Guinigi's rooftop garden. These can be seen prominently from all over Lucca, becoming an icon of the city.
4. Piazza dell'Anfiteatro
The name of this public square, ‘Plaza of the Amphitheatre’, might confuse at first – there's no longer any Roman ampitheatre to be found. However, the elliptical shape of the amphitheatre has been retained over the centuries in the shape of the buildings lining the square. Despite all different sizes and colours, the buildings flow together in a curving, contiguous, cylindrical line. Take a seat at one of the piazza's cafe terraces to admire this quirk of history.
5. Piazza Napoleone
More imposing than Piazza dell'Anfiteatro, Piazza Napoleone holds some of Lucca's most important and impressive historical buildings. The striking facade of the Ducal Palace covers the left-hand side of the square, fronted by the ornate white statue of Maria Luisa. The Prefecture of Lucca building faces back across the square at the palace. The interesting Giglio Theatre and elegant Risorgimento Museum complete the collection of prominent buildings lining the square.
6. Aqueduct of Nottolini
In the south of Lucca, the historic Aqueduct of Nottolini is truly an architectural and engineering feat to behold. Built in the 19th century, this 3 km-long series of 400 stone archways used to carry millions of gallons of water from the mountains to the city. The most impressive part? It's still there – in its entirety. You can trace this marvel from its origin at the Temple cistern to its end at Parco dell’Acquedotto. You can walk to the aqueduct from Lucca railway station in 10 minutes.
7. Lucca Cathedral
Located in the heart of the Old Town, Lucca Cathedral is known all around Italy for its striking facade. The cathedral was started in the 11th century and took its current form during the 14th-century Renaissance. Featuring a series of opulent archways and an ornate portico around its front doors, this facade provides a striking contrast with the huge exposed brick bell tower right beside it. Go inside the cathedral to see some impressive frescoes, as well as the shrine of the Sacred Face of Lucca.
8. Church of San Michele in Foro
Looking for something different with the churches you're seeing? Well, you might be pleasantly surprised by the Church of San Michele in Foro. The eye-catching facade of this church is lined with four rows of ornate arches and columns which, unlike most other churches, are of diverse colours and designs. Above each row of arches are not icons and saints, but rather different wild animals depicted in a series of immaculate artworks. The church also has impressive rose windows, and important artworks by Luca della Robbia and Filippino Lippi.
9. Basilica of San Frediano
Want more beautiful churches in the historical heart of Lucca? Just a few minutes from Lucca Cathedral and San Michele in Foro, the Basilica of San Frediano boasts a brilliant 14th-century mosaic on its facade that has remained in remarkable condition. It depicts the ascension of Christ, and you can still clearly make out the central figure of Christ among the brilliantly coloured tiles. Inside, there is a finely decorated 12th-century font, replete with stone carvings.
10. Botanical Gardens
Take a break from walking around, and put your feet up at the beautiful Botanical Gardens of Lucca. Situated in the southeastern corner of the historic old town, this beautiful oasis was established by the Duchess of Parma in 1820. The gardens are extensive, displaying a diverse range of beautiful plants, trees, and flowers. There is also an arboretum, herbarium, and several greenhouses if you want to dig deep into the different species found here. The numerous ponds and water features provide superb picnic spots.
11. Enoteca Vanni
Tuscany is synonymous with good wine. And there's no better place in town to try the local goods than Enoteca Vanni. This institution in the old town is known all over Italy. It offers regular wine tastings or particular vineyards and vintages. Or you can simply turn up, and your curiosity will be rewarded with a few tastes of the typical Tuscan reds of the region. If you really want to get to the source, you can organise a tour to some local vineyards.
12. Apuan Alps Park
The Apuan Alps Park is located about an hour north of the city. Featuring wild animals, limestone mountains, underground caves, and dramatic peaks reaching up to 1947 metres at Mount Pisanino, the 20,000-hectare Apuan Alps Park offers a real escape into nature. It even holds the deepest cave in Italy, Antro del Corchia. You can arrange a tour or take public transport from Lucca.
How to get to Lucca by train
Thanks to the frequent number of regional trains operated by Trenitalia, you can easily get to Lucca from anywhere in Tuscany. For example, the train journey from Florence to Lucca is only a bit more than an hour.
Thanks to the efficient Italian high-speed rail network, you won’t have any problem reaching Lucca from other major cities either – if you’re travelling from Rome, you can take a Frecciarossa train to Florence and then continue your journey to Lucca on a regional train.
On Frecciarossa trains you’ll get to enjoy high-quality onboard services, including a welcome service with a wide selection of sweet or savoury snacks and nine hot and cold drinks you can choose from – this service is available in Executive, Business and Premium Class only.