Situated in Tuscany in northern-central Italy, Lucca may not initially appear the most inviting prospect for the visitor with its sleepy population of 85,000, but scratch the surface and you'll find something special.

Founded by the Etruscans, Lucca was only absorbed into Rome in 180 BC and quickly became a major regional power. However, the fall of the Roman Empire brought about the city's decline, falling first to the Lombards and then suffering nominal control by the Holy Roman Empire between the 10th and 11th centuries.

More uniquely though, with a charter of 1160, Lucca was able to shake off all outside interference and become an independent republic, remaining so for roughly five centuries. Despite frequent skirmishes with the Florentines throughout the Middle Ages, the city would only conclusively fall at the hands of Napoleon in 1805.

Later incorporated as part of the new Italian state during the mid-19th century, Lucca nevertheless retains its sense of local pride brought about by its long period of independence. With elements of the Roman and medieval city still very much visible, Lucca's connection to its past makes it truly worthwhile for anyone wanting to see the finer side of Tuscany.


The very layout of Lucca makes for a charming attraction, being still identical now to its original Roman blueprint. Moreover, Lucca has the honour of being the only city in Italy to preserve its original 16th century city walls despite expansion.

During their visits to Lucca, foreigners like the art critic John Ruskin were stunned by the city's architecture. The Basilica di San Frediano on the Piazza di San Frediano is one of the main reasons. Although hosting a church since the 6th century, the Basilica derives its fabulous Romanesque façade from building between 1112 and 1147. The interior is equally impressive, being illuminated by a 12th century Romanesque baptismal font. The church itself is supplemented by a number of chapels, built by noble families between the 14th and 16th centuries and containing fine frescos and paintings.

Elsewhere, the 11th century Duomo di San Martino towers above the city courtesy of the adjoining bell tower. Much of the building itself was redeveloped in Gothic style during the 14th centuries but the apse remains in its original guise. One further delight within the interior is the tomb of Ilaria del Carretto, designed by the great Sienese Renaissance sculptor, Jacopo della Quercia.

One of the most impressive façades can be found in the Piazza San Michele, where the Chiesa di San Michele resides. In typical Romanesque style, motifs and allegories can be seen above each arch.

For a further glimpse into Lucca's Roman past, the ruins of the 1st century AD amphitheatre can be found near the Piazza dell' Anfiteatro.

A number of museums and galleries can be found in the city, including the Museo Nazionale off the Via dei Bacchetoni and the principal art gallery within the Villa Guinigi. A particularly quaint attraction is the Giacomo Puccini Villa Museum in the Corte San Lorenzo. Paying tribute to the great native composer, the museum contains many documents and memorabilia.

Should you arrive during July, the Lucca Summer Festival is a must-see musical extravaganza. Located in the Piazza Napoleone and Piazza San Martino, past acts have included Eric Clapton, Roger Waters and Elton John.

The city's local football team, AS Lucchese, play in Serie C1/B at the Stadio Porta Elisa, where tickets can be bought cheaply and easily.


The major shopping area in Lucca is the Via Fillungo, where you can find high-street fashion and various department stores.

The city hosts a number of local markets. Every third Sunday of the month, a large antiques fair is held in the Piazza San Giusto and Piazza Antolminelli. This is followed by an arts and crafts market in the same locations on the final Sunday of the month.

The market proper for general goods can be found down the Via dei Bacchettoni.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Tuscan cuisine is standard in Lucca, meaning simple ingredients, plenty of meats and wonderful pasta. However, the many restaurants and trattorie within the city have their share of unique local dishes. Highly recommended by critics and tourists alike is the Bucadisantantonio on the Via della Cervia, along with the Vecchia Trattoria Buralli on the Piazza S. Agostino.

The Lucchese enjoy their peace and quiet, meaning a relatively quiet nightlife. The only serious club in town is the Café delle Mura near Porta San Pietro. The main hotspots for bars and pubs are the Piazza dell' Anfiteatro (which sometimes has live jazz music) and the Piazza Napoleone.

Alternatively, the 17th century Teatro del Giglio opera house can be found on the Piazza del Giglio, naturally specialising in the work of Puccini.

Tourist Information

Tourist Information PointPiazza CurtatoneViale GustiLuccaTel: +39(0)5 8349


The nearest airport to Lucca is Pisa's Galileo Galilei International Airport, some 20-30 minutes away from the city. Buses, trains and taxis are all available from the airport.

International and domestic connecting flights are also available. Among the many airlines who run from Pisa are British Airways (London-Gatwick), Meridiana (London-Gatwick), Easyjet (Bristol) and Ryanair (Glasgow, Liverpool and London-Stansted).

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