An Insider’s Guide to Lucca, Italy

I love Lucca. It’s bustling enough to provide some relief to the stifling quiet of the Tuscan countryside, but under-the-radar enough that it’s not overrun with tourists, and still retains so much of that classic Italian charm that has drawn visitors to the country for centuries. Personally, I’d prefer to grab a hotel and explore slowly for a few days (the ice cream alone is worth it!), but Lucca also makes a fantastic day trip from the neighbouring areas. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a must-do list for a thoroughly packed day in Lucca. Feel free to follow to the letter, sub out ideas as preferred, or stretch this itinerary out over however many days you have. You do you.

Guinigi Tower

 

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Start your morning off with a visit to Guinigi Tower. This unusual structure rises above the other buildings in Lucca, and is topped by some verdant greenery. The trees atop the tower are holm oaks, which symbolise rebirth and renewal – this seems apt as this is one of the last remaining towers still standing within Lucca’s walls. You’ll get some fantastic views from the top – not to mention the pride from making it all the way up the stairs. That’s precisely why I’d recommend starting your day here, though: not only will it be a little quieter, but climbing the 232 steps to the very top is easier when you haven’t hit the heat of the day yet. Trust me. The tower is open from 9.30 to 7.30 every day – so if you miss the morning climb, you could always wait until later in the day and hope the temperature cools off a bit!

Piazza San Michele

 

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Next up is a little more sightseeing. The morning is a great time to wander over to the Chiesa di San Michele in Foro, as its impressive façade makes for some great holiday snaps. It’s located in Piazza San Michele, and after taking a few photos you’ll notice that the square it sits in is a hub of local life. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a foodie market under the arches to the right of the church, selling a variety of fresh Lucchese produce. Olive oil is a particular speciality of the region, so if you can take some home with you, you won’t be disappointed! If there isn’t a market there, head to one of the nearby delis to pick some up – there are even aeroplane-friendly bottles under 100ml. Alternatively, stop for an Italian tradition: coffee and people watching in the square.

Lunchtime!

 

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Surely it’s lunchtime by now? There are myriad places to find food in Lucca – from traditional trattorias to bakeries with the heavenly smell of focaccia wafting out of the doors. One of the classic lunches, though, is the humble sandwich. Head to either Strabuono or Pan di Strada to grab a panini, filled while you wait with all manner of mouth-watering flavours. Personally, I think melanzana (aubergine) and mozzarella is always going to be a winner, but you can choose what you want – think sweet tomatoes and salty prosciutto. Yum.

Cycling the Walls

 

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So now it’s hitting the heat of the day, and all energised by a good ol’ panini. Where to go? It’s time to see what is potentially the best part of Lucca: the famous city walls. I know, they’re not indoors and so not air-con cool. What’s more, I suggest you cycle around them. It’s not only the speediest way to zip around, but the breeze it creates thoroughly cools you down – I promise! Grab a hat and some suncream, then head to one of the numerous bike rental shops around town – my favourite is Punto Bici, because they’re lovely in there and the shop’s proximity to the wall means you only have to make it down one small side street before it’s smooth sailing. Don’t fret too much about the sun, though – there are trees lining most of the wall, so you’ll be in the dappled shade. You can get around the wall twice in about an hour going at a leisurely pace, taking in the pretty city from above.

Time for a Treat

 

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Phew! After that (mild) exertion, it’s definitely time for a break. Dive into a cafe for an espresso or a cheeky afternoon Aperol Spritz, or check out our blog on the best gelato parlours in Lucca for a refreshing treat! Creamy vanilla, rich chocolate, tart lemon… so many flavours!

Cultural Musings

 

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Ready for a bit more culture? Check out Puccini’s Birth Home, a museum dedicated to the famous composer. Here, you’ll find letters and artefacts from Puccini’s life, as well as a bit of a respite from the heat! If Puccini’s not your thing, have a wander ‘round Palazzo Ducale di Lucca, an intricate historic palace.

Retail Therapy

 

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If there’s one thing you can’t miss when you come to Lucca, it’s the array of leather shops. The walls may be iconic and the olive oil famous, but the pretty, brightly coloured wares that spill out onto the cobbled streets really are a sight to see – especially if you’re a bit of a proponent of retail therapy. Via S. Paolino – which my family affectionately refers to as ‘Handbag Alley’ – is a great place to start, though there are several shops scattered throughout Lucca. You’ll find a lot of the designs in different shops, so make sure you shop around to get a colour and price you’re happy with! A lot of these shops have classically Italian opening hours (read: unpredictable and most likely closed for a long lunch), so it’s best to go either in the morning or afternoon, not around lunchtime!

Dinner

 

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Well, it’s been a long day. There’s only one thing for it: a delicious dinner to put you into a Mediterranean food coma. If it’s a special occasion, or you just feel like treating yourself, head over to Osteria da Pasqualino Gubitosa. The owner will you make you feel as if you’re old friends, and the food will take you to heaven – every single dish is recommended! It is a little on the spendier side, though, so if you’re not up for splashing the cash, check out In Pasta – Cibo e Convivio (literally ‘food and feasting’) for spectacular pasta dishes, or Pizzeria dal Ciaccia for a laid-back pizza dinner.

 

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About Felicia
Felicia

When she's not writing for dealchecker, you can generally find Felicia reading on a beach, or paddleboarding down a quiet river trying not to think about crocodiles. She has plans to live all over the world, and misses the food in Thailand very, very much.

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