Day 1 in Lucca

Welcome to the beautiful Tuscany town of Lucca, known as the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance! Upon arrival, head to your hotel, check in and do not give in to jet lag! There is so much for you to see and do.

The narrow, cobblestone alleys are picturesque and charming. Wander through the streets and soak up the Italian atmosphere while you get acquainted with the area. The Via Fillungo is the city`s main street, bisecting the historic center. Following this street is the best way to see the whole city. While walking, you can admire the charming windows of the Old Lucchese shops and cafes, pick up local products and stop for lunch in a classic trattoria.

Next, make your way to the Guinigi Tower, one of the most visible landmarks in Lucca, a massive brick tower with a few trees on top. 227 steps up the tower will bring you to breathtaking views over Lucca. The view, particularly before sunset is amazing.

Afterward, spend some time at the Church of San Frediano, the church is stunning from its exterior and definitely worth entering for its beautiful pillars, chapels and the actual body of St. Zita, she died in 1272 and never disintegrated and wasn`t embalmed. This church was built in the early 1100s and is on the Mediterranean pilgrimage route. The piazza in front of the church has several cafes and a nice market with gifts and handmade chocolates.

Finish your afternoon with a walk or bike ride around the fortress walls. These walls were built to protect the rectangular area of the town and are well preserved; virtually the complete wall was constructed during the Renaissance and still stands today. A complete footpath of 2.6 miles connects each bastion and is lined with trees. There are always people walking and cycling along the path to enjoy the view of the old town with its palazzo and churches. You will meet the locals who are enjoying the evening breeze and quietness here. Due to the height at 39ft., you can capture beautiful photos of the old town.

As evening approaches, do not miss the Italian style Aperitivo, the American version of happy hour. You order a drink and get some prosciutto and crackers for free. It is a ceremony, rather than only having a drink. There are many cafes to sit outside with a view of the Piazza`s enjoying a glass of chilled white wine and some little bites.

Spend your evening at the Piazza dell`Anfiteatro (Amphitheatre Square), the former Roman Amphitheater that it is built upon. This square was once a center of great entertainment during the Roman period due to the number of spectators that would show up during the gladiator games. In the Middle Ages, the amphitheatre became a prison, and was later partially absorbed by the new buildings that to this day form the perimeter of the square. It is a lively spot full of restaurants, osterias and pizzerias. After walking around all day, find a spot to enjoy some regional Tuscan specialties. The prices are moderate and the food is delicious.

Day 2 in Lucca

Start your morning off like many locals - have breakfast standing outside a local bar. Enjoy a coffee and cornetto (it`s sort of like an Italian croissant, but denser), and take in the lovely and relaxing atmosphere that the city offers. After your delicious start to the day, head to San Michele in Foro Square (Chiesa di San Michele in Foro), a Roman Catholic church that gained fame as it was built over an ancient Roman Forum. The church provides a unique atmosphere with its beautiful architecture and majestic shape. A Fun fact about the church: legend has it that the Archangel Michael statue that sits on top of the church has a ring that projects lights into the square when a ray of sunlight hits it.

Spend the rest of your morning visiting two well-known tourist attractions in Lucca: the Giacomo Puccini Museum (Casa Natale di Giacomo Puccini) and the Cathedral of San Martino (Cattedrale di San Martino a Lucca). In the Giacomo Puccini Museum you`ll visit the house where the great Opera composer spent his childhood and youth. Many of his famous operas like Turandot and La Bohème, along with photos and drafts of other compositions are housed in the museum. The Cathedral of San Martino is famous for its tomb monument called the Ilaria del Carretto by Jacopo della Quercia, one of the great Renaissance sculptors. There is also a hexagonal chapel inside where one can find the Holy Face of Lucca, a wooden corpus of a Crucifix.

From San Michele in Foro, follow Via San Paolino until you’ve reached Cittadella Square, and you will have arrived at the Giacomo Puccini Museum. To get to the Cathedral of San Martino, head back to San Michele in Foro, and take Via Vittorio Veneto. Keep heading straight and you’ll pass Napoleone Square, Giglio Square, San Giovanni Square, and you`ll arrive at the Cathedral of San Martino. It shouldn`t take you more than 15 minutes to get from the museum to the cathedral.

Enjoy lunch at any of the inviting cafes that you wander by. Many of these restaurants offer outdoor seating where you can linger for hours and take in the ambiance.

Spend the remaining part of your day with a visit to the Botanical Garden of Lucca. Located in the southeastern corner of old town, these gardens are extensive and cover two of the bastions on the city walls. They were established in 1820 by the Duchess of Parma, the gardens feature some stunning species of trees and flowers. In addition, there are numerous greenhouses, an arboretum, a herbarium and several ponds and water features. The botanical garden has variable opening times depending on the season, so be sure to check the hours before you visit.

Enjoy your last evening in the city center for a traditional Lucchese dinner in one of the trattorias along the main shopping street, Via Fillungo. If you want to blend in with the locals, try a nice homemade pizza with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and Lucca`s famed extra virgin olive oil. If you enjoy beer, give a local Lucchese beer a try too!

Additional Days in Lucca

Should you be able to spend additional days in Lucca continue to discover the region around the city by visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa, just 30 minutes away by train. This tower is one of the most remarkable and famous architectural structures from medieval Europe. The tilt began during construction in the 12th century, due to soft ground on one side, which was unable to properly support the structure`s weight. Pisa is also a fantastic city to explore with an array of beautiful historical buildings and some world class museums, along with lovely scenery along the banks of the River Arno.

Another great way to do some sight-seeing is to head to the Maddalena bridge, called `The Devil`s Bridge`, a 30 minute drive from Lucca. This is the most beautiful bridge in the province of Lucca, and one of the most suggestive in Italy. Many legends were born from its mysterious construction and its singular design, with one large arch flanked by three smaller ones, inspired the works of many artists. The bridge`s slimming profile, which continues to strike its admirers, must have been even more impressive in the past before a dam was built, in the years after the Second World War, which raised the level of the water in the surrounding area. The bridge is a stunning and a remarkable photo spot, especially the reflection of the bridge on the water.

If you want some adventure combined with capturing stunning waterfall pictures, then head to Riserva State Orrido di Botri, it`s about 50 minutes from Maddalena Bridge. There are 4 stations you can reach within 2 hours of hiking. And if you a good hiker, you can do it in even less time. The first three stops are beautiful, but nothing in comparison with the last station, `Piscina,` a stunning pond with a waterfall. It is not a dangerous hike; however, you should be careful, because the rocks can get slippery.

Your Last Day in Lucca

Depart your hotel for the airport or train station where you will head home or make your way to more European adventures. Savor the memories of a very special time in the Lucca and the beautiful Tuscany Region.