Home Italy 6 Reasons Why Lucca is My Favourite City in Italy Right Now

6 Reasons Why Lucca is My Favourite City in Italy Right Now

by David
Cityscape Towers, Lucca Italy

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Italy has no shortage of incredible, idyllic cities that conjure up romantic holiday notions. Truly the same goes for the ever-popular region of Tuscany. Here you find powerhouse destinations like Florence, Siena and Pisa that are each exceedingly popular with tourists to Europe. While I enjoyed visiting all three, I wouldn’t elect any as my favourite city in Italy. No, I think that honour goes to their small neighbour, the ever-lovable Lucca.

In my two trips to Italy in the last few years, there are few places I’ve been to more than once. I mean it’s Italy, there’s just so many places to see! And yet, both times I’ve found myself visiting Lucca. It shares many of the traits that make places like Florence and Pisa so fascinating and yet has charms all its own. Read on as I share my reasons for why Lucca may just be my favourite Italian city.


Lucca, A Walled City

Lucca City Walls

Probably the thing that most won me over originally was Lucca’s immense city walls. The historic city is surrounded by thick and high fortifications that date back to the Middle Ages. The jagged walls that encircle Lucca have a pretty famous architect, the one and only Leonardo Da Vinci. Built in the 16th and 17th century, the walls are so broad that there is a road that loops around the top. It’s a popular spot for runners and cyclists, but it’s even wide enough for a car to drive around.

The track around the tops of the walls runs about 4km, making it a comfortable walk and nice way to see more of the city. If you can, head out through one of the gates or tunnels, just to see how impressive the fortifications are from below. I’m always a fan of walled cities and Lucca has to be one of the best.


A Place that Oozes History

Lucca Amphitheater

Because the historic centre is enclosed by city walls, Lucca has managed to convincingly preserve its heritage. Everywhere you go in Lucca’s old town reflects a look of a city from centuries ago. Really the only touches of modernity are the cars in certain streets and the antennas and dishes on people’s roofs. Aside from that, it’s like stepping back in time.

It’s also a place that is very much lived in. The historic old town isn’t for show, but indeed primarily made up of residential buildings. The most remarkable of these to me are the tall buildings that run around where the city’s amphitheatre once stood. Yes, where the ancient amphitheatre once lay, now a ring of houses stand, preserving the oval plaza within.

What’s also great is that you can stay in the heart of the old town, in converted residences. In fact, I was even able to stay in a B&B on the outer ring of the amphitheatre. For an affordable stay in a great location, I definitely recommend the B&B Anfiteatro.

Borgo Gate, Lucca


A Sea of Towers

When it comes to exploring cities, one of my favourite things to do is find a tower to climb. Being able to look out across a city’s rooftops and see a place from a different perspective really transforms how you see a destination. What’s great about Lucca is that it has so many towers to choose from. It not only means there are plenty of viewpoints that won’t crowd up, but the skyline is full of historic towers emerging from the rooftops.

Guinigi Tower, Lucca

A clear favourite of mine has to be the Torre Guinigi, in my mind the most awe-inspiring historic tower in the world. What makes the tower so wonderful is the trees that erupt from the brick tower’s top; a medieval rooftop garden. The only problem with climbing the Torre Guinigi is that you can’t see the Torre Guinigi!

That’s where towers like Torre delle Ore or the Bell Tower of the St Martin Cathedral come in. From these you get Lucca’s beautiful cityscape, this time including the surreal tower in the skyline.

Torre Guinigi, Lucca


Labyrinth of Narrow Streets

Lucca Via Fillungo

My favourite way to explore a city is on foot, wandering to my heart’s content. This is made so much easier when you’re in a compact, pedestrian-friendly place like Lucca. Well, pedestrian-friendly in the sense that most street don’t allow cars. Actually, Lucca can be a little challenging to navigate as its layout is quite random and organic. It still retains that medieval style of narrow streets, alleys and lanes similar to cities like Orvieto and Perugia.

This difficulty in finding your way isn’t helped by the fact that from street level you often can’t spot landmarks like towers with which to orient yourself. This is because most buildings in Lucca are several stories high, restricting your view. Now this might all sound like a negative, but I love the experience of wandering through a city following whatever whim strikes me.

Lucca Streets


Grand and Elaborate Architecture

Chiesa di San Michele in Foro

When it comes to churches and cathedrals, it’s fair to say that Italy has some of the best in the world. In so many Italian cities you find wonderfully adorned churches and cathedrals and Lucca is no exception. Within the small city you’ll find a surprising number of marble churches, each with its own elaborate facade and design.

One of the city’s most grand churches is the Chiesa di San Michele in Foro in the very heart of the old town. What strikes you about the church seen above is its four stories of loggias below an oversized statue of St Michael the Archangel. An equally striking facade can be seen on the city’s St Martin Cathedral. It too has an intricate design on its facade, which actually includes individually decorated columns. It’s a building that looks amazing from both afar and right up close.


Quieter Part of Tuscany

Lucca Canal

Few countries receive the hectic influx of tourists like Italy. This is particularly true in summer, but even in winter you’ll be surprised by tourist numbers in places like Rome, Florence and Venice. Somehow Lucca has managed to avoid the crowds up to this point. My first visit in summer, there were a number of tourists around but a small fraction compared to Florence or Siena.

In winter it was practically deserted, despite still being just as enchanting. A visit to Lucca is a great way to get a feel for the region and see some of the best of Tuscany, without battling the crowds. Although you can visit independently, there are also heaps of Lucca tours available.

Piazza San Michele


Travel Tips for Visiting Lucca

Lucca Cathedral Facade

  • While it’s possible to visit Lucca as a day trip from Florence or Pisa, I think it’s better to visit over at least 2 days;
  • Getting to Lucca is incredibly easy when already in Italy, with plenty of buses and trains from other cities and town;
  • Check Skyscanner to find flights to Pisa International Airport, the closest airport, much like it is for Florence;
  • Avoid driving in the city centre as there are few roads that aren’t pedestrian and you’ll likely have to walk anyway;
  • That being said, just because you won’t need a car in Lucca, doesn’t mean that a rental car isn’t useful to get to Lucca and elsewhere in Tuscany;
  • Winter is the city’s offseason and while quiet, there are several places that are either open at reduced hours, or closed completely.


If you have visited Lucca, what did you think of this city? Where is your favourite place in Italy? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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amindfultravellerblog July 25, 2017 - 8:42 am

One of my favourites too David. ?

David July 25, 2017 - 9:12 am

Great to hear, you must have good taste 😀

amindfultravellerblog July 25, 2017 - 9:19 am


Santa Bonaparte September 21, 2019 - 12:26 am

I visited during April 27 week. Festival of flowers in honor of Santa Zita. I share her name and bday is April 27. I was a celebrity that day. Met mayor and got to visit his office. Loved it. Fulfilled a bucket list favorite.

A Mindful Traveler September 22, 2019 - 2:01 am

That’s awesome. What a great memory to have. ?

Mapping The Map July 25, 2017 - 10:20 am

Nice city! It reminds me of Bergamo. Would love to visit Lucca soon!

Claire July 26, 2017 - 8:26 am

I loved Lucca, especially being able to walk the walls.

California Globetrotter July 26, 2017 - 9:09 am

I remember your pictures and falling in love with this town! I would definitely stop by! I really love the look of the piazza which has been preserved by the ring of houses! I’m dying to go to Siena, so I’ve pinned this for our future visit #WanderfulWednesday

Tanja July 26, 2017 - 9:34 am

I’ve been to Lucca! charming town!

the cape on the corner July 26, 2017 - 3:22 pm

i am in the process of planning my first trip to italy. i’m sure it won’t be my lasts, so i am not making myself crazy checking off the big boxes. i like to really get a feel for where i’m visiting, not pack a million cities or countries into one 2 week trip. lucca keeps popping up, so i will have to really look into it more. thanks!

Lydia C. Lee July 26, 2017 - 10:15 pm

We loved Lucca. Easy day trip from pisa (or vice versa).

Katherine July 27, 2017 - 2:22 am

Yes to all of this! I visited for a day while staying in Pisa and loved every second of it. The towers, the narrow streets, cycling around the city walls, visiting the church. Everything! Thanks for all the great pictures!

Bryna | Dotted Line Travels July 27, 2017 - 3:25 am

Lucca totally looks like my cup of tea. I didn’t have time to make it out there when I was in Italy, but maybe one day! I really want to visit Torre Guinigi – so cool that there’s a sort of medieval rooftop garden at the top of the tower!

Ruth July 27, 2017 - 5:43 am

Sometimes small cities are so attractive (at least for me). I can see myself living in certain places. I recently visited Koblenz, Germany. Not sure why but I started to dream of living there. I imagine it would be awesome to live (or stay for some time) in a place like Lucca.

Rhonda Albom July 28, 2017 - 12:52 pm

I have not spent a lot of time in Italy but it sounds like Lucca is my type of place. Old towns and cities that maintain their heritage through limited modernisation attract me ( I loved staying in walled cities throughout Morocco). I agree that Torre Guinigi is special with all those trees on top.

Jan Isherwood May 12, 2018 - 9:15 am

I LOVE Lucca too and it is calling me …again. I had spent the 2 best summers of my life there with a devoted Art Teacher, who I can never repay. I was there in 1971 and 1981 with John Delmonte’s Group. I went on to become a street artist in Florence, doing Portraits in the 80’s, but I always visited Lucca. It was always like coming home. I NEED to just sell everything and GO BACK! I would take daytrips to obscure neighboring hill towns to sketch. You just hop on a bus downtown, or train! take a random trip, Nozzano, Sienna, San Geminiano, Pisa! Lucca is like the center of The Universe, Really! A real community with real people!

Don Millis September 12, 2018 - 2:59 am

We went on a family holiday to Italy last year. We included Lucca as a handy location between Cinque Terre and Florence. We loved it! Good cheap accommodation and good food. The narrow, nearly carless, streets were lovely and the walk around the walls was too. The shopping wasn’t bad either. Would love to go back again.

David September 12, 2018 - 3:06 pm

That’s great to hear Don, you’re definitely spoiled for choice with all those great destinations so close together. Lucca does seem to be more affordable than some of its neighbours.

Bb December 11, 2018 - 2:00 pm

Lucca is my favorite in all of Italy. My family has a home in the mountains outside of Lucca. I have spent countless days exploring within the walls. It is enchanting and magical. It is my most favorite place in all the world. I am headed there this coming weekend, and I cannot wait! #Ilovelucca

Sherean December 17, 2018 - 8:48 pm

How do you think it compares to San San Gimignano’s towers? We are going back to Tuscany next summer, and taking a lot of extended family. Trying to sort out which towns to day trip to and Lucca is on the short list!

Lori Day February 10, 2019 - 7:38 pm

I am going this summer and have just found out it is the Lucca Summer Music Festival- Have you been during the festival? Will it be as nice or just overcrowded?

BB February 12, 2019 - 8:43 am

The summer music festival crowd just depends on the artist that is playing. I know a lot of the locals will sit on top of the wall and listen for free : ). Lucca can get very busy, but it is nothing compared to Florence crowds.

GuysNightlife February 12, 2019 - 3:55 am

Never been, but now it is on the to do list, thanks!

Nej March 6, 2019 - 2:52 pm

It is very busy during Lucca Comics.

Andrew March 20, 2019 - 3:37 am

I fell in love with Lucca when I visited in 2016. The old city centre is perfect for strolling, and it feels like every narrow street opens onto some sort of surprise. One of the highlights I stumbled on accidentally was the charming museum dedicated to the opera composer Puccini, in his former home. Recommended.

Patricia Van almkerk May 19, 2019 - 6:53 pm

I’ve visited Lucca 3 times. Actually made it our base for a week to travel to florence and pisa twice. We rented apartment which was perfecto. Easy train ride to both cities. Also bus ride away to forte di mare a beautiful seaside resort with marble sidewalks. Amazing beach with colorful cabanas and sophisticated restaurants. Mostly Europeans but a hidden gem to all others. Found it one day coming down mountain road where marble is still mined. The entire north western region of Tuscany is full of surprises. enjoy

Shawn Hayes July 27, 2020 - 8:33 pm

My Italian father came to the US during WW II as a “guest” of the American military and never returned to Voghera to live after marrying my mother. He built a happy life for his family in his new country. Now, I am dreaming of returning to the country he left behind. Realistic or a wild dream? Lucca sounds idyllic with historical sites, cafes, bookstores, etc. But I have also lived in a smaller, “idyllic” town in the US and hated it with limited things to do, suspicious and unfriendly people with few common interests, etc. My husband is also handicapped and must navigate life in a wheelchair. How does Lucca score in handicapped accessibility compared to the US?

David July 28, 2020 - 5:17 pm

I always enjoy hearing about people planning a trip to retrace their roots like this. If you can make it happen that would be great.

I can’t vouch for living there but with so many other fantastic destinations nearby there’s no way you’d round out of things to see. Big names like Florence and Pisa are very close by, while you also have smaller destinations like Pistoia. Locals are certainly used to tourists but people moving there may indeed be another story.

As for your questions regarding accessibility, I must admit that this concern has been a blindspot of mine. What I can say is that Lucca is a flat, mostly pedestrian city with no stairways connecting parts of town. The walls are all accessed by ramps but I can’t say the same for certain for the main museums and certainly not the towers. Being an untouched historical city, my expectations would be quite low.

I hope that something there is useful Shawn and wish you all the best if you do embark on this journey.

Gillian Simpson January 19, 2021 - 12:35 am

I have visited Italy 4 times, and every time I’ve stayed in Luca. After the first time I just had to go back. From there I’ve done day trips by train to Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terre, and several other beautiful places. One highlight was the train journey through the Valley between the Garfagna range and the Alpine range near the cost. Trains were easy from the station just outside the old city walls.
The walls are fabulous, both for walking round and cycling. There’s bike hire at convenient points, and a cafe/restaurant where you can get coffee etc. on the way round.
It’s lovely to get up in the morning and go up on the nearest part of the wall to sit and read or people watch or take in the views.
Lots of places to eat.
A couple of times I’ve been there at the annual. Celebration of Puccini. You can go and listen to some favourite pieces from his operas in lovely settings eg churches.
I hope to go back soon for my 5th visit!

David January 21, 2021 - 10:59 am

I hope to go back soon myself Gillian!
I totally agree that it’s a great place to base yourself if you want to explore that region of Italy.
Visiting for the celebration of Puccini sounds like a really special experience. I’ll have to keep that in mind.

john puitz January 23, 2021 - 6:46 am

We visited Italy last Christmas while my daughter and her family lived just outside of Pisa. We visited Lucca and I fell in love with it. It was my personal favorite of the many things we did over the 16 days travelling through the country. while we saw many marvels as we travelled the charm and relaxed feel of Lucca gave me the best interpretation of true Italy. I would love to visit again and spend more time there.

Mason March 2, 2021 - 3:10 am

My daughter (who was three at the time) and I visited Lucca on a 3 month tour of Italy. We stayed for three weeks inside the city of Lucca walking the walls around the city, stopping at the numerous playgrounds all around and visiting with the locals we met along the way. We made many ‘friends’ and my daughter especially was able to communicate as children do as she played with her new found friends. During our time in Lucca we cooked at home each night and would venture out during the day for lunch. We found the local grocery stores were close and the proprietors were very helpful. We visited many churches, and went to mass each Sunday at the Basilica de San Frediano, our favorite church. Lucca is the city of 100 churches, or, città delle 100 chiese! And, we climbed Torre Guinigi Tower twice! Our favorite piazza was Napoleone where there was a skating rink and a large circus type merry-go-round, with lots of small restaurants all around. It was enchanting to say the least. Leaving Lucca was hard, a sad feeling as though we were leaving our home. We are currently planning our next trip to Lucca – If they ever open the borders to Americans again! Love the blog!

Sheila September 12, 2021 - 5:00 am

I fell hopelessly in love with Lucca, I found this wine bar, that felt like I was in Soho in N.Y.C.


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