Tempted by a break to Italy? Earlier this year Laurel travelled to the picturesque city of Lucca, where she enrolled on our beginner’s Italian course. While studying, she got to know the city very well and in this post shares her top tips for visiting ‘The Jewel of Tuscany’.
Relatively unspoilt by tourism, this classic Renaissance city is almost dreamlike. Functioning as an independent republic for nearly 500 years, evidence of its autonomy is still apparent today, both in the structure of the city and in the pride of the Lucchesi people. Located just 48 miles west of Florence and a short 11 miles from Pisa, Lucca is easily accessed by air, bus, or train. Lucca is overflowing with things to see, do, and eat. Check out our top five suggestions below.
1. Eat at Pizzeria de Felice
De Felice is hands down the best pizzeria in Lucca. Located just a few meters from the Piazza San Michele, this family run business has been a Lucchesi favorite for over a century. Available by the slice, you can choose from margherita, salami, prosciutto, or sausage. You will truly notice a difference in quality from other local pizza joints. The stuffed focaccia, which is heated in the large oven right in front of you, also come highly recommended. Please note that while the restaurant is crowded around mealtimes, the queue moves very quickly.
2. Visit the Torre Guinigi and its Rooftop Garden
Originally built as a status symbol by the Guinigi family in the 14th century, today this picturesque tower is open to the public. Climb the 230 stairs and you’ll be rewarded with the best view in Lucca. While the Romanesque-Gothic architecture is lovely, the Torre Guinigi is most famous for its rooftop garden, which boasts several lush Holm oaks. It’s easy to pass as much as an hour up top, as every angle provides a breathtaking vista of Lucca and its environs.
3. Learn Italian in the Heart of Tuscany
Though hotly debated, it’s generally accepted that the Tuscan accent is the easiest to understand. Learning Italian in a small city like Lucca allows you to fully immerse yourself in the language and authentic local culture. The Lucchesi are always patient and happy to help you practice. Whether it’s private lessons, intensive class, or a combination of the two, you can learn Italian in an ideal environment. Small class sizes and experienced native teachers create a dynamic learning environment where both beginner and advanced students can excel.
4. Watch a Puccini Concert
Looking for an evening activity in Lucca? It doesn’t get more authentic than seeing a Puccini concert. Born within the city walls in 1858, this world renowned composer was proud to call himself Lucchesi. Every single night of the year, you can see a live Puccini concert in the San Giovanni Basilica at 7pm. The music and performers are different every evening, but there’s always a good dose of Puccini originals mixed in with similar composers. You’re likely to hear pieces from “Tosca”, “La Boheme”, and “Madama Butterfly”. Tickets are just €20 and can be purchased at the door or online.
5. Walk on the City Walls of Lucca
Dating back to the 16th century, these commanding Renaissance walls first served as a means of protection. Since 1799 they have been as a charming space open to the public. Measuring 4.3 km (2.7 miles) in circumference, one leisurely loop around provides outstanding views of the rolling Tuscan hills and easy access to the city. This is also a popular spot for cyclists, dog walkers, and runners. There are several shops within the perimeter where you can rents bikes by the hour.
About the Author:
Before becoming a freelance writer, Laurel worked as an English language teacher in South Korea, Nepal, and Turkey. She then lived in Istanbul for three years, writing about the city professionally. Since October 2016, she’s been living the digital nomad lifestyle, house sitting around the world, and overstaying her welcome on friends’ couches in between. She chronicles these adventures on her blog and Instagram account.