Lucca

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Welcome to Lucca

Small yet elegant, Lucca has always been considered the fashionable corner of Tuscany; it always is on the top of the list when naming the cities with a high quality of living. Thus it is an excellent choice when looking for a place to base yourself for the holidays, from here you can explore all of Tuscany…and beyond. Snug within it’s splendid antique walls, Lucca enchants its visitors with it’s numerous little squares and characteristic churches, starting with the Gothic style cathedral of San Martino.

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Piazza Anfiteatro

Piazza Anfiteatro - Lucca

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The Piazza dell’Anfiteatro is a large square in the center of historic Lucca.

As the name suggests, it was once the site of a Roman amphitheatre, one that was built in the first century and could hold up to 10,000 people.

The remains of that structure now lie more than nine feet underground, but the oval shape of the piazza is a direct result of the outline of the amphitheatre.

The Piazza dell’Anfiteatro was built in 1830 by demolishing some buildings that had been constructed in the space. It became the site of the town’s market, and is the heart of the old city today.

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Torre Guinigi

Guinigi Tower , Lucca

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There are a few historic towers inside Lucca’s city walls, but the most famous is the Guinigi Tower, which was built in the late 14th century as the place where a family of silk merchants lived and worked.

At one time, Lucca had more than 200 such tower homes, but today there are only nine left.

The Guinigi family once ruled Lucca, and the family’s modern descendants bequeathed the tower to the city.

The Guinigi Tower is particularly notable for its impressive rooftop garden.

The garden dates from at least the early 17th century, and today has several ancient Holm oak trees growing there. The rooftop garden was renovated in the 1980s and is open to the public.

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Lucca Cathedral (Duomo di Lucca)

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The main church in Lucca is its cathedral, the Duomo di Lucca, built in the 11th century.

The structure stands at one side of the Piazza San Martino, and inside, visitors will find the most revered relic in town: the Holy Face of Lucca (Volto Santo).

This wooden cross is said to have been carved by Nicodemus, and although the one on display is a 13th-century copy, it’s no less important to the church or town. There are two times each year when the Volto Santo is celebrated, dressed in special vestments in the cathedral.

The church was rebuilt in the 14th century, although the campanile (bell tower) from the original structure remains, which is why one arch is quite a bit smaller than the other.

Other points of interest inside the Duomo are paintings by Ghirlandaio and Tintoretto, as well as the 15th-century tomb of Ilaria del Carretto of the Guinigi family. There is a museum in the cathedral as well.

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Via Fillungo

Via Fillungo

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The main thoroughfare running through historic Lucca is Via Fillungo, one of the liveliest streets in town. It stretches from the Porta dei Borghi (one of the ancient gates in Lucca’s pristine city walls) to Canto d’Arco. The street is lined with shops and cafes, making it a magnet for tourist activity as well as for locals.
 
Some of the attractions along this pretty street include the 11th-century Church of San Cristoforo and Palazzo Manzi. The famous clock tower is not far away, and from the top of that tower you get an excellent view down Via Fillungo.

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Puccini Museum

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Giacomo Puccini was a great Italian musician from the city of Lucca in Tuscany.He was the last in a long line of musicians in his family.
The house he was raised in held a special place in his heart, and he always made sure it remained in the family.
Today this restored house is the Puccini Museum. The displays include photographs, opera costumes and librettos, drafts, and other rare documents from Puccini’s life. Visitors can also see the costume of Turandot, which was worn by Maria Jeritza at the Metropolitan Opera House of New York in 1926.
The museum also contains original furniture from when Puccini and his family lived there. You will also see awards the musician won, including the Messa a Quattro Voci from 1880 and Il Capriccio Sinfonico from 1883. There is also a collection of letters written by Giacomo Puccini, his wife Elvira, his son Antonio, and his publisher, Giulio Ricordi.

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San Michele in Foro

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San Michele in Foro takes its name from its location – the basilica was built over the site of Lucca’s ancient Roman forum.
The original church dates back to the eighth century, although the one seen today was built in the 11th century. The 13th-century facade is one of the highlights of the basilica, with its graceful arches and intricate carvings. It’s noted as one of the best examples of the Pisan Romanesque style, and – as a bonus – visitors can see an open staircase on the backside that climbs over the roof of the church.
 
By contrast, the church’s interior is more sedate and not very well-lit, although there is a painting by 15th-century master Filippino Lippi of Saints Helen, Jerome, Sebastian, and Roch. There is also a statue of the Madonna at the back of the church that was once on the facade.

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Torre delle Ore

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The Torre delle Ore in Lucca, otherwise known as the Clock Tower, is the city’s tallest tower, dating back to the 13th century, although the clock that gave the tower its identity was added in 1390. The clock mechanism itself has changed over the years, but the one you see today is from the 1750s. Bells in the tower chime each quarter hour.
 
This tower is historic, and also features in a local legend. A 17th-century woman who sold her soul to the devil in order to remain youthful is said to have tried to stop the clock from chiming when she was supposed to pay her debt. She didn’t reach the clock in time, and the devil collected her soul. She is said to haunt the tower still.
 

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Palazzo Pfenner

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Fire the romantic in you with a stroll around this beautiful 17th-century palace where parts of Portrait of a Lady (1996) starring Nicole Kidman and John Malkovich were shot.

Its baroque-styled garden – the only one of substance within the city walls – enchants with ornamental pond, lemon house and 18th-century statues of Greek gods posing between potted lemon trees. Summertime chamber music concerts hosted here are absolutely wonderful.

Climb the grand outdoor staircase to the frescoed and furnished piano nobile (main reception room), home to Felix Pfanner, an Austrian émigré who first brought beer to Italy – and brewed it in the mansion’s cellars from 1846 until 1929.

From the copperpots strung above the hearth in the kitchen to the dining-room table laid for lunch, the rooms vividly evoke daily life in an early-18th-century Lucchese palazzo (mansion).

Price

palace or garden adult/reduced €4.50/4, both €6/5

Hours

10am-6pm Apr-Nov

Contact

Location

Via degli Asili 33
Lucca, Italy

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Chiesa e Battistero dei SS Giovanni e Reparata

Chiesa e Battistero dei SS Giovanni e Reparata

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The 12th-century interior of this deconsecrated church is a hauntingly atmospheric setting for summertime opera recitals; buy tickets in advance inside the church.

In the north transept, the Gothic baptistry crowns an archaeological area comprising five building levels going back to the Roman period.

Don’t miss the hike up the red-brick bell tower.

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Museo Nazionale di Palazzo Mansi

Museo Nazionale di Palazzo Mansi

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This 16th-century mansion built for a wealthy Luccan merchant is a wonderful piece of rococo excess.

The private apartments are draped head to toe in tapestries, paintings and chintz. The elaborate, gilded bridal suite must have inspired such high jinks in its time.

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Museo Villa Puccini

Museo Villa Puccini

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In 1880 Puccini left Lucca to study at Milan’s music conservatory, returning after his studies to Tuscany to rent a lakeside house in Torre del Lago, 15km west of Lucca on the shore of Lago Massaciuccoli.

Nine years later he had a villa built on the same lakeshore, undertaking the Liberty-style interior decoration himself. The villa has been preserved almost exactly as it was during Puccini’s residence and is hence fascinating to visit (by guided tour every 40 minutes).

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Villa Reale

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Elisa Bonaparte, Napoleon’s sister and short-lived ruler of Tuscany, once lived in handsome Villa Reale, 7km north of Lucca in Marlia.

The house isn’t open to the public, but the statuary-filled gardens can be visited.

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Lucca Centre of Contemporary Art

Lucca Centre of Contemporary Art

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Lucca’s contemporary art museum hosts some riveting contemporary art exhibitions; check its website for details.

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Villa Grabau

Villa Grabau

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Neoclassical Villa Grabau, just north of Lucca in San Pancrazio, sits among a vast parkland with sweeping traditional English- and Italian-styled gardens, splashing fountains, more than 100 terracotta pots with lemon trees and a postcard-pretty lemon house – host to fashion shows, concerts and the like – dating from the 17th century.

It even has a clutch of self-catering properties to rent in its grounds should you happen to fall in love with the estate. Guided villa and garden visits last 45 minutes.

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Villa Oliva

Villa Oliva

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In San Pancrazio, the gardens of Villa Oliva, a 15th-century country residence designed by Lucchesi architect Matteo Civitali, demand a springtime stroll.

Retaining its original design, the fountain-rich park staggers across three levels and includes a romantic cypress alley and stables reckoned to be even more beautiful than those at Versailles.

Watch out for concerts held here.

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Lucca’s monumental mura (wall) was built around the old city in the 16th and 17th centuries and remains in almost perfect condition.

It superceded two previous walls, the first built from travertine stone blocks as early as the 2nd century BC. Twelve metres high and 4.2km long, today’s ramparts are crowned with a tree-lined footpath looking down on the centro storico and out towards the Apuane Alps.

This path is a favourite location for the locals’ daily passeggiata (traditional evening stroll).

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Food & Drink

Tordelli Lucca

Villa Bongi | Tuscan

Ristorante Il Giglio | Tuscan

Da Felice | Top choice Pizza in Lucca

La Pecora Nera | Trattoria in Lucca

Buca di Sant’Antonio | Tuscan

Trattoria da Leo | Trattoria

Forno Amedeo Giusti | Bakery

Cantine Bernardini 1586 | Tuscan

Grom | Gelateria

Port Ellen Clan | Tuscan

Local Food Market | Deli

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