Written by Ilenia Bagneschi
The visit can start with Walls of Lucca, built in the sixteenth century and used as an urban park in the nineteenth century, enclose the historic center and passed the real symbol of the city recognized for its particularity worldwide. To preserve intact until today, the Walls of Lucca are considered an active resource for citizens who, along the 4 km, live their free time in the shade of ancient trees.
Visible from the walls, the Guinigi Tower stands out above the city roofs, a famous tree-lined tower built around 1390 by the powerful Guinigi family from Lucca, and the Torre delle Ore dating back to medieval times.
Bicycle is the best mean of transport for getting around Lucca: other than being eco-friendly, it is the ideal way for nimbly moving through the foot traffic around the old city center's tiny streets without the risk of driving into a limited traffic area.
As you cross the walls into the city, you enter the heart of the town and what is commonly referred to as the city of one hundred churches for the large number of religious buildings which represent marvellous examples of architectural Italian styles. Since you’ll hardly be able to visit them all in just one day, I suggest you focus on the cathedral, what is commonly referred to as “Il Duomo” in every town and on St. Michael's Church.
To get to the cathedral of St. Martin, located in the square of the same name, just pass through the wall closest to the train station. The Duomo is home to some of the most beautiful art masterpieces, such as Ilaria del Carretto’s Tomb by Jacopo della Quercia and the Volto Santo (a wooden crucifix of the Holy Face, ancient symbol of the city), from San Frediano Basilica.
St. Michael's Church, located in the square of the same name in the heart of the historic center, is set along the most famous street of Lucca, called Il Fillungo, where you’ll find all the most important and prestigious stores and shops in the city (a must if you're in the mood for shopping!).
From Fillungo, you get almost everywhere in the town center: a nice walk will lead you to the discovery of Lucca's most charming spots and places you can’t absolutely miss, including Piazza dell’Anfiteatro or the Amphitheatre Square, a true jewel from Roman times.
As you stand inside the oval square, you can clearly see the buildings were built around the original elliptical structure typical of Roman amphitheatres long ago. While the amphitheater no longer exists, the square has maintained its particular shape and takes us back in time to when the Roman colony sat here. Many local restaurants and shops look onto the square where, especially during Summer, events and concerts usually take place.
Coming out from the amphitheater, you may walk toward the famous Torre Guinigi standing nearby — the one you may have already noticed because of the trees at the very top.
Although it stands out over other city center buildings, you can't use it as a point of reference since all the narrow streets here are surrounded by historic buildings (which are home to antique shops, of traditional arts and crafts).
The roof garden is a popular attraction and was built when the Guinigi family sought to create a garden as symbol of the town's rebirth while under their control.
A short break in Piazza Napoleone - commonly known as Piazza Grande - before leaving the center could be a nice idea. This is especially true during Christmas time: if you love skating, you should try skating around the ice rink set up for the entertainment of children and grown-ups alike! This square has always been a point of reference for Lucca's inhabitants, its name comes from the restructuring efforts that Elisa Bonaparte ordered to pay homage to her brother Napoleon.
If you are fond of museums, I strongly suggest you visit the National Art Gallery situated in the seventeenth-century Palazzo Mansi, where you’ll find renowned Italian artists works, especially from the Renaissance period.
If you get tired or hungry after walking along the streets of Lucca, a short stop at one of the many shops that make and sell the famous “buccellato” (a semi-sweet bread with raisins) would be the perfect occasion to rest and taste one of the most typical products of Lucca.