Lucca is a city in the Tuscany region of central Italy. Tuscany’s best-kept secret is situated just northwest of Florence and a few kilometers away from Pisa. Abundant with piazzas, churches, art galleries and narrow streets of cobbled pavements, the culturally rich Lucca is definitely a destination you should put on your list of places to go to.
The city is one of the major attractions in this region. It is famous for the stunning Lucca’s Walls, one of the most well-preserved ramparts in Italy, enclosing the historically significant city. The once defensive and military structure is now a pedestrian promenade where people can walk or ride a bike while wandering and admiring the charming city that was once described as "overflowing with everything that makes for ease, for plenty, for beauty, for interest and good example" by notable writer Henry James. To experience Lucca, take time to stroll along Piazza San Michele in Foro, the city’s heart where locals and tourists meet and mingle. Once the site of a Roman forum, the square features some of the most important Roman architecture in history. The majestic Renaissance façade, with its work of art columns and busts, and the astounding 800-year-old Romanesque Church of San Michele, which features a statue of the archangel with retractable wings, are two of the most remarkable buildings you must see. Piazza dell’ Anfitteatro is another lively plaza you might want to check out. It is an ancient Roman amphitheater, hence its oval shape.
Duomo di San Martino or St. Martin’s Cathedral (or simply Lucca cathedral) in Piazza San Martino is a Romanesque church with a Gothic-style bell tower. Aside from the fact that it was built by the most famous Luccan sculptor during early Renaissance Matteo Civitali, it also houses the most important religious relic in Lucca, the Holy Face of Lucca or Volto Santo di Lucca, an image of Christ carved by Nicodemus and a Jacopo della Quercia masterpiece, the
15th century grave of Ilaria del Carretto. San Frediano Church is another remarkable church worthy of your visit. The marvelous 13th century Byzantine mosaic decorating its façade and the mummified body of Santa Zita are among the interesting things you might want to view.
Take a glimpse of Lucca’s exhilarating landscape from above by visiting Villa Guinigi and climbing up its more than 100 steps to get to its tower. The 14th century Guinigi Tower provides access to picture-perfect views of the whole city. You can identify it by the oak tree on its top. Villa Guinigi National Museum is also worth visiting with its extensive collection of Romanesque, Renaissance and Gothic artworks and artifacts from the pre-historic era through to the 17th century. Palazzo Mansi Museum in a Luccan merchant’s mansion Palazzo Mansi, on the other hand, contains paintings, frescos and tapestries. Another notable palazzo to visit is the Palazzo Pfanner with its lovely gardens and exhibits of ancient medical texts and instruments that belonged to the owner of the house, Dr. Pietro Pfanner, a surgeon and Lucca’s mayor from 1920 until 1922.
You might also want to take a tour north of Lucca to feast your eyes on the beautiful Villas of Lucca, a line of grand villas and lovely gardens open to the public. At the end of the tour, you can visit Collodi, a Tuscan village where Pinocchio’s author Carlo Lorenzini’s mother was born. His pen name was Carlo Collodi. Here, you can find the Pinocchio Park of Collodi or Il Parco di Pinocchio a Collodi. It is an old-fashioned park of sculptures, mosaics, puppet shows and a museum that tells Collodi’s version of Pinocchio’s story. Across this park is the 17th century Villa Garzoni. Noted for its impressive water garden or giochi d’aqua with a set of grand symmetrical staircases, the villa is a spectacular sight. You might also want to take a peek at the botanical garden Orto Botanico Comunale di Lucca in Via del Giardino Botanico. It contains a greenhouse, botanical school and herbarium.
Puccini House Museum is another must-visit in Torre del Lago, Lucca. The restored home of the famous opera composer Giacomo Puccini is now open to the public. The museum includes his piano, some musical scores from his operas and other fascinating memorabilia. You can also find his bronze statue near the museum. The Festival Puccini is held annually.