The Charming Town of Lucca
Lucca is one of those Tuscan towns you should visit on your vacation in Italy. You might choose to stay there or nearby to use it as a base for exploring the region but, even if you don't, you can still visit it on a day trip. Lucca is famous for its Renaissance-era city walls that have remained intact while so many other Tuscan towns saw theirs destroyed in past centuries. Lucca is located on a plain at the foot of the Apuan Alps and is less than half an hour from the Tuscan coast. Since it isn't a hilltop village, it is ideal for anyone with mobility issues as well as for anyone wishing to take a break from climbing ;).
Lucca is very easy to reach both by car as well as train from both Pisa and Florence, making it perfect for anyone getting around solely on public transportation. The train station is right outside the southern walls, with an entrance below the balcony of San Colombano that brings you right behind Lucca's cathedral and into the heart of the small walled town.
What to See
Most of the attractions in Lucca today show its ancient history: from the trace of the Roman amphiteater that can be seen in the shape of the Piazza dell'Anfiteatro to the archeological remains under the 12th century church of Saints Giovanni and Reparata (the first city cathedral, located just around the corner from the present-day cathedral of San Martino), to the various towers and villas from the 12th to 16th centuries.
Extraordinarily, as the city grew and modernized, the walls that surrounded the old town were maintained which was not the case for many other cities in Tuscany, including Florence. As the walls lost their military importance, the top of the walls became a pedestrian promenade, today one of Lucca's main attractions. The area around the walls is well taken care of, with green grass and trees everywhere along the walls. They have in essence become a park that surrounds the city and blocks out more modern life. Here you can enjoy a bike ride around the entire perimeter, a stroll as you enjoy a gelato or simply a period of rest from sightseeing on one of the many shaded benches that line the main walkway. From here, you can enjoy beautiful views over the town and if you're traveling with children, you'll also find a few playgrounds where they can spend some time playing.
Another must stop for visitors is the Cathedral of St. Martin with its precious relic of the Volto Santo di Lucca, or Sacred Countenance. Traditional legend says the wood crucifix with the image of Christ was carved by Nicodemus, a disciple of Christ, and the sacred cross was miraculously conveyed to Lucca in 782.
Other top attractions include the Piazza of San Michele with its beautiful Church of San Michele in Foro, the Basilica of San Frediano as well as the Clock Tower and Guinigi Tower, to name just a few.
How to Get There
If you use Lucca as a base during your visit to Tuscany, you can easily visit the area using the train. Lucca is along the train line that connects Florence to Montecatini Terme and then on to Lucca before the railway joins the north-south line bound either south toward Pisa or north toward La Spezia, along the Versilia and Tuscan sea coast. You can also use the train to head into the Garfagnana, the valley that runs along the Apuan Alps and perfect starting point for hiking in the mountains.
Useful Things to Know
Lucca Itinera, the tourism office for the city, offers both baggage deposit services near the main train station as well as near the old city gate called San Donato. They also offer bike rentals!
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