Lucca – Tuscany’s best kept secret

Being very close to Pisa (40-50 kms), Lucca was also a destination in our 3-day trip to Tuscany, the primary goal of which was visiting Le Cinque Terre.

Lucca is claimed to be Tuscany’s best kept secret – a place which is less touristic than Pisa, but featuring many and truly beautiful medieval buildings, small streets, spacious squares, cute little shops. Moreover, it’s a perfect place to visit with small kids – the old town is mostly pedestrian, very green and peaceful, with many gardens and places for relaxation. As you can guess, it was flooded with bikers too!

Bikers rule the town streets 🙂

An interesting fact in the history of Lucca is it became a wealthy town due to its monopoly on the production of silk underwear. I didn’t see evidences that this business continued thriving (not at least in the shops I checked ;), but the food industry definitely is. You could see olive oil and different Lucca-originating pasta sold on many stands throughout the town.

Parking just outside the old town, we passed through Le Mura di Lucca (Lucca Walls) – the city park built just outside the walls. Simply amazing. A perfect place to stroll, jog, bike..and eat an ice cream from those bike-supported ice cream stands! There are several kids playgrounds, and you get an amazing view to the city architecture.

Le Mura di Lucca – one of the walking alleys next to the city walls

Biking gelateria in Le Mura park

The city walls were huge, they are comprised of more than 6 million bricks! It took 100 years to build the walls in the 16th century, and in 19th they were completely restored. Exactly because of these walls the modernization and expansion of the city did not affect the old town, and it is now an authentic and peaceful place to enjoy.

Once inside the old city, we got overwhelmed by lovely small streets, with churches (97 total!), squares and monuments round every corner.

One of the 97 churches in Lucca

The center of the old city is an oval square – piazza Anfiteatro – which once used to be a Roman amphitheater. Now it’s full of cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops.

Piazza Anfiteatro

Quite impressive is the church of San Michele in Foro – called ‘in Foro’ because it was built on the site of the ancient Roman forum in Lucca (Roman forum = central place in a Roman city). It was started in 11th century and finished in 14th, and has a marvelous marble exterior.

San Michele in foro church

The church square is another major gathering place, featuring wonderful cafes, gelaterias and stands selling all kinds of tourist stuff.

Card-selling stand in the piazza of San Michele in foro. The bikes are there too, of course.

A nice attraction which we passed by but didn’t have time to visit was the Guinigi Tower – a tower famous for its oak tree growing on top. From this tower, as well as from the Clock tower, you can enjoy a complete view on the city of Lucca.

While strolling the streets of Lucca we passed by many churches, medieval houses, lovely gardens and shadowy piazzas. We didn’t enter most, just enjoyed walking around in a peaceful and relaxed city which still preserved its medieval spirit. With not many tourists (some streets were entirely barren), you simply dive into an atmosphere of centuries ago.

One of the many small and pleasantly-shadowy piazzas in Lucca

Colorful small streets with restaurants and cafes are abundant in Lucca

Lucca is definitely the most peacefully-beautiful place I’ve enjoyed in Italy. Well worth a visit. And a true paradise for a visit with kids..and bikes!

Next on my blog comes — the Cinque Terre, the Five Lands I had dreamed visiting for many years. Stay tuned!

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