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5 Top Sites in Lucca

5 sites

VISITING LUCCA FOR THE FIRST TIME? Don’t miss these 5 top sites:

TOP SITE #1. The city’s park-topped, Renaissance walls — aka, le mura.  

Rent a bike or go on foot: every meter of this 4.2 kilometer walk encircling the city is a pleasure for the senses.  Look out onto vistas of the city or the mountains beyond.  Admire bronze sculptures from around the world.  People watch couples on their passeggiata (daily walk), see families reconnecting as they peddle buggies, folks relaxing in the shade of hundreds year old trees, and joggers pushing themselves into shape.  Scope out what you’ll be seeing next…

Top 5 sites Lucca
Top among visitors & locals alike: the tree-lined walkway on Lucca’s walls with a bird’s eye view of the city’s beauty & is never more than 5 minutes from anyplace inside the walls.

TOP SITE #2.   The Church of San Michele in Foro

Admire the facade of the 13th century Church of San Michele set on the site of Lucca’s Roman forum. Look carefully at busts that decorate the tops of the columns: not all are original to the church — not all are even saints!

top 5 sites lucca
There are jewels up there… or so the legend goes. There are also definitely some heads of political and cultural figures that aren’t original to the facade. Can you find them?

TOP SITE #3:  The Torre Guinigi

Rise to the top: climb the 230 steps to the top of the Torre Guinigi & be cooled by the shade of its trademark trees as you take in the magnificent 360 degree view of the city and beyond.  The tower is part of a palace built by one of the city’s wealthiest signori, an international businessman, patron of the arts & leader of the independent Republic of Lucca who died in 1432.  His lovely villa (or country estate) was just outside the city’s medieval walls.  It is now a national museum worth a visit for its architecture. 

Top 5 sites Lucca
The tree-topped tower of the prominent Guinigi family makes a terrific outing, especially if you have energetic kids in tow.

TOP SITE #4.   The Cathedral of San Martino

It may look lopsided on the outside, but don’t discount this Duomo — there are treasures within.   Most beautiful is the tomb of Ilaria del Carretto — the young wife of the city’s leading citizen, Paolo Guinigi, who died in childbirth.  The tomb is his tribute to his love for her.  It’s a striking contrast to the frightening countenance of the Volto Santo (Holy Face) which stares down at visitors from a massive cross within a wrought iron gazebo.  The Volto Santo is said to have been carved by an eye-witness to Jesus’ crucifixion, Nicodemus.  The cross arrived in Lucca on an unmanned boat in the river Serchio.  It has been performing miracles for believers ever since — hence the golden crown, robes, shoes, and countless other tributes that surround the ebony and ivory figure — all are gifts from the grateful.   If you time your visit well, you can see an impressive candlelight procession  for the feast of the Volto Santo on the evening of September 13th, which attracts Lucchese pilgrims from around the world.

Top 5 sites Lucca
Candles illuminate San Martino and buildings along the procession route for the feast of the Volto Santo.

TOP SITE #5:  The Church of San Frediano

Look up at the gilded facade of this simply lovely 13th century basilica.  The eyes of Jesus seem to follow visitors as they enter and leave thanks to the architect’s tilting out of the upper portion of the mosaic–an early way to simulate perspective.  Yet the wonders of  San Frediano don’t stop there. Its simple interior is true to Romanesque style.  There you’ll find masterworks by Jacopo della Quercia, a baptistry font attributed to Andrea Pisano, and a beautiful lunette by Della Robbia.   A garden bursts into bloom in the piazza of San Frediano and the nearby Piazza dell’Anfiteatro (once the Roman amphitheater) during the week before April 27.  It celebrates the feast day of Saint Zita who lived just blocks away from the church. Don’t miss this beautiful holiday if you’re nearby!

Top 5 sites Lucca
Fireworks sparkle against the mosaic facade of San Frediano during the Feast of Santa Zita.

 

Narcissus, known as the flowers of Saint Zita, are everywhere for her feast day, as are flowers and fruit of all kinds.

Lucca's Top 5 sites in one dayLucca's 5 top sites in one day

 

So there you have them: the 5 Top Sites to visit in historic Lucca…

Check them out and let us know what you think.  Photos and reader contributions are always welcome.  Contact Us