Lucca, an ancient town in Tuscany is a fascinating place full of history, romance and stunning architecture. Founded in 180 BC as a Roman colony, you only have to walk mere metres before seeing the history unfold within the buildings and statues here.
What sets this town apart from many others is that it is hidden away from the outside world. It is encircled by ‘The Ramparts’ – large walls surrounding the entire town, which were built in the 16th-17th Centuries to shut out traffic. This means that the town is a calming place to explore by foot.
If you happen to be in nearby cities such as Pisa or Florence, then you can easily travel to Lucca by train. (I’d highly recommend public transport versus driving – not just as there is less stress involved but also because Lucca was adapted to decrease the number of cars coming in – you wouldn’t want to upset that status quo now, would you)?
I managed to squeeze in visits to both Lucca and Pisa on the same day using the train. Pisa to Lucca takes just 40 minutes and Florence is also a quick trip from Lucca at less than 2 hours by train. My trip to Italy proved to me just how sophisticated Italy’s vast rail network is, and definitely something I’ll be writing about in an upcoming blog soon. Until then, I’ll leave you safe with the knowledge that you can book your rail tickets for Italian adventures here.
Once leaving the train station, the main town of Lucca is just a few minutes walk – you can’t miss those Ramparts! There are several entrances into Lucca, which are built into the Ramparts themselves. In aid of staying off the beaten track, I found a more secluded entrance, which was really interesting to walk through and made it feel like I was discovering a hidden secret within this beautiful country.
Lucca is quite small in size so it is possible to see all that it has to offer in just 1 or 2 days. I only had the afternoon myself, so I visited the main sites of Piazza San Martino, Piazza Napoleone, Anfiteatro Romano and of course a walk along the Ramparts.
Piazza San Martino
The picturesque San Martino Cathedral is one of the first landmarks you see when walking from the railway side of the town, and it is not one to be missed. I thought part of the building was akin to the striking Doge’s Palace found in Venice. And yet San Martino still had its own Pisan-Romanesque style architecture found in buildings throughout Lucca.
Once you’ve explored all there is to see at this beautiful Cathedral, take a relaxed stroll through the rambling streets to find Piazza Napoleone.
The Piazza Napoleone is a sprawling square perfect for a spot of people watching and admiring the beautiful buildings surrounding the square. I took my time walking through here so that I could watch the locals and really get a feel for Lucca’s chilled vibe, before meandering on further within the walls of Lucca.
Quite possibly the most iconic images of Lucca are shot within the Anfiteatro, so it was certainly somewhere to stop and admire. What struck me most when I got here was how large the squares are in Lucca, but also how unspoiled they are. There was no graffiti, no litter, no pigeons – just a row of traditional buildings circling the square. I’d say the Anfiteatro is very inviting to entice you to take a peek within some of the archways you can see here, which is just what I did…
I found myself at the foot of a set of stone steps. I found out a few moments later that this was just one of many entrances up to The Ramparts; offering stunning scenery, perfect views all around and a calming stroll back to the rail station.
My visit to Lucca was in early September, so I think it’s safe to say that I definitely wasn’t visiting during Italy’s high season. This meant that there were very little tourists around, which allowed me to truly unwind during my Rampart Ramble. Again, this part of Lucca was so unspoiled and with every tree I passed, I was reminded of how beautiful this town really is.
I was so caught up in my thoughts that I hadn’t noticed it beginning to rain…until the heavens positively opened! I had to dive for cover as I was without an umbrella or coat. But this didn’t impede my Luccan experience as it meant I could continue to marvel at the beauty of all that Lucca has to offer, even if I was cowering under trees!
Have you been to Lucca? What did you make of it? Where else would you recommend for travellers to visit in Lucca, or even in the rest of Tuscany? Jot a few notes in the comments…
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