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How to Spend the Perfect One Day in Lucca, Italy (2024)

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Are you planning to spend one day in Lucca? We are sharing the perfect itinerary in this guide.

Lucca is a medieval town tucked away in northern Tuscany between the Apuan Alps and Tuscan hills. It is known as the “City of 100 Churches” and is brimming with delicious restaurants, historical sites, and Tuscan charm.

Often overshadowed by its popular neighbors – Florence, Pisa, and Cinque Terre – Lucca is an underrated destination and is well worth a visit, even just for a day.

We spent some time in Lucca on our recent trip to Tuscany and loved the authentic and local feel of this rustic town. In this guide, we are sharing our tips for visiting Lucca, including the top attractions, food recommendations, hotels, and other tips to help you plan the perfect day.

One Day in Lucca Itinerary

Walk or Bike around Lucca’s city walls

Lucca’s historic center is completely surrounded by 4.2km (2.6 miles) of Renaissance city walls.

The walls were originally built as a military defense to protect the city from invaders; however, nowadays, they are used for recreational purposes.

We recommend starting your day in Lucca by either walking or biking around the walls. You can rent bikes at the tourist center, which is located near Porta San Pietro, one of the city’s main gates. They have bikes available to rent by the hour for an affordable price.

A word of warning: The path on the walls gets crowded during peak travel season (June to September). We are experienced cyclers and while the experience was incredible, it was a bit chaotic. Be prepared to dodge other cyclers and groups of people walking.

We rented bikes for an hour and went around the walls twice. It took us about 20-30 minutes to go around each time.

If you prefer to walk, it’ll take you about an hour to get all the way around. You can also walk a small section of the walls instead.

This Bike and Food Tour takes you on a half-day adventure through Lucca’s old town and historic walls with a guide.

Visit the Lucca Cathedral

Make your way into the center of Lucca to visit the Duomo di Lucca, also known as San Martino Cathedral. The church dates back to the 11th century and is a beautiful example of Romanesque architecture.

Take a peek inside and admire the frescoed ceilings. You can also purchase tickets to visit ancient Roman ruins and a history museum dedicated to the church.

Additionally, there is a bell tower attached to the church that you can climb up. However, we suggest skipping this, as you will be going up another tower later in the day.

Practical Information: The Duomo di Lucca is open Monday to Friday from 9:30am-5:00pm. Saturday from 12:00pm – 4:00pm. Sunday from 12:00pm to 6:00pm. The museum, bell tower, and Roman archaeological site are open Monday to Friday from 10:00am – 5:00pm and weekends from 10:00am – 6:00pm.

Ticket prices vary. It costs €3 to visit the cathedral but if you want to visit the museum and climb the bell tower, it’s a total of €10. For all prices and opening hours, visit the official website.

Church of San Michele in Foro

Make your way to the Church of San Michele in Foro, stopping at Piazza Napoleone along the way.

San Michele in Foro is located in the Piazza San Michele, which is built over an ancient Roman Forum. This Romanesque-style church dates back to the 8th century but was rebuilt in the 11th century.

Take a few minutes to visit the interior of the church. Don’t be surprised when you see a mummy on display in a glass case.

This is the mummy of San Davino, an Armenian pilgrim who died around the year 1050 in Lucca. The body was naturally mummified and has been preserved inside of the church for centuries.

Tip: Pop into Buccellato Taddeucci, located in Piazza San Michele near the cathedral. Buy a loaf of sweet bread called Buccellato di Lucca to snack on throughout the day. It’s made with orange zest, anise seed, and raisins. We loved it so much that we tried replicating it back at home!

Torre Guinigi

Torre Guinigi is one of the most unique towers in Italy. Dating back to the 14th century, this Medieval tower has a grove of oak trees at the very top.

No one knows exactly why or when the trees were planted here, but nonetheless, it’s a pretty cool feature.

Named after the influential Guinigi family, the tower is a symbol of the family’s wealth and influence. They were rulers over Lucca during the Middle Ages and earned their wealth during the prosperous silk trade at the time.

Climb up the125-foot tower for breathtaking views of Lucca, with the picturesque Apuan Alps in the distance. Even though its 230 steps to reach the top, the panoramic views are worth it!

Practical Information: Tickets cost €6 per person. Reserve tickets online in advance during the high season (June to September).

Lunch

For lunch, we suggest making a reservation at L’Angolo Tondo, located in the Piazza dell’anfiteatro. With a variety of pasta, like homemade tortellini and risotto, and incredible meat dishes, you can’t go wrong here.

Make a reservation in advance if you plan to eat here.

A quicker alternative for lunch is Ciacco. This gourmet sandwich shop, located in Piazza Napoleone, makes incredible paninis.

Pizzeria SUD is a good option if you’re craving pizza.

Piazza dell’anfiteatro

Amphitheater Square, or Piazza dell’anfiteatro in Italian, is bustling with life. Colorful buildings outline this unique oval-shaped piazza. Cafes are filled with both tourists and locals enjoying a delicious meal or afternoon drink.

It’s hard to imagine that this used to the the site of an ancient 1st-century Roman Amphitheater. Picture scenes of gladiator battles, Roman games, and other performances that once took place in this very spot. 2,000 years of history all at once.

As you walk into the piazza, notice the archways that frame the entrance. These would have been part of the ancient arena.

Walk around and take in the scene. We suggest coming back later in the evening for aperitivo and some people watching.

Palazzo Pfanner

Photo credit: frankix from Getty Images Pro

If you are visiting Lucca between April and November, then a visit to the Palazzo Pfanner is a must.

This 17th century palace was originally built buy wealthy silk merchants in the mid-1600s. Overtime the palace was bought and sold to various owners until the Pfanner’s, a brewing family from Germany purchased it in the 19th century.

The palace remains within the Pfanner family to this day. You can visit both the interiors and gardens of the palace.

Since this is also a family residence, not all rooms are on display to the public.

The gardens are particularly beautiful, especially on a warm summer day.

Tip: The family rents out several apartments inside of the palace for holiday stays. Find out amore information at the official website.

Practical Information: The palace and gardens are open between April and November from 10:00am – 6:00pm. Prices for both the garden and palace cost €6.50 per person. For up-to-date hours and prices, visit the official website.

Basilica di San Frediano

Dating back to the 6th century, San Frediano Church is one of the oldest churches in Lucca. As you walk up to the church, take a closer look at the beautiful Byzantine mosaic on the front facade depicting the Ascencion of Christ.

The church’s interior has been rebuilt several times and what you see today is mainly from the Middle Ages. There are a couple noteworthy items worth checking out inside:

  • Baptismal Font: This 12th century baptismal font, located near the entrance, is a true Romanesque Masterpiece. Notice the carvings at the base of the font, which depict “The Story of Moses.”
  • Mummy: This is the mummy of an Incorruptible Saint, St. Zita. She died in the year 1272 and was naturally mummified.

Wander around the old town

Spend some time wandering around the quaint Tuscan streets of Lucca. Grab a gelato or shop at some local boutiques.

Via Fillunga is the main shopping street that crosses through the historic center.

Visit a few more churches, such as Chiesa di San Francesco or Santa Maria Corteorlandini.

If you’re visiting on the 3rd Saturday or Sunday of the month, there is a huge antique market that takes place around the city’s squares, such as Piazza Napoleone. It’s considered one of the best flea markets in Tuscany.

We explored some of the market stalls during our day trip to Lucca and enjoyed looking at all of the old furniture and homewares. If only I had a home in Tuscany!

More time in Lucca?

If you’re left with some extra time at the end of your day and you’d like to see a few more sites, we recommend these below:

Botanical Gardens

The botanical gardens were founded in the 19th century by Maria Luisa. Walk around and explore the greenhouses, pond, and exotic flora and fauna.

Puccini museum

Puccini is one of Italy’s most celebrated opera composers and is from Lucca. The museum is located in his childhood home, where he was born in 1858.

Throughout the different exhibits in the museum, you can discover Puccini’s life through various objects, musical scores, and even his piano that he used to compose Turandot.

Opening hours and tickets: Full-price tickets cost €9. Opening hours vary throughout the year, make sure to double check online at the official website.

Aqueduct of Nottolini

Located on the opposite side of Lucca’s train station, just a 6-minute walk away, is the Aqueduct of Nottolini. This is a 3km (1.8 mile) long aqueduct that was built in the 19th century.

It was used to bring water into the city from the nearby hills. You can walk along the aqueduct and enjoy the views.

Dinner

For dinner, we recommend In Pasta. This is one of our favorite restaurant experiences in Tuscany.

The most memorable dish is the ravioli stuffed with ricotta and bread crumbs and topped with honey, pistachios, and lemon and orange zest – Ravioli di ricotta, grana e miele in burro agli agrumi.

Make sure to reserve a table in advance.

Of course, Lucca has plenty of fantastic options to choose from. Here are a few other restaurants we recommend:

  • Osteria dal Manzo | A small family-owned restaurant with a variety of pasta, meat, and fish dishes.
  • Trattoria da Giulio | One of the best places in Lucca to try a variety of traditional Lucchese dishes at a very reasonable price.
  • SottoSotto | A good restaurant with a variety of Tuscan dishes, such as Testaroli with pesto.
  • Ristorante Giglio | A one star Michelin restaurant serving a modern take on classic Italian dishes. If you’re looking for a more affordable Michelin-star restaurant experience, this is a great option.
  • Buca di Sant’Antonio | A Michelin guide restaurant, this fine dining establishment offers a delicious take on traditional cuisine.

Opt out of dinner at a restaurant and learn to cook your own pasta instead. This 3-hour, small group cooking class takes you into a local’s kitchen where you’ll learn how to prepare a couple of different pastas and tiramisu.

Map of One Day in Lucca

This map includes all of the best things to do in Lucca in a day, including restaurants and the top attractions.

To save the map to Google Maps on your phone or computer, click on the star next to the title. Once you do this, you’ll be able to find the map in your “saved maps” list on your phone.

To see a list of all the items on the map, click the box with arrow on the left. To enlarge the map, click the box on the right.

Is One day enough time in Lucca?

Yes, one day in Lucca is plenty of time to see the main sites, try some local food, and get a feel for this Tuscan town.

For a more laid-back and less touristy experience, you can make Lucca your base for a few days while you explore the surrounding area. Pisa, Cinque Terre, and Florence are all close and accessible by train.

When is the best time to visit Lucca?

Spring and fall are ideal times to visit Lucca. June to early September is peak travel season in Tuscany, so expect crowds and higher prices during this time.

Our visit to Lucca in mid-September was lovely. The weather was mild and there weren’t many tourists during this time.

Lucca hosts a huge music event during June and July, so the town is extra busy during these summer months. The Lucca Summer Festival is a concert series that brings in famous musicians – Ed Sheeran is performing at the event in 2024 – and people attend from around the globe.

How to Get Around Lucca

Lucca is small and you can reach everything on foot. Most of the sites are within a 3-8 minute walking distance from each other.

Additionally, the train station is only a 5-minute walk from the entrance gates into the city.

How to Get to Lucca

Lucca is located in northern Tuscany, 30 minutes from Pisa and 1.5 hours from Florence. The best way to get to Lucca is by train.

You can purchase train tickets in Italy either at the train station or online at Trenitalia.com. We always purchase our tickets for regional trains a day or two in advance and 3-weeks in advance for high-speed trains.

Pisa International Airport (PSA) is the closest airport in Tuscany for domestic European flights. Otherwise, Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP) is the closest for international flights.

Florence to Lucca

  • Train: The train journey from Florence to Lucca takes between 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 50 minutes. The faster train is a direct route, and the slower train has a stopover in Pisa.
  • Driving: Without traffic, the 79km drive from Florence takes about 1 hour on the A11 and E76. This route includes tolls.

Pisa to Lucca

  • Train: From Pisa, the direct train takes 30 minutes.
  • Driving: Pisa is only 29km from Lucca. The drive takes about 30 minutes without traffic and includes toll roads.

Cinque Terre to Lucca

  • Train: The closest major train station to the Cinque Terre is La Spezia Centrale. From here, the train ride takes between 1-2 hours with a stopover in Viareggio.
  • Driving: We do not recommend driving in Cinque Terre. However, if you are staying in La Spezia and driving to Lucca, the 77km journey should take between 50 minutes to 1 hour on a toll road.

Milan to Lucca

  • Train: The train journey from Milan is long. Depending on the route you book, it can take anywhere between 4-6 hours on average, with a stopover in Florence.
  • Driving: The drive from Milan to Lucca takes around 3 hours and is 280km. This route includes tolls.

Italy driving tip: If you are renting a car in Italy, make sure to bring some cash with you. We have had issues paying for gas with our debit and credit cards in Italy and so have other travelers that we know.

We always have cash on hand just in case the gas station doesn’t accept our card.

Rent your car through Discover Cars – our go-to rental car company for Europe.

Where to stay In Lucca

Luxury hotel: Grand Universe Lucca, Autograph Collection | This gorgeous, modern hotel is located in central Lucca and offers modern rooms and amenities. Some rooms even have excellent views of the medieval towers.

Boutique hotel: Hotel Palazzo Alexander | Located in a historic palace, this hotel features classic Italian decor and old world charm. Modern amenities, such as WiFi and A/C, are included.

Budget hotel: L’Iris B&B in Terrazza | This cozy bed and breakfast features clean and simple rooms and is centrally located.

Mid-range hotel: Palazzo Rocchi B&B | This bed and breakfast is located in Piazza San Michele inside of an old palace. The rooms are grand with painted ceilings and colorful wallpaper. Some rooms even overlook the piazza.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do I need in Lucca?

You only need one day in Lucca to see the main sites. We recommend spending at least a night here to make the most of it.

Which is better Siena or Lucca?

Siena is more popular and more touristy than Lucca. I’ve been to both and Siena has more of a “wow” factor and Lucca feels more authentic.

Is Lucca too touristy?

Compared to other Tuscan cities, like Pisa, Siena, and Florence, Lucca is the least touristy of them all.

Can I do Pisa and Lucca in one day?

Technically, yes, you can see Pisa and Lucca in one day, but it will be rushed. It is possible to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa in the morning and then head straight to Lucca for the afternoon.

You won’t have time to see everything on this itinerary but if you have limited time, then it’s doable.

More Information for your Trip to Italy

ITALY TRAVEL PLANNING GUIDE

Italy Travel Insurance – Should you get travel insurance for Italy? YES! We always get travel insurance before all of our trips for peace of mind. Check out Travel Insurance Master to find the best plan for you.

Italy Rental Cars – Is it safe to rent a car in Italy? Yes! We’ve rented a car in Italy too many times to count, and it’s definitely the most convenient way to get around the countryside. We rented our car through Discover Cars (our go-to rental agency), which helps you find the best rates no matter where you are traveling.

Italy Phone Plans – If your phone plan does not offer free coverage in Italy, then we suggest getting an eSIM. We used Airalo during our trip to Italy, and we had fantastic coverage the entire time. It’s easy to download and you can even top up via the app if needed.

Italy Hotels – Wondering where to book your accommodations for Italy? We’ve been reserving all of our hotels through Booking for years. Their messaging tool makes it easy to communicate with the hotels, and there are endless options to choose from.

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