LUCCA AND ITS OLD CENTRE
Lucca is a surprise. We know in advance what beautiful things we’ll see in famous places but we don’t always expect the charm of “minor” cities such as Lucca. Its medieval and baroque architecture, like its atmosphere, is perfectly preserved, enclosed within the massive Walls that the people of Lucca are so proud of.
There are so many places to see because each little piazza, each corner, each little street reveals something unique to Lucca, something personalised in this unspoiled town populated by thoughtful inhabitants who have a special civic awareness. Here is a summary of the main places in Lucca, but as we walk I’ll point out a detail, a special item that will make you understand that the whole city is simply beautiful.
- When we arrive in Lucca we first come to the ramparts, the Walls of the wonderful defence system that dates back to the Renaissance period and was enlarged during the Napoleonic period to make it a place for walking.
- The old Roman forum, now Piazza San Michele and its surprising church in the Romanesque-Gothic style, inspired by Pisa, Lucca’s neighbour and enemy.
- Via Fillungo is the main street in the centre of Lucca with a variety of quality shops, in a framework of 14th-century tower-houses.
- Next we come to the Basilica of San Frediano, an old church with a façade of marvellous simplicity which contrasts with its rich interior, where each century has left a trace. San Frediano is not only a church but a gallery, where masterpieces are jealously kept and proudly exhibited to visitors.
- Behind the church is the Roman amphitheatre with its unique and original reconstruction.
- We next stop in front of the symbol of Lucca: the Torre Guinigi, the tower bearing witness to political power in the 15th century.
- We’ll stroll along different little streets and piazzas where we’ll see unexpected palazzo façades, a small church, a tower, and then we’ll come to the Cathedral of San Martino and inside it we’ll see the Volto Santo (Holy Face), an object of devotion since the 12th century.
- Next we’ll cross Piazza Napoleone, go down Via San Paolino and visit the only Renaissance church in Lucca, all the others being either Romanesque or Gothic. And of course we’ll stop in front of the statue of Giacomo Puccini, outside the house where he was born.
- That’s the usual itinerary in Lucca but we can go and see other beautiful places, such as Porta Elisa, the neoclassical city gate, the façade of Villa Bottini, the medieval city gate of San Gervasio & Protasio, the dyers’ district, the Botanic Garden, the Art Nouveau shop fronts and the sarcofago of Ilaria del Carretto, one of the first Renaissance work in town. As for galleries, I highly recommend Palazzo Mansi, a typical 17th-century aristocratic house with a large art gallery, and Villa Guinigi with two beautiful sections, one medieval and the other 14th-century.
- There are different options for exploring Lucca: you can rent a bike or walk and the town is flat. – A classic tour lasts three hours and we can combine that with another half-day tour of, for example, the marvellous countryside to see the magnificent summer villas for the summertime. We could also spend a half-day in Montecarlo or Altopascio.
- If you like, we can take a break in town for sampling local products such as the locally produced wine and extra-virgin olive oil with typical Lucca snacks.
- Bike hire rate: full day 12.50 Euro 3 hours 7.50 Euro http://www.biciclettepoli.com/
Lucca has a railway station so you can come by train. If you prefer to be comfortably driven by a private chauffeur, ask me for a free quotation