Things to Do in Lucca
The main church in Lucca is its cathedral, the Duomo di Lucca, built in the 11th century. The structure stands at one side of the Piazza San Martino, and inside, visitors will find the most revered relic in town: the Holy Face of Lucca (Volto Santo). This wooden cross is said to have been carved by Nicodemus, and although the one on display is a 13th-century copy, it's no less important to the church or town. There are two times each year when the Volto Santo is celebrated, dressed in special vestments in the cathedral. The church was rebuilt in the 14th century, although the campanile (bell tower) from the original structure remains, which is why one arch is quite a bit smaller than the other.
Other points of interest inside the Duomo are paintings by Ghirlandaio and Tintoretto, as well as the 15th-century tomb of Ilaria del Carretto of the Guinigi family. There is a museum in the cathedral as well.
The Piazza dell'Anfiteatro is a large square in the center of historic Lucca. As the name suggests, it was once the site of a Roman amphitheatre, one that was built in the first century and could hold up to 10,000 people. The remains of that structure now lie more than nine feet underground, but the oval shape of the piazza is a direct result of the outline of the amphitheatre.
The Piazza dell'Anfiteatro was built in 1830 by demolishing some buildings that had been constructed in the space. It became the site of the town's market, and is the heart of the old city today.
The red-brick Guinigi Tower (Torre Guinigi) pierces the sky above Lucca’s medieval center, and is particularly notable for its impressive rooftop garden shaded by several ancient holm oaks that date from the early 17th century. Climb the 230 steps inside the tower for views across the historic rooftops of Lucca.
The Church of San Michele in Foro (Chiesa di San Michele in Foro) takes its name from its location – the basilica was built over the site of Lucca's ancient Roman forum. The original church dates back to the eighth century, although the one seen today was built in the 11th century. The 13th-century facade is one of the highlights of the basilica, with its graceful arches and intricate carvings. It's noted as one of the best examples of the Pisan Romanesque style, and – as a bonus – visitors can see an open staircase on the backside that climbs over the roof of the church.
By contrast, the church's interior is more sedate and not very well-lit, although there is a painting by 15th-century master Filippino Lippi of Saints Helen, Jerome, Sebastian, and Roch. There is also a statue of the Madonna at the back of the church that was once on the facade.
Born in Lucca, Giacomo Puccini was one of Italy’s foremost composers. Now his native city celebrates him with near-daily performances, as part of the permanent Puccini e la sua Lucca International Festival. Enjoy evening concerts featuring Puccini’s arias performed by international musicians in historic churches across the city.
The main thoroughfare running through historic Lucca is Via Fillungo, one of the liveliest streets in town. It stretches from the Porta dei Borghi (one of the ancient gates in Lucca's pristine city walls) to Canto d'Arco. The street is lined with shops and cafes, making it a magnet for tourist activity as well as for locals.
Some of the attractions along this pretty street include the 11th-century Church of San Cristoforo and Palazzo Manzi. The famous clock tower is not far away, and from the top of that tower you get an excellent view down Via Fillungo.
Located on the Serchio River some 15 miles (24 kilometers) north of Lucca, the Devil's Bridge (Ponte del Diavolo or Ponte della Maddalena) is one of the region’s most striking landmarks. The stone, pedestrian-only bridge dates to the 11th century and was used by religious pilgrims. It’s recognizable for its irregularly shaped arches.
The Torre delle Ore in Lucca, otherwise known as the Clock Tower, is the city's tallest tower, dating back to the 13th century, although the clock that gave the tower its identity was added in 1390. The clock mechanism itself has changed over the years, but the one you see today is from the 1750s. Bells in the tower chime each quarter hour.
This tower is historic, and also features in a local legend. A 17th-century woman who sold her soul to the devil in order to remain youthful is said to have tried to stop the clock from chiming when she was supposed to pay her debt. She didn't reach the clock in time, and the devil collected her soul. She is said to haunt the tower still.
One of Italy’s most famous composers, Giacomo Puccini, was born in Lucca, and his childhood home has been converted into a museum dedicated to his life and work. Music lovers enjoy perusing the collection of photographs, librettos, awards, correspondence, and costumes displayed among the home’s original furnishings.
This popular attraction offers travelers one of the most comprehensive ways to see the history of Lucchese architecture and art come to life. Visitors can explore Roman ruins that date back thousands of years, and explore the halls of the famed museum, which are lined with priceless historic artifacts. The
prized cathedral, Duomo di Martino, combines elements of Lucchese and Pisano Romanesque architecture and is home to a number of tombs of fallen religious figures. Travelers should not miss the Volto, Santo, one of the nation’s most holy crucifixes that is widely-recognized as one of the most realistic representations of Christ on the cross.