Lucca – Tuscany’s Well Preserved Medieval Town

A well-preserved medieval town – the birthplace of Puccini – Lucca is completely encircled by 17th-century walls, and lies in the heart of a fertile plain in northwest Tuscany, an hour’s drive from Florence and 14 miles northeast of Pisa.

The Piazza San Michele is the site of the old Roman forum, hence the name of the Romanesque church here, San Michele in Foro. The church dates from 1070 and has a dazzling exterior of striped marble walls and an intricate medley of tiny loggias, decorated columns and lavish carvings.

A few minutes walk away is the Casa di Puccini, the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini, composer of operas such as Tosca and Madame Butterfly. His former home is now a museum where you can see letters, posters and illustrations of his operas, and the piano at which he composed his last work.

San Michele in Foro, Lucca, Tuscany, Italy
San Michele in Foro, Lucca, Tuscany, Italy by Jack Versloot

Tuscany is a popular region to go camping, with some of the best campsites in Italy located here. Around Lucca there are a number of sites to choose from, for more information on camping in Tuscany, please see the I Spy Camping website.

Lucca’s cathedral, the Duomo di San Martino, has 13th-century reliefs on and around the three principal doors, including some by Nicola Pisano, a noted 13th-century Pisan sculptor. Inside is Lucca’s most important artwork, the Volto Santo (Holy Face). A cedarwood crucifix, it is said to be an exact likeness of Christ, carved by Nicodemus. In the sacristy is the tomb of Ilaria del Carretto, a sublime funerary monument by the Sienese sculptor Jacopo della Quercia, depicting the wife of Paolo Guinigi, a medieval ruler of the city. Next to the cathedral is the Museo della Cattedrale, which displays paintings and various religious objects.

Duomo di San Martino, Lucca, Italy
Duomo di San Martino, Lucca, Italy by Hidde de Vries

The Museo Nazionale di Villa Guinigi has an eclectic collection of paintings, sculpture, textiles, Roman and Etruscan archaeological finds, silverware and important works by the painter Fra Bartolommeo and the sculptor Matteo Civitali. The Museo Nazionale di Palazzo Mansi, also in a former palace, is worth visiting to see the sumptuous apartments, tapestries, precious objects d’art and fine furniture. Particularly impressive is the 18th century bridal chamber, richly decked with gold.

Lucca is easily explored on foot. The station is only 10 minutes walk away and parking is not easy, so it is worth visiting by train. Do as the locals and get around by bicycle; they can be rented from the tourist office or numerous places around town (look for noleggio). Walk along the famous encircling walls. For great views over the city, climb the Torre Guinigi.

Lucca, Tuscany, Italy
Lucca, Tuscany, Italy by Myrabella

Will Goodridge founded I Spy Camping in 2010 to help families find campsites in Europe. For more information, please see

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