Not far from Florence, and even closer to Pisa, Lucca is a worthwhile stop during a visit to Tuscany. We went on a beautiful fall day with a clear blue sky and trees gently turning shades of yellow and orange. It would have been the perfect day to visit the historic city, if it wasn’t for the giant “gaming and comics” festival that took over the city that weekend.
After getting over the initial shock of seeing hoards of people, most of whom were dressed up as their favorite video game characters, and big white tents set up in the city squares obscuring full views of church facades, we managed to enjoy the beauty and character of Lucca.
One of the most unique features of Lucca is that it has a fully intact medieval wall surrounding the city. From the outside, a solid mass of brick and stone rises up some 20 feet in the air from grassy lawns below. Inside, a thick layer of earth backs up against the wall and leads down to a narrow moat. It must have been quite a formidable construction years ago. These days the wall is used purely for leisure as the top has been fashioned into a walkway lined with benches and trees where it’s possible to walk the entire perimeter of the city.
Inside the city walls there’s no shortage of churches, piazzas, buildings and architecture to enjoy. The main cathedral has three tiers of arches and columns accented with shapes and designs fitted together in different colored marble. Nearby, the Church of San Michele has an even more majestic façade with four tiers of arches and columns and topped by statues of angels. Another church, the Church of Sant’Agostino, has an enormous Byzantine mosaic occupying the upper half of one exterior wall. Piazza Antifeatro, lined by bright yellow buildings and filled with open-air cafes, is unique for its circular shape, which comes from its position on top of the site of the Ancient Roman Amphitheater.
To get a bird’s eye view of the city, you can climb to the top of one of two towers in the city. Torre delle Ore (Tower of the Hours) is so named for the giant clock on its façade. The bells on the clock ring all day long, which becomes undeniably noticeable when standing below the bells on the viewing platform as the clock hits the hour mark. A short distance away Torre Guinigi is notable for the oak trees that grow up from the very top. From these towers, not only can you see all the tiny, curving city streets and red tiled roofs, but you can see to the Tuscan hills in the distance.
To see our pictures from Lucca, click here.