Lucca, Italy: Your Insider Guide on the Best Food and Places to See

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Enough with Florence and Siena already. You should be walking the medieval walls of Lucca; eating aperitivo in Pisa; sipping Chianti at Castello di Brolio; or lounging by the sea in San Vicenzo. You’ll learn all about this on the Postcard Academy podcast episode: “Lucca, Pisa, and Other Towns in Tuscany You Must Visit.” 

In this article, I’ll focus on the best things to see and eat in Lucca, Italy. This guide is based on my podcast chat with Toni Mazzaglia, founder of the food tour company Taste Florence. After interviewing Toni for the Florence episode of the Postcard Academy, we became fast friends and decided to roadtrip through Tuscany. 

Here are some highlights from our Lucca visit. Listen to our whole conversation on the Tuscan towns you can’t miss on the Postcard Academy podcast and subscribe for free. 


Must-do activities in Lucca 

 Walk through the beautiful park built on top of the medieval walls.  Lucca was a Roman colony, but fairly independent throughout its history. The silk trade trade was big here in the 12th century. In the 1300s, Lucca fell to Pisa for a short time then was independent for 500 years until Napoleon showed up and put his sister in charge for a decade.

Walk through the beautiful park built on top of the medieval walls.

Lucca was a Roman colony, but fairly independent throughout its history. The silk trade trade was big here in the 12th century. In the 1300s, Lucca fell to Pisa for a short time then was independent for 500 years until Napoleon showed up and put his sister in charge for a decade.

 If walking is not your thing, pedal a ‘Flinstones Mobile,’ as Toni calls it. You can   rent one at Poli  .

If walking is not your thing, pedal a ‘Flinstones Mobile,’ as Toni calls it. You can rent one at Poli.

 Weekend vintage market outside   San Martino Cathedral  , which, in its present form dates back to the 15th century (though it’s centuries older than that). Pilgrims have traveled here for hundreds of years to see its wooden Jesus, supposedly carved by one of the men who buried him and could represent how Jesus really looked. The Cathedral also has a museum. If you want a good coffee in a beautifully Italian environment, go next door to   Undici Undici  . The staff are lovely and there is free wifi.  The market spills into Piazza Giglio and Piazza San Giovanni. Inside San Giovanni Church, you can look at archaeological excavations dating back to the first century B.C. You can also buy tickets to hear music in the evenings.

Weekend vintage market outside San Martino Cathedral, which, in its present form dates back to the 15th century (though it’s centuries older than that). Pilgrims have traveled here for hundreds of years to see its wooden Jesus, supposedly carved by one of the men who buried him and could represent how Jesus really looked. The Cathedral also has a museum. If you want a good coffee in a beautifully Italian environment, go next door to Undici Undici. The staff are lovely and there is free wifi.

The market spills into Piazza Giglio and Piazza San Giovanni. Inside San Giovanni Church, you can look at archaeological excavations dating back to the first century B.C. You can also buy tickets to hear music in the evenings.

 Outside   San Frediano  , you’ll see a 13th-century gold leaf Byzantine mosaic.

Outside San Frediano, you’ll see a 13th-century gold leaf Byzantine mosaic.

 Inside San Frediano, you’ll find the body of Saint Zita. Literally her body. She died in 1272 and never disintegrated and wasn’t ever embalmed. This church also has an American chapel.

Inside San Frediano, you’ll find the body of Saint Zita. Literally her body. She died in 1272 and never disintegrated and wasn’t ever embalmed. This church also has an American chapel.

 Piazza San Frediano is a lovely square where you can sit outside,  drink a coffee , and stare at this lovely color yellow.

Piazza San Frediano is a lovely square where you can sit outside, drink a coffee, and stare at this lovely color yellow.

 Piazza Napoleone. In 1997 this was a car park, but now it’s one of the best open squares in Lucca and you’ll find live music and other activities here in summer. Unseen, is   Palazzo Ducale  , which houses a lot of government offices, but also a museum.

Piazza Napoleone. In 1997 this was a car park, but now it’s one of the best open squares in Lucca and you’ll find live music and other activities here in summer. Unseen, is Palazzo Ducale, which houses a lot of government offices, but also a museum.

 Visit the   Puccini Museum   or listen to his music somewhere. You can find a concert every night at San Giovanni Church. This is not the museum, I just loved these colors and wanted to share.

Visit the Puccini Museum or listen to his music somewhere. You can find a concert every night at San Giovanni Church. This is not the museum, I just loved these colors and wanted to share.

 Famous for its rooftop trees, the   Torre Guinigi   (Guinigi Tower) is popular landmark in Lucca. Back in the 1300s, wealthy families tried to outdo each other when it came to bell towers. This is one of the last towers remaining within the city’s walls.

Famous for its rooftop trees, the Torre Guinigi (Guinigi Tower) is popular landmark in Lucca. Back in the 1300s, wealthy families tried to outdo each other when it came to bell towers. This is one of the last towers remaining within the city’s walls.

Best places to eat in Lucca

Coffee — Caffe Santa Zita 

Quick pizza slice — La Cranceria

Snack — Pizzeria da Felice (order the cecina instead of pizza)

Lunch/dinner — Gli Orti di Via Elisa 

Aperitivo — Da Ciacco

Wine bar — Ciclo Divino

 Toni about to dig into her cecina at  Pizzeria da Felice . These chickpea slices go by different names throughout Italy and they taste much more interesting than they look.

Toni about to dig into her cecina at Pizzeria da Felice. These chickpea slices go by different names throughout Italy and they taste much more interesting than they look.

   Gli Orti di Via Elisa  . Order the house red and some polenta and you can’t go wrong.

Gli Orti di Via Elisa. Order the house red and some polenta and you can’t go wrong.

Best shops in Lucca

Concept shop — Mood

Women’s clothes —Sud

Toy shop — Citta del Sole

Fair trade goods — La Bottega del Mondo 

 The holiday season has begun in Lucca.

The holiday season has begun in Lucca.

   Mood  . Concept stores are just stores that are curated by hipsters. So they are gorgeous and you want to buy everything.

Mood. Concept stores are just stores that are curated by hipsters. So they are gorgeous and you want to buy everything.

 We couldn’t remember the name of this shop, but they’re dog friendly and offered us samples of this after-dinner drink. Reasonably priced and would make a good gift if you can pack liquids in your suitcase.

We couldn’t remember the name of this shop, but they’re dog friendly and offered us samples of this after-dinner drink. Reasonably priced and would make a good gift if you can pack liquids in your suitcase.

 Whether by foot or by bike, weaving your way through Lucca’s colorful streets feels absolutely magical.

Whether by foot or by bike, weaving your way through Lucca’s colorful streets feels absolutely magical.

 

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If you found this article useful, please share it, and subscribe to the Postcard Academy podcast. Each week, expats and adventurers share their insider travel tips on the best food, nightlife, and cultural experiences in the most interesting places around the globe. I’m your host, Sarah Mikutel, an American who's spent the last 8 years living in, and traveling around, Europe.