Piazza Anfiteatro sits in the heart of Lucca. It is very aptly named considering it was built atop a ruin of an ancient Roman amphitheater and maintained its elliptical shape. The original amphitheater stood since the 2nd century AC until the construction of the square in Middle Ages. To this day, the piazza remains a center of city’s social life that always bustles with activity. Naturally, the list of top things to do in Lucca, Italy, starts with this welcoming square. The buildings clustering around it respect the elliptic shape, yet, their varying heights give the place a little whimsy. Stop by to relax, grab a coffee or a tasty lunch!
Lucca boasts a unique feature, unseen in any other Tuscan city: an impeccably preserved ancient city walls and a green park. The city walls form a virtually perfect circle around the old town creating 4 kilometers and 223 meters of lovely embankments lined with mighty old trees. This network of defense is the legacy of the Renaissance period and allows you to stroll around the entire city through a series of well-maintained promenades. So, if you are wondering what to do in Lucca for a day, keep the old walls in mind. It’s a lovely way to take in the calm atmosphere of this medieval town without the bustle of the crowds.
Lucca’s Duomo di San Martino is a stunning marble cathedral with imposing Romanesque sculptures decorating the facade and the legendary crucifix (Volto Santo) mystifying its interior. Pope Alexander II, former bishop of Lucca, consecrated the cathedral in 1070. It’s slightly tucked away at the east end of the Piazza San Martino. The reason for building the imposing cathedral was the Volto Santo (Holy Face of Lucca) mentioned above, a wooden crucifix allegedly carved by biblical figure Nicodemus who helped Joseph of Arimathea take Christ's body down from the cross.
Lucca Duomo with one of the most touching sculptures in all of Tuscany or San Pietro Somalis church is also part of the local heritage. What makes Lucca all the more special, however, are the ancient walls circling the old town. Unlike other Tuscan cities, Lucca preserved its city walls as it grew and modernized. Once the walls no longer bore military importance, they became a lovely pedestrian promenade beloved by tourists and locals alike.
For a place with so many churches, the craft that made Lucca wealthy was neither religious nor humble. The town has a centuries-lasting monopoly on the supply and production of silk underwear. In fact, silk lingerie is Lucchese money-spinner to this day! Though, churches and silk aside, Lucca will endear you the most with the many incidental pleasures. Strolling down the crooked streets, sipping drinks in quaint piazzas, shopping in antique craft workshops, or sleeping off a delicious authentic Lucchese lunch in a local garden are wonderful treats in themselves. Curious to know more? Scroll below to learn more about what to see and do in Lucca!