Region and City Guides

Visiting Lucca: Tuscany’s Music Capital

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Florence is the undisputed art and architecture capital of Tuscany and perhaps of Italy. But the small city of Lucca, located approximately one hour by car from Florence and a half hour from Pisa, has to be Tuscany’s music capital.

My reason for visiting Lucca was to see the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini. As you will read from my famous opera songs post, Puccini was one of the greatest opera composers of all time.

But when researching Lucca, I discovered that it was also the birthplace of composers Boccherini, Catalini and Geminiani. Clearly there’s something very special in the water supply of Lucca.

LUCCA HISTORY

Lucca was founded by the Etruscans, an ancient tribe of the Italian peninsula. The city was incorporated into the Roman Empire in 180BC. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the city had various rulers from the Barbarians, the Byzantines, the Lombards, the Florentines, the Pisans and Napoleon, to name a few. Lucca also spent time as an independent city state.

LUCCA GEOGRAPHY

Lucca is enveloped by city walls that were built during the Renaissance era. Access to the city centre is via gates called porta, of which there are six. A walkway and cycleway connects all gates. Renting a bike to cycle the circumference of the city comes recommended.  

Porto San Pietro Lucca
Porto San Pietro on Lucca’s City walls

I travelled to Lucca from Florence by train. The train station is located near Porta San Pietro in the south of the city. Bus stations are located near Porta Vittorio Emanuele in the west side of the city.

WHO WAS PUCCINI?

Giacomo Puccini was the composer of the operas La boheme, Tosca, and Madama Butterfly. He also composed the famous arias Nessun Dorma and O mio babbino caro which were featured in the operas Turandot and Gianni Schicchi respectively.

In 1858, Puccini was born in the building that now houses the Puccini Museum, the Museo Casa natale di Giacomo Puccini. The ticket office for the museum is located in the nearby Piazza Cittadella.

Puccini Museum Lucca
Puccini Museum

The museum features letters, music sheets and other artefacts belonging to the composer. Original costumes from performances of his works are on display. The museum also gives an overview of his life.

OTHER THINGS TO SEE IN LUCCA

Lucca is a wonderful city to meander around. Predominantly pedestrianised, it has quaint, narrow streets and piazzas galore. It has an excellent café culture.

  • Piazza Napoleone is one of the largest squares in the city. The Palazzo Ducale (Ducal Palace) is the significant building in the square and was where Lucca was ruled from prior to the unification of Italy. Piazza Napoleone is where the Christmas markets and skating rink are located during the Christmas season.
Piazza Napoleone Lucca
Piazza Napoleone
  • Piazza San Michele is another beautiful square that was the site of the original Roman Forum. The Church of San Michele in Foro is the main building located in the square. The church dates back to the 11th century and was a stopping off point for pilgrims on the Via Francigena, the pilgrimage route between Canterbury in the UK and Rome.
Church of San Michele in Foro Lucca
Church of San Michele in Foro
  • South East of Piazza Napoleone is Lucca Cathedral on Piazza San Martino. It also dates back to the 11th century and contains an artwork of the Last Supper by Tintoretto.
Lucca Cathedral
Lucca Cathedral – Pic courtesy of A. Farinelli
  • Torre dei Guinigi is a red brick medieval tower that peers out over the city. It was built by the Guinigi family and has oak trees growing at the top. While it’s only 45m in height, it dwarfs the neighbouring buildings.
Torre dei Guinigi Lucca
Torre dei Guinigi towering over Lucca’s lanes

IS LUCCA WORTH VISITING?

If you are a fan of music, particularly opera, then the answer is a resounding yes. Puccini’s contribution to that musical genre was colossal so paying homage to the composer is a must.

For non-opera fans, visiting Lucca also comes recommended. It’s is a picture-perfect city that’s easy to walk around. Lucca Summer Festival is a month-long celebration of modern music and usually takes place in June.

I only spent a day sightseeing in the city but I believe Lucca would be a great base for a Northern Tuscany holiday. Lucca is only 20-30km from Tuscany’s coast so combining a Lucca city break with a beach holiday would also be possible.

Booking.com has a great selection of accommodation choices in Lucca.

Visiting Lucca Italy

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