For almost a month we called Lucca home. We honestly found it hard to leave this elegant, calm walled city and decided that when we win lotto we will retire here (now to start playing Lotto).

We rented a sweet little apartment just off Piazza San Michele, it was in the perfect location, close to the action but hidden from tourist traffic. After 6 weeks washing our clothes in the bathroom sink you can imagine how overjoyed we were to have an apartment with a washing machine.

Lucca was established by the Romans in 180 BC, the city is steeped in centuries of history. But it was Elisa, Napoleon’s sister that gives Lucca its leafy charm after it was gifted to her by Napoleon after he concurred the city in 1805.

Most travelers we spoke to were visiting Lucca on day trips from Pisa or Florence but this little gem is worth at least a couple of days exploring within the walls.

Top things to do

Ride a bike around the city walls

We rented a four wheeled bike and rode on top of the city walls. It was so much fun, we decided we looked extremely touristy already so ramped up the cheese factor by playing a few Dean Martin Italian classics full volume. The old city walls have been converted into a fantastic tree lined pedestrian/bike only street strewn with parks, picnic areas, sculptures and benches.

We walked the walls every night after dinner and loved the city perspective from above. It really is such a charming place.

Torre Guinigi (Guinigi Tower)

Lucca’s most famous tower, the Guingi Tower built in 1384 is certainly a showstopper. Wanting a more refined look the wealthy Guingi family crowned the tower with Holm Oaks around 1600. The tower is an impressive feature of the Lucca landscape but not so impressive from the rooftop. I would recommend climbing the Clock Tower for Instagram-worthy shots of the tower.

Opera Recital

At 7pm every evening during the festival of Puccini you can enjoy an opera recital playing the most popular pieces from Puccini (composer of Madame Butterfly) and classical numbers from Mozart. The recitals take place at San Giovanni an old church with high ceilings, providing perfect acoustics for the show. Tickets cost 20 Euro at the door or 18 Euro before 6pm. For more information visit the Puccini Festival website.

Church of Santi Giovanni e Reparata

We are rather ‘church fatigued’ 6 weeks into our Italy tour (seriously how many churches do they need?). San Giovanni surprised us with a hidden layer of intrigue. The old church was originally the site of a 14th century Roman baths. The almost perfectly intact mosaic encrusted baths are tucked away in the church basement and for a measly 4 euro you are free to explore the historic marvel unaccompanied. The church also has a tower that is open to public. However, if you are scared of heights like Dan the man best skip the tower as it doesn’t seem overly safe and featured mesh flooring giving a head-spinning views of the church floor 80 meters below.

Explore the Bastians

The city wall defensive bastians have been transformed into living works of art, with giant sculptures and classical musicians busking by day and beautifully lit by night the tunnels within the city walls are not to be missed. We couldn’t find much information on the history or purpose of these bastians but they were fascinating none the less.

Take a nighttime stroll

Lucca by night is filled with romance. City lights, spotlit monuments, quiet streets emptied of day tripping tourists on a balmy summer night stroll is the perfect way to end the day.