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Lucca is a Renaissance marvel, encircled by massive 16th-century walls now used as elevated footpaths. From soaring ancient towers to white-marble churches, Lucca combines some of the best aspects of Tuscany, and is a destination that many return to year upon year.
Most visitors begin a trip by visiting the town’s symbol – the Guinigi Tower. This awe-inspiring monument dates from 1384, and stands taller than many modern high-rises today. It’s crowned by an ancient rooftop garden that offers unforgettable views over the city’s historic heart. Close by is the peculiar circular square known as the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, which legend says was built around the remains of a Roman amphitheatre. Now fringed by 19th-century townhouses, this cafe-lined space is a great place to while away an afternoon. Of course, there are plenty more historic gems waiting to be discovered, including a marble cathedral, royal palaces and a handful of beautiful churches.
There are also hundreds of restaurants to choose from, with numerous trattorie dedicated to serving authentic Italian fare. Don’t miss some of the delicious local specialities, including garmugia (a rich broth usually flavoured with chicken) and buccellato (a sweet bread often consumed with dessert wine).
The best of Lucca is squeezed into its walled old town. Here, you can tread the Gothic aisle of Lucca Cathedral, sip a latte in the medieval piazza, dig into an antipasti picnic in the botanic gardens, or admire the art gallery at the grand Villa Mansi Museum.
For the best views in the city, march up the 200-plus steps that run up the Guinigi Tower. Oak trees crown this medieval lookout. However, the lesser-known Torre delle Ore gives it a run for its money – a clock tower with 360-degree views over the terracotta rooftops.
Lucca train station lies just outside the city walls. Hop on a train here to Pisa or the stylish beach town of Viareggio.