Once one of Italy’s wealthy fiefdoms, Lucca retains all the beauty of art and architecture that you’d expect from northern Italy and Tuscany. Smaller than Florence, it gained its freedom from Rome in the 12th century and except for one small glitch when Pisa took control, it was self-governing for 500 years until Napoleon arrived and gave the city to his sister.
Ringing itself with walls during the height of its Renaissance wealth, thanks to the silk trade, Lucca has remained pretty much unchanged. The first thing to do is to walk, cycle, run or even skip along the top of these walls. The 40 foot (12 m) high 2.5 mile (4 km) long circuit gives a great glimpse down onto the life of the city. Then of course there are the many churches to visit and paintings to see.
Then there are all the festivals in Lucca. Especially music festivals. Lucca’s other claim to fame is as the birthplace of Puccini, the 19th century composer of famous operas including Tosca, La Boheme and Madame Butterfly. Since 2004, there has been the Puccini e la sua Lucca, a festival dedicated to Puccini in his hometown.
Performances are held in the stunning 12th century Basilica of San Giovanni. You can book tickets ahead but pay for them in cash at the church, but as the church has huge capacity and there are performances every night from March to October, it is unlikely that you won’t get a seat on your chosen night if you don’t make reservations in advance. From mid-October to mid-March performances are only on Friday and Saturday nights.