On the foot of the Apuan Alps sits Lucca, a much-loved city in Tuscany that people from far and wide explore during their holidays in Italy. The charming city is not short of fascinating things to see and exciting things to do, with visitors spending a vast majority of the time sightseeing museums, attending excursions and simply taking the time to enjoy the relaxed way of life chosen by locals here.
Here at Quality Villas, we recently wrote about a fantastic sample itinerary for visitors looking to spend a week in this beautiful city; 7 Days in Lucca. However, for those looking to expand on their knowledge on the local area and perhaps hoping to impress fellow travellers with their expertise, we’ve explored some of the most interesting facts about the city, from its history through time to the traditions and events celebrated throughout the year. Read on to enhance your knowledge and for things to look out for during your next stay in our luxury holiday villas in Tuscany.
‘A Walled City’
The city of Lucca is surrounded by 4km of sixteenth century walls, which is one of the most iconic features about the historic settlement and a true symbol of the city. The walls are a fine example of impressive military engineering and enable visitors to enjoy unparalleled views from every perspective of the city and beyond.
Those Born and Bred in Lucca are Patriotic
Lucca is often seen as some kind of outlier to other Tuscan cities and they even have their own regional dialect that even foreign visitors can distinguish. This is perhaps because Lucca is the region’s only city-state to have kept its independence until 1847, meaning until just 170 years ago, they were a sovereign city. However, this works both ways and those that are born elsewhere in Tuscany will often describe goods and products made in Lucca as ‘not Tuscan’ because of this divide.
The City is Transformed Every October
The streets of the city become full of colour every October whilst the Lucca Comics & Games festival takes place. Here, it would not be out of the ordinary for you to see alien invasions, cartoons, mutants, medieval knights and any number of cosplay characters hitting the narrow streets for an experience that is unlike anywhere else in the world. It is the largest comic festival in Europe and second-largest in the world following Comiket.
It’s Been the Set of An Award-Winning Film
Those with a passion for cinema and old films may recognise the streets of Lucca from 1958 comedy Young Husbands. Directed by Mauro Bolognini and starring Hercules actress Sylva Koscina, the entire film was set in the city. It received a silver ribbon for best cinematography at the Cannes Film Festival in 1958.
A City of Composers
Lucca is well-known for the world-class composers that originate from the city, including Giacomo Puccini, whose work includes La Bohéme and Madama Butterfly. Those who are interested in classical music may also recognise Nicalao Dorati, Francesco Geminiani, Gioseffo Guami, Luigi Boccherini and Alfredo Catalani, all composers that call the city of Lucca home.
Tower-top Trees and Rooftop Gardens
One unique attraction in the city of Lucca is the Guinigi Tower, which dates back to the 1300s. The tower is 45m tall and has a total of 232 steps to reach the top, but it’s well worth the climb upon arrival as spectacular views of the city unfold in front of you at every direction. It is particularly noteworthy for the tall oak trees that grow on top – these are holm oaks and symbolise rebirth and renewal.
A Labyrinth of Narrow Streets
You may have heard of people wandering the narrow streets of Lucca, but did you ever stop to think about just how narrow they are? Most are better-described as paths rather than roads and many in the city centre are pedestrianised, banning cars that couldn’t fit even if they tried! The winding roads usually have tall buildings on either side, making it difficult to spot landmarks to get your bearings, but getting lost in Lucca is not altogether a bad thing if you’ve got nowhere to be at a specific time.
Lucca Was Made Wealthy by Underwear
The city has somewhat of a raunchy past thanks to a monopoly on the supply and production of silk that took place over hundreds of years. Silk underwear is thought to continue to play a major role in the Lucchese economy, although there is little evidence of that in the local shops and markets. Instead, the city seems to have turned its attention to food production as a result of its bountiful agricultural hinterland and the olive oil produce here is undeniably some of Tuscany’s finest.
A City of 100 Churches
Lucca is often fondly described as having 100 churches and a quick search reveals that even Google believes this to be the case! Whilst not quite 100, this is in reference to the plethora of beautiful churches in the city, each offering something different to the next. It would be impossible to visit all of these churches in one day, so day-trippers should prioritise the cathedral and San Michele in Foro.
That concludes our look at some of the most fascinating facts about Lucca. Are you heading there on holiday soon? Browse our website today to find the villa that’s perfect for your holiday or contact us today with any questions or special requests you may have, and we’ll do our best to accommodate every single one!
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