Making the Most of a Half-Day in Lucca, Italy

One the things that we did during our trip to Florence, Italy was to take a day trip that included going to Lucca and then going to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower. The trip itself was certainly worth it, but as fascinating as the Leaning Tower of Pisa might be, we found Lucca to be the highlight. We enjoyed walking the narrow streets and seeing the wonderful architecture of the Tuscan city. Lucca is only a short drive from Florence making it a perfect place to explore during a visit to the area.

Walking the Narrow Streets of Lucca
Statue of Giacomo Puccini
Architecture of the City from the Guinigi Tower
Lucca Cathedral
Colorful Ceiling Within the Cathedral
Changing Colors of the Bell Tower

Of the different places that we spent time visiting while we were in Lucca, several of them certainly stood out. First is the Lucca Cathedral with its unique bell tower, which has different colors due to the different materials that were used in its construction. The base of the tower is made of quartz stone, while the top floors are made of white limestone, making for an interesting contrast. Another interesting feature of the cathedral are the three arches that are part of the entrance. One of the arches is smaller than the other two due to the fact that the bell tower existed at the time of the construction and the architects reduced the size of the third arch to accommodate the tower.

Marble Statues Inside of the Cathedral
Cathedral Entrance
Beautiful Artwork in the Dome in Lucca
Rooftop Garden and Shade Trees
Nearing the Top of the Tower
Looking Out Through the Trees

Another must see location is the Guinigi Tower, which is visible from throughout Lucca. What makes it unique is the garden on the roof with its oak trees providing shade. Built in the late 1300’s by the Guinigi family, who were wealthy merchants in the area, the tower certainly stands out amongst the other buildings in Lucca. The climb up the 235 stairs to the top of the 125 foot tower is certainly worth it as you are rewarded with amazing views of the historic city. One can imagine the wealthy Guinigi family sitting on the rooftop to escape the heat of city below with its warm breezes and wonderful shade trees.

Looking Down at the Stairs of the Tower in Lucca
Rooftops of Lucca
Fresh Zucchini Ravioli in Lucca
Buca di Sant’Antonio Restaurant in Lucca, Italy
Rabbit Salad

We also stopped for a traditional Tuscan lunch at the Buca di Sant’Antonio, which dates back to 1782. Since the restaurant is known for their handmade pasta, which is made fresh every day, we had to get an order of their ravioli in addition to a rabbit salad. The copper pots hanging from the ceiling add to the ambiance of the restaurant. It was certainly a wonderful way to end our half day in Lucca before heading to Pisa and returning once again to Florence.

Do You Ever Watch Movies to Prepare for a Trip?

As we’ve been planning and looking forward to our upcoming trip to Kenya and Tanzania, one of the things we have done is watch a couple of movies that are set in the region. Not documentaries, but actual movies such as Out of Africa or even The Ghost in the Darkness. We don’t necessarily watch them to learn about anything particular, but more to just look forward to the upcoming trip. Obviously, depending on the film, you can end up learning about the culture or history of the country that you are about to visit. Needless to say, we don’t expect our trip to end up being like what is depicted in the movies and sometimes you find out that the director and cinematographer haven’t taken creative license by filming in locations other than the actual place that is supposed to be depicted.

The Giza Plateau in Egypt
Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador

Prior to traveling to Egypt and taking our Nile River cruise, we actually watched the mystery movie Death on the Nile. There are plenty of other movies about Egypt as well, but that was the one that came to our mind at the time. Prior to going to the Amazon Rainforest, watching the movie Medicine Man provides an interesting perspective and just traveling through various parts of South America prompted us to watch Dragonfly. Although we didn’t watch any movies prior to our time spent in Tuscany, there are obviously a plethora of choices of movies to watch to get you in the mood to visit that wonderful region of Italy.

View from Piazzale de Michelangelo in Florence
Poisonous Frog in the Amazon

There certainly isn’t any tremendous benefit to watching movies prior to visiting a location, but we find it a way to relax prior to a trip while getting ourselves excited about the upcoming adventure. It could be that watching movies throughout our lives has given us inspiration to travel, so perhaps that is what drives us to revisit some of them when the time comes for us to finally visit that location. Perhaps we’re unique in watching movies or shows located in our intended destination, but maybe some of you do the same thing as us.

Top Things to Do in Florence, Italy

Florence is one of the most beautiful cities in the world with a rich history that includes architecture, art, and politics. There are so many wonderful sights to see when spending time in Florence, but if you have limited time in the city there are a few things that should certainly be on your itinerary. We would certainly recommend spending at least 3 days in Florence if at all possible as there so much to see and do. Depending on the time of year that you visit, you can expect plenty of crowds in Florence, so going during the off-season is advisable. Here are our top things to do in what we would consider to be the order of priority depending on the amount of time that you have to spend in Florence.

Looking Up at the Cathedral and Bell Tower
  1. The Duomo – Officially the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the Duomo dominates the city skyline. There is the cathedral itself, with the largest brick dome in the world as well as the bell tower and the baptistry. Although you could consider each of these as separate places to see, we have grouped them together as a single highlight when visiting Florence.
Replica of David in the Piazzale Michelangelo

Piazzale Michelangelo – There are many reasons to make the effort to visit the square with the bronze replica of the Statue of David, but the main reason is the incredible views of the city. You will find many vendors selling food and trinkets and it is a wonderful spot to just sit and enjoy the beauty of Florence. There is also a restaurant located near the square, which was a great place to enjoy a wonderful glass of wine after the somewhat strenuous walk up to the top of the mount.

Statue of David

Galleria dell’Accademia – The Accademia Gallery is best known for having the Statue of David on display, but obviously there is a lot of other famous artwork on display. With seven different halls to wander and enjoy the incredible artwork, you should give yourself at least four hours when visiting the museum.

Outdoor Statues in the Piazza

Piazza della Signoria – The plaza is an open-air museum that was built in the 1400’s and has a variety of statues on display. Two of the more famous statues are the Rape of the Sabines by Giambologna as well as Cellini’s Perseus. Considering it is free, it should definitely be one of the places that you make time to see.

Ponte Vecchio Up Close

Ponte Vecchio – This medieval bridge is certainly a highlight of any visit to Florence. Today it is filled with vendors selling a variety of local products, but it was originally the location of the butchers in the city. Like many other locations in Florence, expect plenty of crowds in the area and be careful of pickpockets taking advantage of tourists on the crowded streets.

The Birth of Venus

Uffizi Gallery – With many great works of art from artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Machiavelli, it is certainly one of the most famous museums in the world. After all of the members of the Medici family had died out, a deal was made to donate all of the artwork to Florence and it is now housed in the Uffizi Gallery. Just like the Gallery Accademia, be prepared to spend at least several hours seeing all of the amazing works of art.

View from a Restaurant at Night

Local Restaurants – Obviously you need to eat and there are so many wonderful restaurants to choose from. There are probably few locations in the world that bring to mind the food of the region as much as Tuscany where Florence is located. We would certainly recommend eating at one of the restaurants that can be found along the Arno River as the scenery is quite beautiful, especially at night.

View of the Duomo

Needless to say, there are more sights to see than these, but we would recommend that you put all of these locations on your itinerary when visiting Florence. With so many beautiful sights, seemingly around every corner, just walking the streets of Florence is a magical experience. If you have enough time, taking a day trip to Lucca and to the Leaning Tower of Pisa is definitely a worthwhile experience.