The Tuscan city of Lucca is best known for its Renaissance-era defensive walls, which remain intact even though the modern city has expanded well beyond them. Lucca is not as well known today as its sister cities Florence and Pisa, but in fact was the second-largest city state (after Venice) to remain independent until Napoleon arrived in the early 1800s. The city has a rich cultural heritage, too, and is the birthplace of composer Giacomo Puccini, who wrote La Bohème and Madame Butterfly.
Views from Above
There are two good locations for enjoying a bird's-eye view of the city. One is the Torre delle Ore, a thirteenth-century clock tower that will require you to hoof it up 207 steps. The other is the Palazzo Guinigi, which is slightly more formidable with 230 steps. At either place, you'll pay about 4 for the privilege of exhausting your thigh and calf muscles, but you'll get great photos. Both locations are in the city center, within walking distance of each other.
Views from Around
The city walls, built for military purposes, today are a tourist attraction unto themselves. (They've even been used for car races.) The rim is less than two miles around, which makes it a good leg-stretching distance for walking, jogging, or even bicycling. As with the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, the walls in Lucca are a free attraction well worth the visit.
Puccini Opera Festival
About eleven miles from Puccini's birthplace of Lucca is the hamlet of Torre del Lago, which hosts an opera festival in his honor every July and August. Some 40,000 visitors visit the hamlet's open-air Teatro dei Quattromila to enjoy performances near the home where Puccini lived and worked (and which is a tourable museum).
If you're a Puccini fan, then check out the section of the festival's website (
The festival has been held since 1930, but it was not on an annual basis until 1966. Since then, many of the world's greatest opera performers have taken to the stage, including Placido Domingo, who conducted Madame Butterfly in 2004.
Seats for the opera performances range from about 160. You can buy them online through the festival's website,