Tuscany has a number of towns with World Heritage listed centres, but there's something about Lucca which charms beyond its handsome piazzas. Lucca can be explored on foot, and strolling the cobbled streets within the Renaissance era walls - stopping every now and then at an historic cafe - is a real pleasure. Many people visit Lucca as a day trip from Florence, but it's also an excellent base for exploring the rest of the region. Nestled into the hills behind the city are beautiful villas, and the belle époque era spa so loved by Puccini. For accommodation inspiration go straight to our guru's list of the best places to stay in Lucca.
The excellent condition of Lucca's unbreached walls, designed by Leonardo da Vinci, are one of the reasons for its UNESCO status. And provide a good walking route around the town.
As you would expect for a gorgeous old Italian town, within Lucca's walls you'll find a number of impressive churches. One of the most famous is Lucca Cathedral, a mishmash of architecture from the medieval to the Gothic. And home to a cedar wood crucifix, supposedly carved around the time of the crucifixion. Some of Lucca's other grand buildings were built by the region's wealthiest families. Always trying to outdo the others, the Guinigis built the solid looking red-brick tower above the via Sant'Andrea, hoping it would remain the highest. They also planted the leaning oaks on top of it to provide shade while you view Lucca from above.
Lucca is only 20minutes from Pisa, and some would say it's far more beautiful - it was less damaged by bombing raids. It's also close to, and cheaper than, Florence and Sienna.
As well as visiting the highlights of the town it's also worth remembering the good reputation of Lucca's restaurants, fuelled by fresh local ingredients, and of Lucchesi wine.
Giacomo Puccini was born in Lucca, and his operas are regularly performed here. Especially during the summer. And there are festivals in Lucca, but also in the surrounding towns.
An elegant B&B in central Lucca. Gold and chintz bedrooms and suites, some with private hot tubs and balconies. A great value choice for families or couples.
A fantastically placed small hotel in central Lucca. Simple, comfortable rooms and family suites, lovely breakfast courtyard, and friendly hosts. An excellent choice for families. Understated and charming.
A former 19th century hunting lodge turned charming country hotel, with lovely views just outside Lucca. Elegant rooms in creams and pastels, lovely pool and surroundings, cookery classes and art classes. Wonderfully tranquil, understated and calm.
Charming hotel close to Lucca. The elegant rooms feature antique furniture, pretty bathrooms and artworks. Outdoor pool, sunny terraces and garden. Breakfast is served in the traditional dining room. Quiet, authentic and classic.
Charming hotel in 16th-century palazzo. Elegant rooms have draped curtains, antique furniture and courtyard views. Massages available in-room. Pretty dining room for breakfast, and public spaces have Luccan artworks. Quiet location, yet central, ideal to explore this lovely city.
Lovely country house hotel and villas. Interiors are romantic with exposed beamed ceilings, pretty fabrics and vineyard views. Outdoor pool and tennis court. Delicious Tuscan food in the restaurant. Charming, relaxing and peaceful. Apartments or villas are bookable on a weekly basis.
A small gourmet hotel with rustic rooms, sweeping valley views, an olive farm and surrounding vineyard. Bedrooms with stone walls, wooden beams, and private terraces. Fabulous food, cookery lessons, and art classes. An excellent choice for an active gourmet holiday.
Charming B&B located within the town walls. Sophisticated, pretty bedrooms in pastel shades include hand painted murals and plenty of charm. A true breakfast spread is served and restaurants dotted around the historical town. A brilliant Tuscan gem that welcomes couples and families with open arms.