Most towns in Italy are conveniently connected by an efficient rail or bus system, which makes it easy to select a base town for your visit. We chose to stay in Lucca because it has a wide variety of both train and bus connections. This made it easy to plan side trips to the Ligurian Coast as well as short day trips to the towns and countryside nearby. Here are just a few of the options you might consider.
The bus to Pisa is often the quickest way to reach this popular town. If you need to get to the airport in Pisa, the bus is very convenient because it actually stops right at the airport terminal. However, the train is also a nice way to visit Pisa from Lucca. Although the tower and Campo dei Miracoli are impressive, don’t miss the pleasant old city center. Give yourself time to wander the streets to discover the lovely architecture of the old university and the renaissance palaces. This busy university town is a fun place to enjoy lunch or an aperativo in the late afternoon.
From Lucca it’s a 30 minute train ride to the popular spa town of Montectini Terme. You don’t have to stay overnight to get a spa treatment or massage. There are several day spas open by appointment. The town has a pleasant shopping area and a beautiful city park. Our favorite excursion is the funicular ride up to Montecatini Alta, with a delightful village of small shops and appealing restaurants.
Another short bus ride from Lucca, Pietrasanta has been home to many artists, especially sculptors. It’s not far from Massa Carrara, where the famous Carrara marble is still quarried. Take the time to visit the small, Bozzetti Sculpture Museum, where you can see sketches and models of several contemporary artists. Many artists chose to live and work in Pietrasanta and the Polish sculptor, Igor Mitoraj was one of them. You’ll find his giant works throughout the town. It’s a great place to stroll, shop and enjoy a peaceful and non-touristy Tuscan hill town.
If you have a car, it’s an easy trip to the small town of Fantiscritti where you can take a short tour to the marble quarries of Carrara. For only 10 euros, you get to ride in a jeep up higher to see the workers extracting the marble and enjoy the magnificent views of the Apuan Alps and valleys below. Some companies offer to pick you up in nearby towns for a more extensive tour of the quarries and nearby towns. There’s also a small museum with some interesting history and artifacts.
Walk or bike along the Francigena Trail
Similar to the famous trail in Spain, Italy has the Francigena Trail, a pilgrimage route that starts in Canterbury, England and passes through France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy—ending in Rome. The path that leads from Camaiore to Lucca is manageable in one day. It’s possible to take the bus from Lucca to Camaiore and walk downhill into the city. But be sure to take your own water and snacks because there aren’t a lot of places to stop for food—especially if you go on a Sunday, like we did. Riding a bike might be a better idea.
Head to the Beach
From Lucca, it’s an easy train ride to the nearby coastal towns of Viareggio or Forti dei Marmi to spend a day at the beach and take advantage of the wonderful seafood available. It’s also even possible to reach the Cinque Terre for a short day trip. However, I would recommend spending at least a few days there so you can enjoy at least one scenic hike.
There are even more interesting towns in the Garfagnana hills or along the train route towards Florence. You can see why the town of Lucca is my favorite base for exploring the wide variety of towns and villages in northern Tuscany.