Lucca with Kids – the best things to do in Lucca with children in tow
Are you looking for a stress-free city to visit for the day or to have as a base for exploring Tuscany? If so, you’ve found it!
Lucca is a charming, lively (but not overwhelming) city in northern Tuscany that has plenty to keep little ones busy – cycling, parks, large piazzas, gelato, and towers to climb!
The walled city is mostly car-free, the locals are friendly, and it’s an easy place to visit – which can be a godsend as a traveling parent.
Here’s a quick guide to visiting Lucca with kids. For a more in-depth look at visiting Lucca, see our Guide to the Walled City of Lucca.
HOW MUCH TIME TO SPEND IN LUCCA WITH KIDS
There are two main ways to see Lucca with kids:
- Visit for the day and explore the city center, go for a bike ride on its walls, get gelato and be on your way. This is a great way to see Lucca with kids and our family visits often as a day or afternoon trip.
- Spend a few days or a week in Lucca and use it as a base for exploring the area. I often see parents choose Lucca as a Tuscany base over an agriturismo in the countryside.
Lucca is a perfectly livable city for visitors (and its Italian residents) and it’s much calmer and quieter than cities like Florence or Siena.
If an agriturismo vacation is a little too isolated for you and you want the amenities of a city (restaurants at your doorstep, evening walks in the city, multiple playgrounds, gelato around the corner), Lucca is an excellent choice.
Choose your accommodation within the city walls, enjoy the city at a relaxed pace, and take day trips to other places you want to see in the area.
BEST THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS IN LUCCA
Are you wondering if your child will be bored in Lucca? Older kids may need more action after a couple of days, but babies, toddlers, and small children will love the day-to-day Lucca life.
Good To Know: Older kids and teens will also enjoy some of the activities below, plus other activities like attending Lucca Comics and Games, shopping on Via Fillungo, and hanging out in Lucca’s lively piazzas.
Cycle the Walls
This is one of our favorite things to do in Tuscany.
Lucca’s medieval walls completely encircle the city and they’re topped with a wide cycling and walking path. It’s full of locals (adults and kids!) morning through evening, and you should definitely join them.
Rent bicycles (adult bikes, kid bikes, quad bikes, and more) at one of the many bike shops around town. Most are concentrated near the city walls.
Play in a Playground
Lucca has quite a few playgrounds for its small size.
There are play areas with swings (and some have a couple of smaller toys) in the green areas on top of the city walls. These are nice spots to take a break for a while if you’re cycling or walking around the walls or having a picnic.
If you’re looking for a larger playground with more play structures, check out:
- Porta San Donato playground (next to the tourist info office)
- Alessandro Bertolucci playground (just north of Porta Elisa)
- Giardino degli Osservanti playground (our favorite and a fun spot to play with kids from Lucca)
Climb a Tower
Two great towers for kids to climb in Lucca:
- Torre Guinigi (Guinigi Tower) – This is the most recognizable and photographed tower in Lucca – it’s got the oak trees on top. It’s an easy climb up to the top, but the last section has a steep ladder and those with vertigo may find it difficult.
- Torre delle Ore (Tower of the Hours – Clock Tower) – Another fun climb, and older kids will enjoy looking at the mechanical parts of an old clock and reading about the tower on boards on the climb up. Try to time it so you’re there when the clock strikes – on the hour and every 15 minutes (but be prepared, it’s loud!).
The stairs are a little narrower than Guinigi and it doesn’t have the top exposed section that Guinigi does.
Good To Know: If you climb one, you don’t really need to climb the other – you get the same views of Lucca.
Stroll in the Botanical Garden
There’s something calming about a botanical garden, no matter your age or interests. Trust me, I’m a mom of three active little boys and if it’s calming for them, it’s calming for anyone.
Lucca’s Botanical Garden (Orto Botanico) is an oasis for parents too.
Wander the gravel pathways and explore the 2-hectare garden and its towering trees, plants, cacti, ponds with colorful fish, and flowering plants.
Get a Gelato
Gelato is always a hit, and Lucca has one of our favorite gelaterie – Gelateria Veneta. Located just inside the walls near Porta San Pietro, it’s a nice stop after a cycling or walking loop of the walls.
Find Something Interesting On/In a Church
True, kids don’t usually run at full speed to check out a church, but if you point out something unique or fun, kids will take an interest.
Lucca is known as the city of 100 churches! We have a few favorites that your kids may enjoy too:
St. Martin’s Cathedral (Duomo di San Martino) – Bring your kids inside to check out the ruins. Or, climb the cathedral’s bell tower (but if you’re only planning on climbing one tower in Lucca, make it the Guinigi Tower).
Adults will want to check out the Volto Santo (Holy Face), one of the world’s oldest statues.
St. Frediano Basilica (Basilica di San Frediano) – You don’t need to go inside with your kids – point out the mosaic on the façade. The basilica is close to the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro and is worth a quick stop if you’re in the area, but don’t go out of your way to see it with little ones.
St. Michael’s Church (Chiesa di San Michele in Foro) – If you’ve been to Rome with your kids, you can explain that this church was built on the site of the town’s Forum (foro). Have them look for the archangel San Michele on top, with angels on both sides, the medieval graffiti on the right side of the church, and the heads on the columns.
Piazza San Michele is lively and a nice spot to hang out in the evening – kids can run around in the car-free area next to the church.
WHAT TO SKIP WITH KIDS IN LUCCA
Lucca has a popular summer music festival – Lucca Summer Festival. It attracts big Italian and international performers and it’s a wonderful setting for adults to rock out or listen to beautiful music.
Why not bring kids? Most of the concerts are late at night, it’s crowded and very loud. If you do decide to bring small kids, make sure you reserve a seat in the stands.
There are also concerts in town, Puccini e la sua Lucca, at the Chiesa di San Giovanni e Reparata near the Duomo. It’s tough to keep little ones quiet and still during an opera, but if yours are able to, go for it!
Restaurants for Each Meal
Lucca is an easy place to grab a slice of pizza or a panino to eat in one of its parks, playgrounds, or green spaces.
You can also grab picnic supplies in town at a grocery store (there are family markets, fruit shops, and mini stores of chains like Conad and Carrefour) and have a picnic.
If you’re in town for a while, you’ll probably eat some meals in restaurants. Piazza dell’Anfiteatro has a few restaurants with outdoor patios – perfect for families because kids can play in the piazza while parents finish their meals (or have aperitivo!). Print out our Italy coloring pages for your kids to color while you’re waiting for your food.
FUN THINGS FOR KIDS NEAR LUCCA
Lucca makes a great base for exploring the area. Nearby places and sites that are fun for kids:
|Place||Distance||Time (by car)||Highlights|
|Collodi||15 km||25 min||Pinocchio Park, Butterfly Garden, Garzoni Garden|
|Pisa||20 km||30 min||Leaning Tower|
|Beaches near Lucca||90 km||1 hr 10 min||Swimming and sandcastles|
|Pistoia Zoo||45 km||30 min||Animals and playground|
|Florence||90 km||1 hr 10 min||Michelangelo’s David, gelato|
|San Gimignano||80 km||1 hr 25 min||Torre Grossa climb, medieval armor, gelato|
GETTING TO LUCCA WITH KIDS
Usually, it’s a pain to drive and park in or near an Italian city, but it’s stress-free in Lucca. The city is off of the A11 Autostrada running between the coast (Pisa, Livorno) and Florence.
You can park just outside of the city walls. We park in the southern part of the city, near Porta San Pietro. There’s plenty of paid parking (blue spaces) – just pay in the machines (coins or credit card) and display your ticket on your dashboard.
Good To Know: The center is a ZTL (zona traffic limitato – limited traffic zone) which means you can only drive in if you have permission (residents, hotel guests, etc). If you’re staying at a hotel in town, contact them so they can register your license plate with the authorities (and you won’t get fined).
Read our post on Driving in Italy to find out more about Italian driving rules and norms!
It’s also easy to visit Lucca by train, especially on a day trip from Florence. Lucca is only 1 hr 20 min from Florence and 25 min from Pisa.
The train station is across the street from the southern walls and a quick walk to enter the city center.
If you have a lot of luggage, take a taxi to your hotel.
The closest airport to Lucca is Pisa Galileo Galilei Airport (PSA), only 20 kilometers away. To get from the airport to Lucca, drive a rental car, take a bus, taxi, or bus+train.
Another option is the Florence airport (FLR). It’s further away (70 kilometers) but may have better international connections.
GETTING AROUND LUCCA WITH KIDS
Lucca is easily explored on foot or on a bicycle.
The city center is mostly car-free, but that doesn’t mean you can let your guard down. There are still cars and buses moving around the narrow streets and piazzas.
Bicycles are our favorite mode of transport in Lucca. If your kids are confident cyclists, let them have their own bicycles. Otherwise, for less confident riders and smaller kids, rent a bike with a child seat, one with a second bike attached to the back, or one of the quadricycles (parents can pedal while kids sit in the front) you’ll see making their way around the city walls.
Safety Warning: Remember that the path on the walls is not fenced in. Most of the outer border has a raised section, but kids can still easily climb up on top and fall. DO NOT let your children come close to the edge. Also, many parts of the inner border do not have any sort of barrier.
Tell your kids to stay on the paved area. If you stop to play in the play areas, make sure they stay there and don’t wander to the edge of the walls.
This isn’t to scare you – there are tons of kids cycling and playing on the walls. Just be extra aware of your surroundings, especially with small kids.
Good To Know: We have a 4-year-old who has great bike skills but we still have to watch him closely in Lucca. Buses pop around corners, other cyclists ride by quickly, and pedestrians fill some streets.
Good To Know: There are some streets in Lucca that are pedestrian-only. The sign is blue with a white outline of a pedestrian, or it will say ‘area pedonale,’ pedestrian area.
You may want to check out our post on Important Italian Road Signs.
Is Lucca a good family travel destination?
Yes! Lucca is a relaxing, fun, and interesting destination for kids and parents. There are attractions like cycling the city walls, playing in playgrounds, and climbing towers to keep kids engaged, and it’s a nice city to soak up Italian life.