For anyone who loves being on a bike, wants to see the city from a different perspective, or just wants to break up the museums-churches-walking routine, I definitely recommend adding this short and easy bike ride to your Lucca visit. And, you can say you’ve been cycling in Tuscany without having had to sweat your way up Tuscany’s many hills. Here’s all you need to know about biking Lucca’s walls:
Lucca’s historic city walls form a 3-mile greenway loop that completely encircles the city (see the Google Map image below), and the bike path stretches for the entire loop on top of these walls. You’re not balancing on a narrow wall, as many people first imagine; the walls are 40 feet high but they’re also almost 90 feet across. The path is very wide (wide enough that it was once used as a racetrack), and since it’s also completely flat, shaded by trees, and full of great picnic spots (here are some tips on picnicking in Italy), I often recommend it as a great activity for anyone traveling in Italy with kids. (Keep in mind that the inner side of the wall is not fenced, so make sure kids stick to the bike path and don’t stray toward the edge.).
In addition to easy, traffic-free riding, the walls offer bird’s-eye views over Lucca’s rooftops and beyond to the surrounding hills plus often have a refreshing breeze, even in the dog days of summer. The path is also lined with a cafè, gelato carts, water fountains, and a playground and the path is particularly busy in the evening when locals take their “passeggiata” by bike to socialize and enjoy the cooler time of day. Riding one circuit on the walls will take you about 25 minutes at a relatively slow pace (it’s a park, with people walking, lots of bikes, etc. so don’t expect to race around). Before or after your bike ride, there is plenty more to see and do in Lucca.
Lucca is a big biking town, so there are numerous shops that rent bikes in the historic center. I recommend Cicli Bizzarri, set near the Porta Santa Maria gate inside the walls at the north end/top of the town. They are open daily (they close for about 90 minutes during the lunch hour), and there’s no need to reserve a bike in advance unless you are booking bikes for a large group. Rental rates are a few euros an hour, and they’ll keep your ID while you take the bike out. They also rent helmets but they’ll tell you they’re not necessary for biking on Lucca’s walls. If you’d like to go for a longer ride in or around Lucca, ask the staff at Cicli Bizzarri–they have plenty of nearby route suggestions.
Other than a bike, you do not have to worry about cycling gear for biking on Lucca’s walls. You can rent a helmet but after being in Lucca for five minutes, you’ll see that practically nobody wears one. Locals use their bikes as their main means of transport for everything from running errands to commuting, and you’ll see women on bikes wearing skirts, heels, and carrying designer bags and men in suits with briefcases. So really, wear whatever you want.
If you’re spending the day (or a few days) in Lucca, you may want to consider renting your bike for the duration of your stay. The city is flat, much of the old town within the city walls has limited or no motor vehicle traffic, and the locals are used to mixing pedestrians and cyclists (opt for a rental bike with a bell, however). Those arriving by train can pop into Tourist Center Lucca located directly outside the train station to choose from a vast assortment of bikes; a printed map and downloadable app with various itineraries (plus a smartphone holder attached to the handlebars for easy viewing) is included with all rentals.
It’s very easy to do a day trip to Lucca from Florence (it’s about an hour on the train), or include it on a Tuscany itinerary that might also include Pisa, Siena, San Gimignano, Volterra, Monteriggioni, the magical roofless Abbey of San Galgano, Montepulciano and Pienza. It’s not even that far (though I wouldn’t recommend it as a day trip) from one of my favorite hotels in Italy, the Locanda Dell’Amorosa.
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