Why You Should Visit Lucca with a Toddler–From Churches and Antique Fairs to Gelato

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Lucca is perhaps the most baby and toddler friendly destination in Tuscany. We loved traveling with our toddler to this slightly less crowded, more accessible Tuscan town. Located an hour from Florence and just 30 minutes north of Pisa, Lucca is a small Italian town famous for its still intact medieval wall which surrounds the entire city center.

biking in lucca with children

Photo by Jane Monnier

Now, a pedestrian- and bike-friendly promenade lined with trees and small parks, this wall is one of the reasons Lucca is so family friendly. As traffic is restricted within the city wall, it’s a great city to wander in and basically impossible to get lost. Unlike other Tuscan towns like Siena or San Gimignano, Lucca is not a hill town and relatively flat, making it very stroller friendly. Even though summer can still get very busy, it’s nothing compared to the crowds in Florence. Although I find the restaurants superior in neighboring Pisa, Lucca has some of my favorite quick grab eateries, which are perfect for families traveling with toddlers.

Parents with toddler in Lucca Italy

Picture by Carla Cárdenas Ozturk

Park Easily and Affordably at Parcheggio Palatucci

Playground in Lucca

Photo by Jane Monnier

Driving in Italy takes some getting used to, but it’s the parking that can be the biggest headache. Ditch the stress of searching for street parking or avoiding Limited Traffic Zones (called ZTLs where can give you a hefty fine!) and park in the large lot on the west end of town (8 euros max cost per day). From here, it’s an easy walk through the S. Donato gate into the city center. Bonus–there are even bathrooms and a tourist information point at the lot.

playground near the Lucca walls

Photo by Evelina Tolchinsky-Shipkevich

What Mom Liked Best: Not being stressed out by parking.

What Bebe Liked Best: The playground found immediately after you enter the town through the S. Donato gate.

How To Get There: Here’s a link to all the parking lots in Lucca https://www.metrosrl.it/, but here is my recommendation: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Parcheggio+Palatucci/@43.8438786,10.4977377,17z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0xef7d7da6c1abefef!8m2!3d43.8455744!4d10.4948817

P.S.: If arriving by train, you’re in luck because the train station is just outside the walls on the south end of town making access to the city center super easy.

Photo by Evelina Tolchinsky-Shipkevich

Stroll or Rent a Bike for a Leisurely Trip Around the City Wall

Lucca walking path stroller

Photo by Jane Monnier

You can’t visit Lucca without taking a stroll along the wall. If you don’t want to exhaust yourself walking the 2.5 km loop, rent a bike at one of the many shops around town. Some have four- or six-passenger “Surrey” bikes for the whole family. You can also rent adult bikes with baby seats (front or rear positioned) by the hour, half day, or full day. It shouldn’t be a problem to leave a stroller at the shop during your bike ride.  Two bike rental shops I highly recommend are Cicli Bizzarri and Poli.  They offer child sized bikes, adult bikes with trailers for the kids to ride in attached, and adult bikes with a small kid size bike attached.  Make sure to stop off at some of the playgrounds around the wall as well.

What Mom Liked Best: Being active with my kids while they are both happy and safe.

What Bebe Liked Best: Who doesn’t love a bike ride?

How To Get There: There is a variety of bike rental shops around Lucca. As most seem to offer similar pricing, don’t worry too much about shopping around. If you choose to walk, my favorite area of the wall to stroll with kids is between Porta S. Anna and Porta Elisa, basically the southern half of the wall. This is because this area has more shade, playgrounds, and even a little place to stop for a drink or snack.

Biking around the Lucca walls with children

Photo by Jane Monnier. Biking around the Lucca city walls, a highlight!

Meander Through the Stalls During the Monthly Antique Fair

Photo by Pri Walker from Adventure Somewhere

Every third weekend year round, Lucca hosts a large antique fair selling everything from furniture, books, and art to even old hardware and light fixtures! The fair is located in the area between  Piazza Del Giglio to Piazza Antelminelli (outside the Duomo di San Martino) and is fun for kids and adults alike.

What Mom Liked Best: Searching for unique souvenirs.

What Bebe Liked Best: Trying to touch everything! Luckily most stall owners are quite nice with curious kids.

 

Visit One (or Many) of the “100 Churches” of Lucca

Duomo di San Martino with a baby

Photo by Elvia Fisher Meir

Lucca is known as the city of 100 churches. Although I’ve never counted them all to be sure, there is no shortage of churches to visit. It seems like around every corner there is another lovely marble facade. Our personal favorites are the Duomo di San Martino (check out the unequally sized arches adorning the church facade) and the Chiesa San Michele. A stroll between these two main churches allows you to see quite a lot of the town with plenty of shops to tempt you along the way.

What Mom Liked Best: Appreciating beautiful architecture and taking a break from the sun.

What Bebe Liked Best: Lighting a candle and finding all the artwork with baby Jesus.

 

Climb the Guinigi Tower for a View and a Surprise

atop the Torre Guinigui with a baby.

Photo by Shannon Matthews atop the Torre Guinigui with her baby.

Get a birds-eye view of the city from the top of the unique Guinigi Tower, which has a tree growing in its center! And for those kids who might be bummed that they are too young to climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa, they can climb this tower with their parents (and under 6-year-olds are free!). The second half of the climb gets quite steep and narrow. But, if you’re willing to do it, the cool tree growing out of the top is a fun surprise.

What Mom Liked Best: Seeing the view of Lucca.

What Bebe Liked Best: Finding a tree growing out of a tower.

How To Get There: The Guinigi tower is found on Via Sant’Andrea http://www.lemuradilucca.it/torri/torre-guinigi

kid in front of torre Guinigui

Photo by Pri Walker from Adventure Somewhere

Indulge Your Sweet Tooth on the Best Gelato in Lucca

Photo by Jennifer Walzer, taken during a gelato break!

As we’re lucky enough to live just 25 minutes from Lucca, we have definitely made the trip just for the gelato at The Bottega Del Gelato. One way to know if a gelateria is the real deal is finding out if their gelato is stored in metal canisters with tops (to maintain the proper temperature) and if its colors are muted (think of natural coloring from fresh ingredients vs. artificial coloring used for visual effect). Although perhaps less visually exciting for the little ones, trust me it’s worth it, especially for the adults. Plus, I’ve never seen a kid disappointed eating a gelato, even if its coloring isn’t that bright. Remember you can always ask for a taste before selecting which flavors to order.

What Mom Liked Best: The gelato (try the Pistachio)!

What Bebe Liked Best: The gelato (try the Stracciatella)!

How To Get There: La Bottega del Gelato is found on Via Santa Croce, 87, 55100 Lucca.

gelato in lucca with a toddler

Picture by Carla Cárdenas Ozturk

Enjoy a Relaxing Lunch in Piazza Napoleone

One of my favorite sandwich shops is on the Northside of Piazza Napoleone called Da Ciacco. This place is very popular. Try to arrive right when it opens and grab an outdoor table although there is some indoor seating upstairs. As it’s mainly sandwiches, it’s quick which is perfect for little kids. You can order whatever kind of sandwich they’d like on the super-rare-in-Tuscany soft warm bread (no hard crusts here!)!  There are more gourmet options for adults. If your kids are a little older, you can let them play in the Piazza while you dine and sip some prosecco or vino. There’s a nice clean bathroom upstairs that’s large enough for changing a baby even though there is no changing table.

What Mom Liked Best: The mortadella panino, the sunshine, and a glass of prosecco

What Bebe Liked Best: Prosciutto Cotto (ham), no cheese, and the bread. Yes, this place is picky eater friendly!

How to Get There: Piazza Napoleone, 10, 55100 Lucca LU. The piazza often has a merry-go-round as well!

Or…

Grab Some Hot Pizza to Go and Have a Picnic on the Wall

Outdoors picnic lunch in Lucca

When I’m not in a “sit down at a restaurant mood,” I head to Itaco Pizza to grab a few slices, take them up to the wall promenade, and make a picnic for us. You can easily buy bottled drinks (beer too!) at the Pizzeria or you can stop at the nearby Pam grocery store for some sides and drinks as well. The pizza at Itaco is served by the (large) slice and comes with tons of topping options, which they will reheat in a big wood oven before serving. You can also eat inside if a picnic isn’t what you’re looking for. They also serve different sandwiches made on fresh focaccia bread.

What Mom Liked Best: A relaxing picnic where I didn’t have to keep my kid still and quiet indoors.

What Bebe Liked Best: Eating outside! Our kids love a good picnic.

How to Get There: You can find Itaco Pizza at Via S. Paolino, 58, 55100 Lucca LU between Porta Sant’ Anna/S. Donato and Chiesa di San Michele.

Photo by Evelina Tolchinsky-Shipkevich

A few other fun things to do include simply walking around the town and enjoying the shops and vendors. Every time, I discover new wine bars or shops that I never noticed before. There are also always seasonal events happening around town, including the Comic-Con style event the first weekend in November involving thousands of costumed people! In the summer, they host some big concerts as well. My favorite season for Lucca is in October, April, and May. Thanks to the lovely pedestrian path along the city wall, the flat terrain, and abundance of enjoyable things to do, Lucca is a wonderful Tuscan great family destination.

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