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Lucca, Lucca

Tuscany, Italy, Europe: Tree-lined road in Lucca
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Cultured, laid-back Lucca makes a great day trip from Pisa or Florence—but it's also a good place to stay over if you want to enter into the town's unhurried rhythm and explore some of its excellent bars and restaurants. When you reach the walls, drive around them to the Cittadella or Lorenzini parking lots just inside. At the tourist information point in Piazzale Verdi, you can rent audio guides to the city; they also have a few bicycles that you can hire to tour the perfectly flat historic center (most Lucchesi get around by bike). Visit San Frediano, with its 12th-century mosaic facade, fine Jacopo della Quercia altarpiece, and action-packed early-16th-century frescoes, and the lopsided Duomo, which houses the Volto Santo, a cedarwood effigy of Christ supposedly carved by a certain Nicodemus, who was present at the Crucifixion (it's more likely to be a 13th-century copy). Don't miss shop- and bar-lined Piazza Anfiteatro, which retains the oval shape of the ancient amphitheater it was built over, or the oak-topped belvedere of the Torre Guinigi. And as sunset approaches, join local joggers and cyclists on the tree-lined city ramparts, with dual views in over the rooftops and out across the surrounding countryside.

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