Though it makes for a great day trip from Florence, Lucca is a destination in its own right, with charming palazzos, rustic trattorias and Renaissance relics nestled within its medieval walls. Beyond them, the Tuscan hills supply the city with its bounty of Lucchesi wine. Our guide features the best places to drink it all in.

Who doesn’t love a walled city? They’re always so perfectly contained, full of hidden corners and curiously riven with the marks of civilisations that have come and gone. Lucca is one such city. Fans of Florence will swoon. Just an hour’s drive from the Tuscan capital, it has all of Florence’s best bits – Renaissance art, heaven-sent architectural marvels and truly Tuscan trattorias – along with sprawling countryside mansions in verdant hills which spin out wildly beyond the stony confines of the city.

History nuts might already know it as “The City of 100 Churches”, as well as for its well-preserved medieval city walls. Nevertheless, we’ve blown away the cobwebs and probed its most crumbling crannies to find the city’s contemporary hotspots. From the surreal marble quarry believed to be the birthplace of Michelangelo’s David to the chic Monaco-style aperitivo spot that’s buried within the city walls, our guide covers all the best bits in the city centre and beyond.

TO STAY

L’Arancera di Villa Grabau

There’s no missing this zingy orange mansion. While the colour’s strikingly modern, architecturally it’s typical of the Renaissance-style villas found in Lucca and decorated warmly, in a way that feels more like a luxurious home than an upscale hotel. Take a dip in the saltwater pool, pootle about the kitchen garden or saddle up for a bicycle ride through the hills. The villa is available to rent exclusively, by single apartment or on a bed and breakfast basis.

Fattoria Mansi Bernardini

This place is like something out of a Luca Guadagnino film – think distressed stucco walls, al-fresco dinner tables, clay tennis courts and rippling olive groves. It’s not a centralised hotel but a cluster of four houses and three villas – perfect for those who’d rather cosset themselves away than rub shoulders with fellow travellers.

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Palazzo Dipinto

It calls itself the “painted palace”, though we think “palace” is a little misleading. Tucked just inside Lucca’s ancient city walls looking out over Piazza of the same name, Palazzo Dipinto is a modern hotel with nods to history – vaulted wooden ceilings and parquet floors, for instance. With Palazzo Mansi National Museum and the Church of San Michele in Foro a short stroll away, it’s a great base for those eager to dive into Lucca’s wealth of Renaissance art history.

Hotel Ilaria

With the waters of the canal lapping against stony walls and a garden of creeping trellises, Hotel Ilaria feels like a historical cubbyhole. This is especially true if you manage to procure one of the rooms built within Lucca’s original 13th-century city walls. Guests are welcomed with a bottle of wine, fresh from the vineyards of Lucca – a delightful touch.

Historical Villa, Lumura

A Tuscan fairy-tale castle if ever there was one. From the 17th century up until recently, this villa was the lodging of various noble Tuscan families. Today, majestic canopy beds, a farmhouse kitchen that looks like a Van-Gogh painting come to life and delicate frescoes in a palette of pastel blues, searing yellows and pistachio greens give this hotel inimitable character.

Enoteca Vanni

Picture an Italian wine cellar, and you’re almost definitely envisioning Enoteca Vanni. It’s craggy yet cosy all at once and lined with row upon row of bottles, distinguishable from one another primarily by their varying states of dustiness. Up top, it dishes out generous aperitivo accompanied by some of the best wine Tuscany has to offer.

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