San Michele in Foro takes its name from its location, as the basilica was built over the site of Lucca's ancient Roman forum. The original church dates from the eighth century, though it was rebuilt in the 11th century and the facade, with its graceful rows of arches and intricate carvings, was added two centuries later. Because of its historical and architectural importance, San Michele in Foro is best appreciated with the help of a guide during a walking or bike tour of Lucca’s historic center. Most sightseeing tours also take in other city highlights—Guinigi Tower, the Duomo di San Martino, and the historic city walls—in addition to vibrant gathering spots in the city center like Via Fillungo and Piazza dell’Anfiteatro. Lucca is one of the most popular day trips from Florence or shore excursions from Livorno, and a tour of the city is often combined with a stop in Pisa. You can also opt to join a food and wine tour of Lucca’s city center, combining visits to its top attractions with a wine tasting and samples of local Tuscan specialties.
Things to know before you go
- Lucca tours on foot or by bike include significant stretches outdoors, so wear comfortable shoes and dress for the weather
- Churches in Italy require modest dress covering shoulders and knees to enter.
- San Michele in Foro is accessible for wheelchair users via a ramp placed alongside the entry staircase.
- The church is ringed with steps, a popular place in the city center to relax with a gelato.
How to get there
San Michele in Foro is in the center of Lucca’s compact old town, a short walk from the train station. Direct trains run from Florence to Lucca, but join a tour or shore excursion that includes transportation to visit Lucca and Pisa in a single day without the hassle of coordinating public transportation schedules.
When to get there
The historic center of Lucca comes to life from July to September, when the city hosts a popular music festival. Outdoor performances by Italian and international rock and pop artists take over the streets and squares, making it a delightful time to discover the city.
Art and Architecture Highlights of San Michele in Foro
San Michele in Foro is most noted for its ornate facade that features a series of blind arcades and loggias, all richly carved from white marble and topped by a towering statue of St. Michael the Archangel. The soaring bell tower, built between the 12th and 14th centuries, has elegant mullioned windows in the same pristine marble. By contrast, the church's interior is more sedate, though home to an important painting by 15th-century master Filippino Lippi of Saints Helen, Jerome, Sebastian, and Roch.
- Lucca Clock Tower (Torre delle Ore)
- Puccini Museum
- Puccini e la sua Lucca International Permanent Festival
- Cathedral Museum Complex (Complesso Museale e Archeologico della Cattedrale di Lucca)
- Lucca Cathedral (Duomo di Lucca)
- Guinigi Tower (Torre Guinigi)
- Piazza dell'Anfiteatro
- Via Fillungo
- Devil's Bridge (Ponte del Diavolo or Ponte della Maddalena)