Lucca Summer Festival – the perfect mix of travel and music

If you like travelling and going to concerts then the Lucca Summer Festival is the perfect way to combine the two.

Last updated: 1 October

Piazza Napoleone being set with seating and stage for the Lucca Music Festival

Rainy days, muddy fields and terrible toilets are what springs to mind when I think of a festival. Sorry, I know that’s not very cool but give me an arena any day. Then I heard about the Lucca Summer Festival. Your favourite band, no queuing, a great seat and pretty much guaranteed good weather. Where’s the catch? Turns out there isn’t one so that’s how I ended up in Lucca this year for the summer festival 2019.

What is the Lucca Summer Festival?

The annual music festival started back in 1988 and is now one of the most important festivals in Italy. It has played host to some of the biggest stars in the music world over the years (over 260 events so far) including Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Kasabian, Robbie Williams and Florence and the Machine to name just a few.

The festival usually starts at the end of June and runs throughout July. Many of the shows are held in Lucca’s main square, the picturesque Piazza Napoleone (otherwise known as Piazza Grande to locals) with the Ducal Palace as a backdrop. As you might have guessed the square is named after Napoleon. His sister Elisa Bonaparte Baciochhi ruled the city between 1805-181 so I guess being able to dedicate a square to your brother is a perk of the job.

The elegant tree-lined square flanked by colourful buildings makes for a charming (and unique) setting for a concert. As one of the main squares in the city, it is still accessible on a show day so you can have a stroll around and enjoy one of the many bars and restaurants before the show.

Piazza Napoleone being set with stage for the Lucca Music Festival

Late afternoon everyone is moved out of the square, the bars and restaurants pack up their outside seating, ticket barriers are installed and the square is transformed into a venue for the night. The statue of Marie-Louise Bourbon (who ruled Lucca between 1817 and 1820) keeping an eye on proceedings.

The bars and restaurants become the food and drink outlets for ticket holders. Think your average arena concourse but with much nicer ice cream and more reasonably priced refreshments!

The shows start a little later than usual here, allowing the heat of the day to cool down. Well in theory. I managed to time my visit during a heatwave so there was no cooling down. Imagine a gig at the gates of hell (thanks to my friend for that apt description) and you won’t even be close to how hot it was.

Some shows are held by the famous city walls to allow for a bigger capacity. Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour in 2019 was upgraded here to allow more people to attend. This changed after the tickets had gone on sale so bear that in mind if you book tickets for a popular band or singer.

How to buy tickets for the Summer Festival

Details of the 2020 Summer Festival should be announced later this year. Keep an eye on the Summer Festival website and social media for the latest news.

Once announced tickets can be bought from the Italian ticket agency Ticketone.it.

Tip: If Italian isn’t your first language you can translate the page (at least the ticket buying bit) using the flag button at the top right hand side of the screen.

Register an account before the tickets go on sale as this will save a lot of time (and panic) on ticket sale day. It’s also worth brushing up on your Italian beforehand too or at least having a look at how you choose seats on the site in advance.

Lucca Summer Festival Seating Plan

The layout of the venue depends on the show. The venue can hold seated, standing and mixed configuration setups so check what the layout is before buying tickets.

The show I went to was fully seated. For seated shows the blocks run quite far past the stage so it’s best to aim for one of the more central blocks. There may also be the option to purchase tickets in the grandstand at the back of square or in a small raised area around the monument (said to be one of the best areas to enjoy a show from). Do your research before buying tickets to avoid any surprises or disappointment on the night.

Take That on stage at the Lucca Music Festival 2019
Take That at the 2019 Lucca Summer Festival

How to get to Lucca

Lucca is located in Tuscany, around half an hour inland of Italy’s western coast.

Pisa is the nearest airport followed by Florence. It is very easy to reach via car or train from both Florence and Pisa. However, if you do drive remember the centre (within the city walls) is generally closed off to traffic so you’ll need to park outside. If you fly into either Pisa or Florence you’ll need to get the train into city centre to catch a train to Lucca.

Train From Florence
Take the train from Florence Santa Maria Novella to Lucca. The journey is around an hour and 20 minutes.

Train From Pisa
Take the train from Pisa Centrale to Lucca. The journey is around 25-30 minutes

Lucca in a day

If you are going to a show at the summer festival then you should definitely make a day of it. Although Lucca deserves a couple of nights you can see the best of in the city in a day. Getting there in the morning will give you time to walk the historic walls, visit a church or climb one of the towers for a spectacular view over the city. You’ll also have time for an aperol spritz and dinner before the show.

Explore Lucca with my guide of what to see and do in the historic walled city.

Lucca Summer Festival 2020

The first act for the 2020 Lucca Summer Festival has been announced – Celine Dion on 25 July. Stay tuned for more announcements.

Final thoughts

Looking back now, I’m wondering why I didn’t visit the Lucca summer festival before. A beautiful city, warm summer evenings and great music. If you love travelling and concerts then this music festival should be on your radar. I’m already hoping for a good line up for the 2020 Summer Festival. Details should be released shortly. Maybe I’ll see you there next year?

13 thoughts on “Lucca Summer Festival – the perfect mix of travel and music

  1. Lisa says:

    Lucca is definitely on my list of things to do. Thank you for your very informative post. I’ll definitely be checking out who’s in the line up for 2020.

  2. Karl says:

    Been going a few years to Lucca. This year we coincided our ten day stay to see Elton John at his final farewell Italian gig and then saw Elbow who were the support act for New Order. All three artists, bands were excellent. A treat to see Elton in his last ever Italian gig and NO were just fantastic.

    Like you looking forward to 2020.

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