Lucca's long history goes back to Etruscan and Ancient Roman times, and the city retains pieces of Ancient architecture. Lucca's great era was in the Gothic era just before the Renaissance, and the city contains much marvelous architecture from that era. Lucca remained an independent city state until the start of the 19th century.
The area of most interest to visitors is still enclosed within the old city defensive wall. The top of these broad walls is a ring park, a pleasant place for walking.
Rail and road links provide easy access from nearby Pisa and Florence.
Pisa International Airport has a rail station attached, and is only a 20 minute train ride from Lucca.
The railroad station is just a few blocks from the old town walls. Luggage lockers are said to be available, but it is not clear where they are. There are no direct trains from Pisa airport to Lucca, so a transfer is required.
There is a bus that travels directly from Pisa Airport to Piazzale Verdi in Lucca.
You get the bus just outside the arrivals hall of the airport (buy your tickets beforehand at the ticket kiosk within the arrivals hall). The fare is cheap at about 4€.
The bus ride is a scenic, pleasant thirty-minute ride to Piazzale Verdi, which is inside the walls.
Driving inside the walls is a headache because of the enormous pedestrian traffic, so park your car and rent a bike. Several bicycle rental locations can be found near the North entrance to the city, Porto Santa Maria. It is not a large city within the walls, so you may find it more enjoyable to simply walk around.
Lucca has many old churches, some of which now house art galleries. See art museum. This was the hometown of Puccini, and operas are held regularly. Be sure to come by during the summer months, as the area is regularly dotted with Puccini festivals, hosting a variety of young opera singers from across Europe and North America.
Compared to Florence or Siena, there is relatively little late night activity on the streets of old Lucca. There is one dance club on top of the wall, near the Southern entrance to the city. Be aware that club nights are informally segregated by age group - go out on the wrong night, and you may find yourself amidst a sea of 16-18 year olds, instead of the more usual crowd of 20-25 year olds.
Most locals tend to make the short trip to Viareggio on the coast, which offers a far better selection of clubs, such as 7 Apples and La Canniccia
For those wishing to learn Italian in an immersive setting, Koinè Centro offers 2-week sessions for beginners and advanced alike. See: http://www.koinecenter.com/ for more information.
Only in Lucca you can find a special Sweet-bread in shape of a small baguette or a bun. It's called "Buccellato" and it has raisins inside and has a unique taste of anise. You can find it in a small shop called Taddeucci, behind Saint Michael's church in the main square of Lucca
It is safe to drink the water that comes out of the public fountains. Many locals fill gallon jugs and it is their primary source of drinking water. It is delicious and quite refreshing. In fact, it taste better than most bottled water.
The digestive tonic China Massaglia is produced at the Farmacia Massaglia in Lucca. This is an eminent example of the "china" style of amaro (Italian potable bitters). If you ask for an "amaro locale" at a restaurant, this is likely what you will receive.
"Biadina" is another local style of bitters, bottled by Massaglia and other producers; this drink is often sold with a small pack of pine nuts.
Accommodations are plentiful, and cheaper than in Florence or Siena. The best stay is at San Giuliano Terme (health giving waters are still offered to an international clientele) on the road which runs along the foot of the hills from Pisa to Lucca.
Hostel Franco is very nice and relatively cheap (15 euro per night) when I stayed there in 2003.
Women travellers should be particularly careful with eye contact in Tuscany. What is perceived as normal eye contact in some cultures is in local culture perceived as very flirtatious, and is an open invitation for would-be Romeos.