Lucca, Italy, is a slightly off-the-beaten-trail gem of a Tuscan town. Encircled by a high stone wall built in the 1500s, the ancient center is the perfect size for exploring on foot or bicycle. Overlooking two of Lucca’s main piazzas—Piazza del Guilio and Piazza Napoleone—sits the recently opened Grand Universe Lucca, one of Marriott’s independent Autograph Collection hotels. Completely remodeled and opened in 2020, the Grand Universe is the only boutique luxury hotel in Lucca’s historical center.
If you want to explore beyond Lucca, the Grand Universe is a perfect base for excursions to towns like Forte dei Marmi on the beautiful Tuscan Tyrrhenian Sea, Pisa, Florence, or even the Cinque Terre area with its five perched villages overlooking the Ligurian Sea.
Things to Know About Grand Universe Lucca
- Lucca, founded by the Romans 2,000 years ago, is a perfect for family adventures. Largely car-free and rich with historical sites and tempting restaurants, it still remains an authentic Italian town where it’s easy to encounter the locals bicycling around the historical center.
- The hotel’s hundreds of million dollar renovation provides a modern ambiance with nods to the site’s, and town’s, historic past. Tall ceilings, a lobby with a grand piano, beautiful views from some rooms over the piazzas, and a soft, Tuscan palette of yellows, blues, and muted reds blend the old with the new, all within the facade of an historic building.
- The Grand Universe Lucca has 55 guest rooms, including 9 unique suites. Most rooms are configured with a connecting door, making it easy for families to share.
- The hotel offers several fun adventures, from tours of Lucca and other Tuscan destinations to wine tastings, plus its Bike and Bites adventure, which provides you with a bike and a filling picnic so you can take full advantage of the paved bicycle path that rings Lucca on top of the historical walls.
- The hotel offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner in its Legacy Bistro Wine Bar. There’s a rooftop terrace that offers champagne tasting to accompany the lovely view over the rooftops, churches, and piazzas.
- Lucca is a perfect destination for music lovers as it was home to musicians and composers such as Giacomo Puccini, Nicolao Dorati, Giovanni Lorenzo Gregori, Francesco Barsanti, Francesco Geminiani, Filippo Manfredi and Luigi Boccherini. Today, Lucca hosts the world-famous Lucca Summer Festival—2023 musicians performing include Bob Dylan, Norah Jones, Onerepublic, Lil Has X, Pat Metheny, the Chemical Brothers, and many others.
- For full Tuscan countryside immersion, a visit could be combined with the hotel’s sister property, the Renaissance Il Ciocco hotel, located in the pristine Serchio Valley near the medieval village of Barga, about 50 minutes away.
What Families Need to Know
The Grand Universe Lucca is perfect for couples and families traveling with slightly older children—being inside the urban historical center with no pool or kids’ club may put pressure on parents traveling with small children to find the right mix of age-appropriate activities.
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However, there are a lot of fun activities for families with adventurous school age kids and teens. We went with our teenager and had a lot of fun together exploring Lucca, bicycling on the walls, and finding great places to eat.
The connecting rooms make it easy for families to find the right room arrangements, as do the suites, but one word of caution—the soundproofing of the connecting doors leaves a little to be desired.
The hotel can arrange babysitting.
Grand Universe Lucca Reviews
Tripadvisor reviewers give the hotel a perfect score of 5 out of 5. Reviewers most often praise the clean modernity, proximity to everything (including 175 restaurants with a few minutes’ walk), and kind staff. Many mentioned nice upgrades and perks they’d received as members of Marriott’s Bonvoy loyalty program.
On Hotels.com, reviewers gave the hotel a score of 9/10, with some mentions of how the “piccolo” (small in Italian) rooms were in fact, very small. Others noted that their rooms were comfortably spacious.
Booking.com reviewers put the hotel at 8.7/10. Guests loved the great location, helpful staff, rooftop terrace bar, and views over the town offered by some rooms. Couples, in particular, loved this property, rating it at 9.2/10.
All sites mentioned that guests should be aware that there is no parking onsite.
Important Details About Grand Universe Lucca
Located in the heart of the historical center of Lucca, the hotel provides a great base for exploring the town. It’s a short eight-minute walk from the train station, allowing for car-free travel to the hotel and also for day trip adventures.
Lucca is convenient to the Pisa (30 minutes) and Florence (45 minutes) airports. It’s easy to use Lucca as a base for trips to other nearby Tuscan gems, like Pisa and Florence, while being based in a less touristy area.
Parking was a bit complicated. As the hotel is in the historic center there is no parking right at the hotel. You can drive up to it through the limited traffic zone but will need to provide your license plate to the staff to ensure you aren’t ticketed. But there is ample parking outside the walls. We parked in one of the city lots which was an easy right-minute walk from the hotel—the only downside was that we had to keep track of when our prepaid parking tickets expired so that we could go back to the machine in the lot and renew them in time. There is no valet service at the hotel.
The hotel is in a historic building in a fantastic location overlooking two beautiful piazzas. The vibe inside is distinctly modern, especially in the rooms. The wine cellar, where the hotel offers private wine tastings, includes glimpse of the hotel’s Roman past—wall foundations from Roman times and the ancient fountain remains in the cellar that belonged to the glass blower who once inhabited the site. In the centuries after it was a Roman glassblower’s atelier, the Paoli family built their palazzo here, and it became a fashionable hotel in the mid-18th century frequented by the likes of the composer Giacomo Piccini, writer John Ruskin, and jazz-great Chet Baker.
One goal of the hotel’s renovation was maintaining the spirit of a grand hotel—apparent in the open plan lobby with the Symphony Lounge, complete with a grand piano, that greets you as you enter. There’s a cozy rooftop terrace bar—seating up to 20 people—with champagne by Martin Orsyn paired with cuisine that highlights the nuances of the four cuvées. Next to the roof terrace is Forte gym with exercise equipment to start, or finish, a day off right.
The Grand Universe Lucca offers 55 guest rooms (including nine suites), all located centrally in the old palazzo. The categories of room sizes give a nod to Lucca’s musical past, with the grandest suite named after Giacomo Puccini, who was born in Lucca and was a frequent visitor to the property when it was a hotel in the 1850s.
Other room categories include Aria, Allegro, Vivace, Adagio, and Piccolo. Do be aware that several reviewers were surprised by how small the Piccolo rooms were, even by European hotel standards, and that it might be worth spending more for a larger room.
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Rooms are modern and comfortable with historical elements of the building, like beamed peaked ceilings, incorporated when possible. Touches of silk and velvet in colors that reflect traditional Tuscan tones—terracotta, yellow, and pine green—are throughout, a nod to Lucca’s past as a center of silk making.
Rooms feature new wood floors, a large TV, complimentary WiFi and Netflix, an iPad directory, and all the things you’d expect, including a strong shower, mini-bar, coffee maker, safe, a comfortable bed, and air conditioning.
Our room had a beautiful view of one of the prettiest piazzas in Lucca, the Piazza del Giglio, fronting the historic Teatro di Lucca, and the view turned me into my future self—the quintessential Italian grandmother who stations herself by the window to watch all the activity outside.
Lucca offers a rich range of things to do, including visiting the house where Puccini was born, walking through churches, exploring museums, and seeing the old Roman amphitheater, which is now a beautiful piazza.
There are several bicycle rental shops around the hotel that make it easy to rent a bike for an hour or so to ride around the well-paved path atop the wide walls that circle the city. The hotel offers a Bikes and Bites package, which includes a bike rental for an hour and a hearty picnic, including a half bottle of wine.
The hotel also offers several wine tasting experiences, olive oil tastings, a mixology class, and spirits tasting. For those who would like to enjoy an aperitivo while on the move, the hotel can arrange an “Aperitif” experience in an open, horse-drawn carriage, complete with snacks and a bottle of sparkling wine.
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Probably the most unusual thing the hotel offers is its “Prelude of Existence’s Experience,” which offers a 60-minute session with a composer at the grand piano in the Symphony Lounge. You fill out a questionnaire about your personality and preferences and the composer creates a prelude that reflects your personality. The prelude is then committed to paper and put in a Tuscan leather box for you to take home.
The hotel can arrange guided tours of Lucca, ranging from exploring the historical walls to a music focused tour, or a visit with local artisans. Further afield, tours can be arranged to other places in Tuscany. You can visit villas in the surrounding countryside, explore Barga and its historic Devil’s Bridge, take a tour of Pisa, hop a jeep tour to see Florence, Cinque Terre, the marble quarries of Carrera, and the famed Tuscan villages of San Gimignano and Volterra.
The Legacy Bistro Wine Bar, is the onsite restaurant featuring contemporary Italian cuisine and wines, and is open for lunch, dinner, or a light snack. The restaurant is also where the buffet breakfast is served. Room service is available. During the summer, service is also available outdoor in the Piazza Napoleone.
The Eternal wine cellar is available for private events and wine tastings. And the Sommità Martin Orsyn Champagne rooftop bar offers beautiful views of Lucca along with sophisticated champagne and food pairings.
Afternoon tea is available in the lobby.