How to survive the Lucca Comics & Games

This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)

Taking part in the Lucca Comics & Games means… waking up early in the morning. Pretty early, in case you aren’t lucky enough to live in Lucca or close by. You are aware of the fact that you will be walking all day long, trying to see everything, as we already discussed before. Five days for the 2016 event, but still you have the distinct feel that you need to be everywhere at once to be able to attend every art showing, take part in every parade, every concert and movie preview. Sometimes you get back to your hotel (or at home, if you’re one of the lucky ones) and your feet hurt, your backpack is full of nerd memorabilia and your wallet… well. It’s way lighter than in the morning. Why do we do it, then?

Well…
For the way our eyes lighten up when we proudly go through our loot at the end of the day.
Because we might have been lucky enough to spend some time with friends from all over Italy (and sometimes from abroad) that we only meet at the Lucca Comics & Games.
Because even if sometimes there’s so many people that it’s difficult even to walk around, it’s always an organized chaos: wherever you go you’ll find people ready to beg your pardon if they so much hit you lightly with their cosplay armor.
Because it’s amazing to see a whole city changing into a huge luna park.
Because the nerd family is a big one and it’s great to be able to spend some time all together, laughing and having fun with people you didn’t even know five minutes before, but hey they are in line with you to buy the latest issue of that amazing comic, so they have to be part of the team!
This tiny, semi-serious guide just wants to share a few tips I learnt in the latest years, and convince also those who are still afraid of this overcrowded event that they can attend safely. Believe me, it’s worth it!

Lucca Comics & Games: Tickets

The Official Lucca Comics & Games website generally starts the pre-sale at the beginning of September. In 2017 the pre-sale opened in July, with a nice discount for those who’d buy the tickets before September. The last couple of years have introduced a daily maximum number of tickets, up to 80.000. Once they reach that number you can still take part in the Comicon but without your ticket you won’t be able to access the pavillions nor to attend the movie previews.
Buying  your ticket online is always a good idea. The pre-sale fees will cost you 1.50€ and you can save buying a 2/3/4/5 day pass according to your needs. There’s the chance to pick up your purchase at the box offices on the Comicon days, but out of experience I suggest you to have them shipped out to your home, so you will avoid pretty long lines.
This year for example there weren’t many people to buy the tickets but the box offices to pick up the pre-purchased ones were basically overcrowded!
It is possible to have a discount if you have a Carta Più Feltrinelli, a seasonal pass for the ASD Basket Femminile Le Mura Lucca, a Coop card (only for selected days) or if you are buying for a group of at least 20 people.
Tickets and/or passes will be generally shipped at the beginning of October.

Lucca Comics & Games: Lodging

Out of personal experience I can tell you that finding a place to stay to attend the Lucca Comics & Games not only it’s the most difficult thing, but it’s also the most expensive point in your expenses list. Many people in fact book their lodging up to one year before.
If you have your own vehicle and maybe a limited budget, I’d suggest to search outside of Lucca. Hotels, B&B and houses are absolutely expensive in that period of the year: unless you have a spare organ you want to sell on the black market, or unless you are one of the very lucky people we lovingly hate, it’s way cheaper to book everywhere but in Lucca. It’s vital to plan your stay at least six or seven months in advance. The usual suspects like Booking, Kayak, Tripadvisor, are a good starting point. If you want to rent an apartment, you can use AirBnB or HomeAway to find good deals.
Remember: an early planning will save your wallet!
You can definitely add one or two days in Lucca during the comics if you’re thinking of visiting Florence.

 

Lucca Comics & Games: Transport

Going to Lucca with your car when the Comicon is live might mean living up to a lot of traffic (unless you get up early as suggested at the beginning of this post). If you still want to risk it, know that there are several parking areas where you can leave your car. Some give you the chance to park farther away from the Comicon (avoiding to congest the city) and use a shuttle service that will bring you to one of the access points.
You can reach Lucca from the train stations in Florence, Pisa and Viareggio. When the Comicon is live there will be more train rides. Here all the info about it. Also in this case it’s better to remember that the trains could be pretty overcrowded. Plan everything in advance, taking an early train in the morning and leaving before the pavillion close or later at night.
To those who need a fast train because they have to get there from far away (like me) I suggest to get subscribed to the Italo and Trenitalia newsletters: a few months before the event they always have promos that will help you to save a lot!

Lucca Comics & Games: Parking

The 2017 edition brought something new. It’s now possible to book your parking spot in advance. The new online services allows visitors to check what are the free spots in town, all situated outside the Medieval walls. Selecting the kind of vehicle you’re coming with (motorbike, van, car or car with a handicap parking permit) and then the day you will attend the Lucca Comics & Games, a map will show you the parking areas. Booking online you will get a discounted price, 7€ for the day in stead than 10€, but you will have to add a 1,50€ for the booking fees. The discount anyhow is still there, just a bit less impressive! Payment methods accepted are credit card and Paypal. As soon as you complete the payment process, you will be able to print your parking permit. Make sure not to forget your printed receipt because you will need it to access the parking spot that has been reserved for you.
Believe me if I tell you that it’s a very useful service. We’ve been attending the Lucca Comics & Games for years and one of the most difficult things was to find a parking spot, especially on the most crowded days. Knowing that you have a reserved parking spot will save you a lot of time and stress!

Living the Lucca Comics & Games experience

Here we go. You booked your lodging, got the tickets and planned everything else.
Now you sit down, relax and enjoy!
As soon as you get there, try to find a Comicon map. For the past editions they shipped a copy for every ticket bought. This year, unfortunately, not everyone got it. We also noticed that during the most crowded days the maps at the box offices were already finished by mid morning. You can still print your own copy at home, from here. If you have a smartphone you can also download the official app, obviously free, for iOS and Android. We tried that, but the traffic overload on the telephone lines and the difficult user interface weren’t really helpful. We found a map at the Area Movie, where some nice operators gave us one together with a pretty Dylan Dog miniature for five minutes of our times, to fill out a form.
JapanTown is, at least to me, one of the most beautiful areas at the Lucca Comics & Games. Moved from the Real Collegio to Piazza San Francesco, it’s dedicated to mangas, gadgets from Japan and manga schools (of course it’s nothing like the real souvenirs from Japan but we’ll make them do!). Here you can find themed events, workshops and other activities. A few years ago they finally opened also a maid café in this part of the town, which looks like those we have seen during our trip to Tokyo.
This area, tho, could be organized better. The little shops are arranged under the colonnade, and often there’s so many people that it’s difficult even to try and see what they are selling! We hope that in the future the organizers will try to find a better solution for this area.
My suggestion is to bring a backpack with you (because you will buy a lot of nice things, and if you’re planning to buy like a kimono, to look like one of the geisha in Kyoto, it’s definitely better to store it away!), and maybe go there as soon as they open in the morning, or right before they close, at least in the most crowded days. You should be then able to enjoy it more!
Same goes for the most crowded pavillions like Bandai, Panini, Warner Bros. In some cases there are long lines to get in. It’s better to visit them in the less crowded days or as soon as they open / right before they close. You can check out the number of the tickets sold on the homepage of the official Lucca Comics & Games website. We would’ve definitely loved it if the ticketing system was that easy also for Universal Studios Japan in Osaka! Unfortunately, that was way more complicated: Lucca Comics… spoiled us!
…and what about the program?
This is the question I read the most on the official Facebook account for the Comicon. Unfortunately every year the program is the last thing they publish. If on one side it is understandable, because they have to schedule everything with the exhibits and the special guests, it is still a great disservice to those who have to plan their trip to Lucca. It’s impossible to book a cheaper lodging unless you don’t find one a few months ahead, but what do we do if the official program is published only a few days before the event? How do I know when I can meet my favorite author?
I still haven’t found an answer to that. I often asked to the organizers for a program, but the result was that they published a 2016 program that was basically empty, filling it up only a few days before the beginning of the festival. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a solution, at least for the time being.
Do you have any suggestion? Do you want to add something?

Let me hear your voice! I’d love to get a few more tips & tricks to live this experience at its best!
And maybe next year we could meet there?

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