The first thing you will see arriving in Lucca are the town
walls which are very well preserved and still today surround
all the old town. Lucca is the only town in Italy entirely
surrounded by walls.
Lucca: A wealthy and colorful town A Jewel of a Tuscan Town
a beautiful little Tuscan town protected by massively
thick 16th-century walls, featuring some of Italy's finest
medieval and Renaissance architecture, superb dining, antique
markets, classical and rock music festivals, easy access
to stunning nearby villas in the surrounding hills and with
endless beaches less than half an hour away. Lucca is one
of Tuscany's best-kept secrets.
A wealthy and colorful town that draws a
more discerning tourist than Florence or Pisa, it is sufficiently
off the beaten track to have kept its civility and reserve.
Lucca is a city of merchants who know how to woo the visitor
and the shopper, but the pace of life varies between slow
The villas and farmhouses within 15 kilometers
(10 miles) of the city, in the provinces of Lucca and neighboring
Capannori, are already sought after as summer rentals by
European visitors, and now the area is becoming an alternative
to some of the more elite summer destinations in the United
Lucca has one particularly stunning
feature - ancient ramparts that ring the old city.
The inhabitants built these brick walls in the 16th century
for defense. Today, walk (or bike) around the city on the
wide shaded walkways atop the walls. If that doesn't tire
you out, climb up the Torre Guinigi - the 130 ft. tower
has an ancient oak tree on top!
from Guinigi Tower
Worth seeing are the churches San
Michele in Foro and San Frediano, the cathedral San Martino,
the shopping street via Fillungo, Palazzo and Torre Guinigi
(14th c.), the latter is one of the few still existing,
plant with stone oaks, clan towers (at the heyday of
Lucca in the city there were, inclusive church towers,
about 170 towers) and the Piazza Anfiteatro. On the ruins
of the Roman amphitheater, churches and houses were built,
which now form a beautiful oval square. The best ice,
by the way, you can buy at the Gelateria Pinguino in
The enormous and beautifully conserved villas and gardens
of the Lucca hills have become a major attraction for visitors
to the town. The Villa Reale (Via Fraga Alta, Marlia, 5
kilometers from Lucca, tel: (39-0583) 30-108) features a
guided tour of its vast gardens on mornings and late afternoons,
except Monday, always on the hour. The gardens and ground
floor of the Villa Mansi, with its Baroque facade, are part
of one of the most exquisite villas in the area (Segromigno
in Monte, near Marlia; Phone: (39-0583) 920-234, closed
is situated 19 m. above sea level on
an alluvial plateau, to the left of the Serchio river,
not far from the Tyrrhenian coast. An important road junction
in Roman times, Lucca was the capital of the Lombard Duchy
of Tuscia and subsequently (8th century) the seat of the
Carolingian Marquisate of Tuscany. Established as a free
municipality (early 12th century), the town grew in political
and economical importance, though it was often troubled
by internal disputes and rivalry with Pisa. In the first
half of the 14th century, it was under various Signorie
and in 1369 it became a Republic remaining independent,
except during the Guinigi Signorie (1400-1430) and the
Napoleonic period, until 1847 when it was included in the
Grand Duchy of Tuscany, from then on sharing its fortunes.
lies within a circle of 16th century walls which, in the
19th century, were transformed into a tree-lined avenue;
it has therefore maintained its characteristic medieval
Lucca from Guinigi Tower
The San Frediano church (details)
The facade of the church is decorated with a lavish thirteenth
century mosaic; the interior is worth seeing and houses
a richly carved baptismal font as well as a shrine to Lucca's
saint, Santa Zita. (details)
Instantly distinguishable from other Romanesque churches
of Lucca by its golden mosaic high on the facade, the church
of San Frediano is also of interest internally. The huge
twelfth century baptismal font, the Fonte Lustrale, lies
immediately at the entrance and is decorated with biblical
scenes attributed to three different craftsmen. The church
also houses a shrine to Santa Zita, Lucca's saint, whose
mummified body is brought out once a year when she may be
touched by the devout.
(11th-13th century, Romanesque) housing the Tomb of Ilaria
del Carretto, a sculptural masterpiece by Jacopo della
Quercia (1408), church of S. Maria Foris portam (13th-16th
century), Case dei Guinigi (a complex of 14th century towers
and buildings), church of S. Michele in Foro (12th-13th
century, Pisan-Lucca architecture with a rich interior),
church of S. Frediano (12th century, Romanesque, with a
large mosaic of the Ascension, 13th century on the façade), Palazzo Mansi (17th century), Palazzo
Pretorio (16th century), Villa of Paolo Guinigi (15th century),
remains of the Roman amphitheatre (structure of the present
Piazza del Mercato).
"Piazza Anfiteatro" Piazza of the Amphitheatre.
- Built on the site of an original Roman amphitheatre, Piazza
Anfiteatro is another ‘must-see' in Lucca. Some original
Roman elements remain, particularly within the outer walls. This ancient site constitutes one of the most characteristic
and original monuments of the city. The ancient amphitheatre
dates from the 2nd century A.D. It was built on an elliptical
plan with two rows of 54 arcades and a maximum capacity
of 10,000 spectators. Beginning in the Middle Ages, houses
were built over the ruins. Over the course of time the piazza
developed its characteristic elliptical shape, with buildings
all around it. The ancient remains are still quite evident
today. The colorful piazza was restored in 1830. Enlivened
by shops and cafes, it is still at the center of cultural
activities, music festivals, and fairs.
is based on agricultural produce from the fertile surrounding
countryside (olives, fruit, cereals, grapes) and the town
acts as a commercial and transformation centre (oil mills).
Industry is traditionally present in textiles and clothing
but there are also chemical, engineering and building firms.
View of "Via Fillungo" the main shopping street
of Lucca downtown. The ancient cardo maximus of the Roman
city is today a lively street with elegant traditional shops,
medieval towers (of which the oldest and most interesting
is the Tower of Hours, which can be visited), and noblemen’s
Guinigi Tower. The palace and the tree-topped tower,
belonging to the prestigious merchant family of the Guinigi,
are located in one of the most characteristic medieval neighborhoods
of the city. It is the only remaining example of home of
Gothic nobility, with elegant quadriforium on the facades,
large internal rooms, and a second doorway for carriage
della S. Croce (13th September), Palio della Balestra (July
and September), Cartoon film salon (autumn).
Famous People: Luigi Boccherini
(musician, 1743-1805), Giacomo Puccini (musician, 1858-1924),
Francesco Carrara (jurist, 1805-1888), Matteo Civitali (sculptor
and architect, 1436-1501), Bonagiunta Orbiciani (poet, 1230-1300).
Academy of Lucca of Science, Letters and Arts, National
Museum of Villa Guinigi, National Art Gallery, libraries,
Wander into the splendor of the Piazza San Michele in Lucca
and choose any of the easygoing bar-cafes around the main
square, where, enjoying a glass of local white wine or a
gin and tonic, you can watch the locals bicycle around town.
. EXERCISE AND TOURING
Lucca is a city to stroll through, from the walls to the
Roman amphitheater, which is now bordered by chic boutiques
and restaurants. The town also offers bicycle rentals by
the day or the week. The 16th-century red brick walls of
the town, offering a wide and peaceful road shaded by chestnut
trees, are a favorite place for walking, jogging or cycling.
For those who wish to swim in the sea, the coastal strip
of Versilia, from Forte dei Marmi to Torre del Lago Puccini,
offers more than 20 kilometers (12 miles) of beaches, parks
and splendid countryside. Most beaches can be reached from
Lucca by car in 30 to 45 minutes. (go
The San Martino church (above)
Duomo di San Martino ? This Romanesque cathedral
contains a famous relic, the Volto Santo (Holy Face), a
wooden figure of Christ. The Volto Santo is believed to
be the true face of Christ, carved by Nicodemus who was
present at the crucifixion. The Cathedral was completely rebuilt between the
twelfth and fifteenth centuries; in 1261 it was joined to
the adjoining bell-tower, hence the unusual asymmetry of
the facade and its smaller arch to the right.
Some of the carving dates back to the fifth century and
some work has been attributed to Nicola Pisano.
The tomb of Ilaria is the work of Lucca's famous son, Matteo
Civitali, and dates from the fifteenth century. The
Volto Santo (Holy Face) is a wooden effigy that is said
to be a true image of Christ, carved by Nicodemus at the
crucifixion. Once a year the revered effigy is removed to
head a procession through the streets of Lucca. Cathedral
Museum. Rising alongside the Duomo, the museum is located
in a complex of medieval origin. It houses a patrimony of
inestimable artistic and historical value. Included in the
collection are miniature codices, jewelry, paintings, liturgical
dress, sculptures and wooden crosses, organized according
to a chronological and didactic order, belonging as well
to the Cathedral and the Baptistery of S. Giovanni. Admission
is charged; closed Mondays
The Volto Santo (Holy Face)
in the chathedral "San Martino" of Lucca.
Tintoretto, (1592) Ultima cena (the last supper of Jesus)
Tomb of Ilaria del Carretto year 1406-13 Marble, sarcophagus
244 x 88 x 66,5 cm, effigy 204 x 69 cm
Cathedral of San Martino, Lucca Ilaria del Carretto, who
died at aged twenty-six after giving birth to her second
child in 1405, was the second wife of Paolo Guinigi, the
local merchant tyrant in Lucca. Her tomb, indebted to French
precedents, was partially destroyed by the Lucchese in 1430
after Guinigi's expulsion and has been moved at least twice.
What remains is a sarcophagus and an effigy, strongly influenced
by northern types and courtly costumes - not surprising
given Guinigi's commercial links with Burgundy and France.
A dog, symbol of fidelity, looks up expectantly at his mistress
from her feet. Ilaria seems to be sleeping with her hands
over her swollen abdomen to remind us of the cause of her
death. Her breasts fall to either side naturalistically,
underlying the fact that her flesh is of this world.
The San Michele church (above)
Almost certainly the most photographed view in Lucca, the
facade of San Michele in Foro is a delight. The upper section
gives the impression of a propped-up film set - the windows
look through onto thin air - as money ran out before that
part of the church could be raised to the level of the facade.
Every single column is different; some are elaborately carved,
some twisted and spiralling, others are like striped sweets.
Look up at the figure of the archangel - the wings are hinged
and may be retracted if the wind gets up!
If you catch sight of a glimmer up above then you are in
for some good luck - you'll have seen the jewel in a ring
on the hand of the statue. Start
the interactive virtual tour: it's free !