Lucca is situated some 20 km from the airport of Pisa and can be reached via the motorways (A12-A11 with toll) or through the SS12 (Strada Statale). The city is fully walled. On the ramparts, you can hike and bike over a length of 4,5 km.
Lucca was founded by the Etruscans. In the second century BC it became a Roman colony. In that time the city was walled in, but it was much smaller. The amphitheater was at that time (as indeed was common) outside the city walls, "to keep the hooligans out of town".
In the Middle Ages (12th century) Lucca became an independent republic, a status that it would keep until the 19th century.
The current city walls dating from the 16th and 17th centuries and were mainly intended as a defense against the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, which at that time was formed by the union of a number of city states. Lucca was the only independent city-state. Because the canons became more powerful, the ramparts to defend the city against the powerful neighbor needed to be strengthened. They therefore had gigantic dimensions: a total length of 4 kilometers, a height of 11 meters and a width of 30 meters. There were only three official gates. To the east, in the direction of Florence, there was no gate. Curiously the ramparts would never prove their worth. Florence indeed never attacked Lucca.
In the beginning of the 19th century Lucca was conquered by Napoleon, who donated the town to his sister Elisa. She turned the ramparts into a 'park'. She also realized the Piazza Napoleone, with the Palazzo Ducale on the west side. However, the planned statue of Napoleon was never put in place. In its place came the image of Marie-Louise of Bourbon.
The city is a true open-air museum; most streets are car-free. The main attractions are:
The Basilica di San Frediano, also in Romanesque style (12th century), was originally outside the city walls. When the city was extended in the 17th century, the church was situated within the city walls. It was thereby "reversed" to avoid the main entrance would be in the direction of the city walls. As a consequence, and contrary to what is customary, the altar of the church is not on the east side.
The high middle part of the facade is a mosaic in Byzantine style, representing the Ascension of Christ. Noteworthy is that in the middle, the picture of Mary has been replaced by a small window with pointed arch.
The basilica has a rectangular floor plan. Inside it is abundantly decorated with white marble. There are several attractions :
Torre : in medieval times, Lucca counted about 130 towers. They were like small castles within the city walls and were constructed to protect the inhabitants. The entrance was usually on the first floor, a moveable staircase being used to get in and out. The towers became always higher, but unfortunately they were not stable. Paolo Guinigi promulgated therefore, in the early 15th century, a law which imposed a maximum height. To make his own tower, the Casa del Guinigi (4), a little higher, he placed a small garden on top of it.
The oldest towers were stone-built. Later ones were built in brick. In the Renaissance, they were then plastered. The upper floors of the towers often have smaller windows. They are the windows of the kitchens, which were placed at the top of the building so that in case of fire only the top would burn.
Lucca is also closely associated with Pinocchio. You see the little figure popping up in many souvenir shops. The writer of Pinocchio came from Collodi, a village between Lucca and Montecatini Terme. He was employed as a gardener at the villa Garzoni. He used the name of the village as a pseudonym. In Collodi there is also a theme park dedicated to Pinocchio. (Via Benvenuto Pasquinelli, Collodi). The gardens of the Villa Garzoni are open to the public. On Google Earth, it already looks fantastic. However, the comments on Trip Advisor are going from gorgeous to outrageous (and expensive - 13 EUR).
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