Lucca: A walled wonder
Off Tuscany’s well-trodden tourist track is a city that oozes with charm and appeal. Surrounded by Renaissance walls that remain perfectly intact, Lucca is filled with a maze of narrow cobblestone streets.
By Danielle Gullaci
How Tuscany has managed to keep the beautiful city of Lucca a secret from the rest of the world for so long is somewhat of a mystery. But now, the secret is well and truly out.
Located on the Serchio River in Tuscany’s north, Lucca is about an hour’s drive out of Florence and 30 minutes from Pisa.
Lucca’s economic wealth was originally built on a booming silk trade that began during the 11th century, and helped the city to flourish. Over the centuries, this prosperity led to the construction of elaborate palaces, exquisite residences and soaring towers, which became an important part of the city’s landscape.
Along with being famed for its well-preserved 16th century walls which stretch for 4200 metres, and as the birthplace of renowned composer Giacomo Puccini, Lucca is today characterised by centuries-old villas, red-tiled roofs and an abundance of churches. The city continues to pay homage to Puccini through the home he was born in, which is now a museum. A bronze statue of the composer is located just outside.
In times gone by, Lucca’s surrounding walls served as a means of defence, but in the early 19th century they were given a new sense of purpose, when the decision was made to transform them into a tranquil public space lined with trees and grass. Now, it is possible to walk or cycle around the top of the city walls, under the shade of its trees, and take in some great viewpoints of the city with a camera in tow.
Once inside Lucca’s walls, there are no cars permitted, so the best way to explore is either on foot or bicycle.
Via Fillungo is Lucca’s main thoroughfare. The winding road features several notable ancient buildings, palaces and towers and crosses over the entire historic centre.
By the 14th century, Lucca was home to about 100 towers. As was the case in many medieval cities, these towers were built by the wealthy, as a symbol of their power – the higher the tower, the higher the degree of power.
Nowadays, only a few still stand. The most iconic of these is Torre Guinigi, now a symbol of the city. The Torre delle Ore is the city’s other iconic tower and it too is open to the public. Translating to ‘Tower of the Hours’, it was constructed in the 13th century and features a large clock. At 50 metres, it is Lucca’s tallest tower. Visitors can climb the 207-step wooden staircase to reach the top.
To read the full story, pick up your copy of the January/February 2017 issue of Italianicious.