Lucca Tourist Attractions
SituationThe provincial capital of Lucca, the see of an archbishop, lies in the northwest of Tuscany, on the left bank of the River Sergio, almost 25km/16mi inland from Viareggio.
The Alpi Apuane are to the north of the town, the Monti Pisani to the south. Lucca was the home of the sculptor Matteo Civitali (1436-1501) and the composer Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924), whose birthplace is now a museum and open to the public.HistoryThe ancient Lucca, which became a Roman colony in 177 B.C., belonged after the fall of the Roman Empire to the Ostrogoths, the Lombards and the Franks in turn. It later became capital of the marquisate of Tuscia, and subsequently fell into the hands of the Scaligers and Florence. In 1369 the town purchased its freedom from Charles IV for 100,000 gold florins, and thereafter it remained independent until the French invasion in 1799. In 1805 Napoleon gave Lucca together with Massa-Carrara as a principality to his sister Elisa Bacciocchi. In 1817 it passed to the house of Bourbon-Parma as a duchy, and in 1847 was ceded to Tuscany. Lucca played a prominent part in the history of architecture from the Lombard period onwards; but its early medieval churches, partly built with ancient material, were altered and restored in the 12th century.The main feature of the town are the walls that have remained intact. The walls encircle the old town of Lucca and were used at one time as a pedestrian promenade as well as for racing cars.
The Piazza Napoleone, Lucca's principal square, lies in the southwest of the old town within the walls. It was laid out in the time of Elisa Baciocchi.
Palazzo della Provincia
The whole of the west side of the square is occupied by the handsome facade of the Palazzo della Provincia, formerly known as the Palazzo della Signoría or Palazzo Ducale. Designed by Bartolomeo Ammannati, it was built from 1578 onwards on the site of the earlier Palazzo degli Anziani (seat of the council of Elders). The large main courtyard and the Cortile degli Svízzeri (named after the Swiss guard formerly maintained by the city) remained unfinished.
To the southwest of the Palazzo della Provincia is the Church of San Romano, built by the Dominicans in 1280 (apse added in 1373); the facade is unfinished. The lower part of the campanile is of stone, the upper part of brick. The church contains the Tomb of St Romanus (1490).
Near the northeast corner of the Piazza Napoleone is the little 12th century. Church of San Giusto, with a severe facade of sandstone and bands of marble relieved by blind arcades and a richly decorated main doorway. The interior was remodeled in Baroque style in the mid 17th century.
Passing between the Piazza Napoleone and the cathedral to the east, we come to the Church of San Giovanni, which was rebuilt in the 12th century. Its predecessor, dedicated to St Reparata (first Patron Saint of Florence), had been the seat of the Bishop since the eighth century. Following the complete reconstruction of San Giovanni in 1622 only the central doorway and part of the south front of the Romanesque church survive. The interior of the church is divided into three aisles by columns (with one Roman and other Romanesque capitals). A door in the left transept leads into the large Baptistery of San Giovanni (rebuilt in the 14th century, with a dome borne on pointed arches).
The Lucca Cathedral displays a marvelous Romanesque facade with arches and columns. The interior features fine works of art, including the most impressive Volto Santo, an effigy of Christ on the Cross.
Santa Maria della Rosa
A short distance east of the cathedral is a small low church dedicated to Santa Maria della Rosa, built against the Roman town walls in 1309 by the Università dei Mercanti. On the side wall are Gothic arcades enclosing elegant windows. On the left-hand wall of the interior are large dressed blocks of stone from the Roman walls.
Santa Maria Forisportam
Santa Maria Forisportam (outside the gate) got its name because when it was built in the 13th century it stood outside the gate in the Roman town walls. The facade, in Pisan Romanesque style, is unfinished. The interior is aisled. It contains an Early Christian sarcophagus (with representations of the Good Shepherd and Daniel in the lions' den) converted for use as a font. In the right transept is a Baroque ciborium by Giovanni Vambrè, in the left transept is a picture, the "Death and Assumption of the Virgin", painted on a gold ground by Angelo Puccinelli (1386).
Porta San Gervasio
To the east of the church, at the end of Via Santa Croce, is the old Porta San Gervasio, a remnant of the town's second circuit of walls (13th century), with two massive round towers.
To the northeast of the Piazza Napoleone, at the near end of the busy Via Fillungo, stands the Church of San Cristóforo, which dates from the 12th-13th centuries. There are three doorways in the facade, the central one having a richly ornamented architrave. Set in the wall to the right are two iron standard measures marking the width of a bolt of cloth as fixed by the Università dei Mercanti. In the upper part of the facade is a large rose-window (14th century).
A little way east of San Cristóforo in Lucca can be seen the long three-storyed facade of the Palazzo Bernardini, built by Matteo Civitali in the early 16th century. It has a beautiful doorway and an elegant courtyard.
Houses of the Guinigi
In Via dei Guinigi, almost exactly in the center of the walled old town, the visitor's eye is caught by a massive tower with holm-oaks growing on the top. It belongs to the Case dei Guinigi, a complex consisting of two mansions belonging to the noble family under whose rule Lucca enjoyed a period of peace and prosperity at the beginning of the 15th century. The two palaces, standing opposite one another, were built in the 14th-15th century and altered in later centuries. On the ground floor are porticoes, now walled up; the windows of the upper storys are separated by columns and surmounted by round-headed arches. In Via Sant'Andrea is the Loggia dei Guinigi (now walled up), in which family weddings and other occasions were once celebrated.
The present Piazza del Mercato (market-place) in Lucca follows the ground-plan of a Roman amphitheater of the second century B.C. In ancient times it lay outside the town walls to the north; during the Great Migrations it was largely destroyed, and the remains now lie several feet below street- level. During the Middle Ages houses were built on the walls of the superstructure (scanty remains of which can still be seen); their sitting still reveals the oval form of the arena. The square in its present form, in which the market is still held, was laid out by Lorenzo Nottolini in 1830-39.
San Pietro Somaldi
A little way east of the Piazza del Mercato, in a triangular piazza, is the Church of San Pietro Somaldi, an aisled basilica of the 12th century occupying the site of an earlier church which is believed to have been built by the Lombards in the eighth century. The facade, with its banding of white and gray marble and its two tiers of delicately articulated loggias, dates from 1248. On the lintel of the central doorway is a representation of St Peter receiving the keys by Guido da Como (1203). On the north side of the church is a plain brick campanile. The vaulting (partly recently renewed) which spans the three-aisled interior of the basilica, rests on massive square columns; on the left-hand side the third column bears the date 1199. In the south aisle is a 12th century fresco of the Madonna.
At the east end of the old town of Lucca, not far from San Pietro Somaldi, is the Piazza San Francesco, from which the picturesque Via del Fosso (with a canal which marked the boundary of the medieval town) runs north and south. The square is dominated by the Church of San Francesco, begun in 1228 (only two years after St Francis's death), rebuilt in the 14th century and again restored in the 17th century. The façade, much restored, has three tiers of arcading, a Gothic doorway and a rose-window. Flanking the doorway are two medieval tombs. The church (aisleless) has choir-stalls with intarsia decoration, frescoes of the 15th century Florentine school, tombs (including the Cenotaph of the condottiere Castruccio Castracani) and a memorial to the composer Luigi Boccherini. Adjoining the church is a small cloister.
The Villa Guinigi, beyond the Church of San Francesco at the extreme east end of the old town, was built for Paolo Guinigi, who ruled Lucca from 1400 to 1430. It now houses the Museo Nazionale (National Museum), with its rich art collection. Of particular interest are the Etruscan and Roman sculpture, sculpture from Lucca's medieval churches (San Michele and the cathedral) and numbers of panel-paintings (including a famous 13th century "Crucifixion" by Berlinghiero Berlinghieri and works by Francesco di Giorgio Martini, Doménico Beccafumi and Jácopo da Pontormo).
Address: Via della Quarquonia, I-55100 Lucca, Italy
Opening hours: 8:30am-7:30pm; Sun: 8:30am-1pm; Closed: Mon
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), May Day / Labor Day (May 1), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25)
Entrance fee in EUR: Adult €4.00, Concession or reduced rate €2.00
In Via Vittorio Véneto, which runs north from the Piazza Napoleone, is the Palazzo Pretorio, begun in 1492 to the design of Matteo Civitali and completed in Renaissance style in 1589. On the ground floor is a portico with a statue of Matteo Civitali (1893). The palazzo is now occupied by the Pretura, a law court.
A five story facade graces the 12th to 14th C church of San Michele in Foro. The church was meant to be enlarged later on but the project was abandoned.
House of Puccini
Opposite San Michele in Via de Possio stands the house in which the famous composer Giacomo Puccini was born on December 22nd, 1858. A small museum has personal mementoes of his life.
San Paolino, Lucca's only Renaissance church, stands to the west of the Piazza San Michele. This aisleless church was built between 1522 and 1539 by Baccio da Montelupo and his successor Bastiano Bertolani, probably on a site once occupied by a Roman temple. In the presbytery is an Early Christian sarcophagus with a representation of the Good Shepherd in which St Paulinus, the church's patron, was buried.
National Picture Gallery
A short distance west of the House of Puccini stands the 17th century Palazzo Mansi which houses the notable Pinacoteca Nazionale (National Picture Gallery), with pictures by Veronese, Tintoretto, Bergognone, G. Reni and other painters of the school of Tuscany.
The Palazzo Pfanner-Controni, just inside the walls on the north side of the old town of Lucca, was built in 1667. It is noted for its open two-story loggia with staircase, a harmonious Renaissance creation. The garden, laid out in the 17th century, has a number of fine statues.
San Frediano was created in the first half of the 12th C, with alterations in the 13th C.
Piazzale Verdi is a central square in Lucca where the Tourist Office is located. It used to contain a palace that was once owned by the Marquis of Tuscia.
The old town of Lucca is enclosed within a circuit of walls 4.195km/2.5mi long with eleven bastions (baluardi) and six gates. The walls, 12m/39ft high and 30m/98ft thick at the base, were built by Flemish engineers between 1504 and 1645 to protect the rectangular area of the town (1,500m/1,640yd long by 900m/985yd across). Between 1823 and 1832 Maria Luigia of Bourbon, Duchess of Parma, had the old fortifications converted into a public garden. A walk round the tree-shaded ramparts affords superb views of the old town with its palazzi and churches. The old town gates are also of interest, in particular the Porta San Pietro on the south side of the circuit, the Porta Santa Maria on the north side and the Porta San Donato at the west end.
A number of small, pretty, villages are to be found outside of Lucca.
The village of Arliano has a fine Romanesque parish church whose origins go back to the eighth century, making it one of the oldest surviving churches in the region. It contains a number of works of art of the 14th-16th centuries.
San Guiliano Terme
Southwest of Lucca, prettily situated under the west side of the Monti Pisani, is the spa of San Giuliano Terme (10m/33ft; pop. 27,000), with radioactive sulfur springs.
Bagni di Lucca
North of Lucca, Bagni di Lucca (150m/495ft; pop. 9,000), comprises a number of separate villages, known as early as the 10th century as the "Baths of Corsena", with springs containing salt and sulfur (37-54 °C/99-129 °F: season May-September). The principal village is Villa, once a residence of the dukes of Lucca, with its own thermal spring. The village of Bagni Caldi is the most important spa, with a warm spring, the "Doccione" (54 °C/129 °F), in a cave.The little River Lima flows through the town before joining the Serchio a short distance to the west. Already well-known in the High Middle Ages, during the Belle Epoche the hot springs became popular with Europe's aristocracy. They also attracted several famous writers, among them Heinrich Heine whose visit in 1829 is recorded in an entertaining account of his travels "Die Bäder von Lucca" (The Lucca Baths). The elegant charm of this once fashionable and internationally famous spa town has long since faded without as yet being entirely lost. There are waterfalls near by where it is possible to bathe. The principal thermal baths are in the part of the town known as Bagni Caldi. Alternatively you can walk through thick chestnut woods to the hot springs themselves.Medicinal propertiesOf the several hot springs which surface here - with temperatures ranging from 38°C/100°F to 54°C/129°F - the Doccione, Bagno San Giovanni, Bernabio and Bagni alla Valla are used for therapeutic purposes.
Forte dei Marmi
SituationThe fashionable seaside resort of Forte dei Marmi lies on the Ligurian Sea at the northern end of the Tuscan coast. Above the town rise the Versilia hills.The townForte dei Marmi owes its name (Fort of Marble) to the marble-quarries in the Apuan Alps (Carrara) and within the town itself and to the fort which was built here by Grand Duke Leopold I in 1788. The coast road (Viale Itálico; in the broader central section Viale della Repúbblica) runs past the town's long sandy beach. The landing-stage, 300m/330yd long, from which the marble was once shipped is now used by the boats sailing to the islands of the Arcipélago Toscano (Tuscan Archipelago). The long beach of fine sand and the shallow water which extends far out to sea make Forte dei Marmi particularly suitable for families.Piazza del Mercato is the local flea market that is held every Wednesday morning.
Map of Lucca Attractions