At least that’s how the Lucca Tuscany travel guide puts it! Evidently not at the top of the typical tourist’s list of places to visit. Although just one hour from Firenze, and very close to Pisa (which we can see from our terrace).
Lucca served as a Roman gateway between the North and South as merchant roads
developed. Roman origins are still in evidence in Lucca as evidenced by the rectangular grid street plan and the oval shaped Piazza Anfiteatro which sits atop the original Roman amphitheater/coliseum. In fact, in the wonderful ancient Italian tradition of the end of day walk known as “passagiata”, it is said that Cesare once did the passagiata around the amphitheater. Today there are two places where the passagiata takes place in Lucca – along the main shopping street of Via Fillungo, and on top of the expansive walls that ring the city.
In spite of the Roman reign, Lucca essentially was always an independent republic, with various rulers coming and going. In fact it was the largest Italian city-state with a republican constitution (“comune”) to remain an independent republic over the centuries – next to Venice, of course. Through the centuries of wars between Pisa and Florence, it’s systems of water moat, thick walls lined with canons and deep financial pockets allowed Lucca to be spared the ravages of war. Until 1805 when Napoleon came along the city simply gave up before a shot was fired. In 1815 it became a Bourbon-Parma duchy, then part of Tuscany in 1847.
The pull for us is those walls as you can see from the map; they completely surround
the old town. The walls of Lucca are a park lined with trees, 50 meters thick at points they provide a wonderful view of the city below and the countryside around. Walking, cycling, jogging, strolling or sitting under the leafy canopy the top of the wall is the place to see and be seen!
We will be back for another “passagiata”!