I’ve visited Lucca, in Tuscany, many times and each one it has been natural for me to compare it to a sweet, gentle and lovely lady. A quiet, cozy and reserved woman, who loves to be discovered little by little, by tasting pieces of its history and greatness everywhere.
One of the best panoramic views are the sixteenth century Walls, tall and majestic, perfectly preserved, alternated by doors and stately ramparts. They are one of the preferred meeting places from the Lucchesi (Lucca inhabitants). They wrap a spectacular historical center, drawn by roads and squares with medieval towers, buildings and churches of every age, secret gardens, historical coffee shops and other shops.
The walk I recommend you begins from the nineteenth-century Napoleon square, ample and airy, hemmed by platans and by a delicious small vintage carousel. On the west side of the square, there is the Elisa Bacciocchi’s ancient building, sister of Napoleon, with beautiful courtyards and richly decorated rooms.
Going east, we quickly reach the St. Martin’s romanic Cathedral, very beautiful and stately, devoted to the holy patron of Lucca. The interiors are divided in three aisles and they spread a magnetic charm due to some treasures of art like nobelwoman Ilaria del Carretto’s coffin made by white marble of Carrara, carved by Jacopo della Quercia (1406) and the Small Temple of Holy Face, with a great wooden crucifix carved with strong and primitive lines.
Following Baptistery street, withina few minutes we arrive to another simbolic church in Lucca: St. Michael in Hole, built in white limestone which exhales an unbelivable light illuminating the whole square. Its façade is half in roman style and half in gotic, and there is a great statue of St. Michael killing a dragon on the top.
A few footsteps, a pair of blocks down and here’s Cittadella square with the monument dedicated to Giacomo Puccini, the most famous lucchese in the world, represented while sitting on a chair with the inseparable cigar between his fingers.
In the near St. Lorenzo Court, there is his Native Home turned into a beautiful Museum rich of pictures, documents, memories, letters, suits, furniture and the piano by which the great musician composed the Turandot lyric opera.
Now, let’s go to Fillungo street, the commercial heart of Lucca, a very long and very narrow street, as its own name says, hemmed by elegant shops, many of them by unique brands, traditional shops, coffee shops and pubs.
At the corner with Orange Street, we can start a pleasant vertical trip to the spectacular Tower of Hours, which was built with red bricks and it’s perfectly preserved. During the Middle Age, Lucca had 130 towers that made it one of the most vertical towns in Europe. The 224 wooden steps of this tower conduct to a great eighteenth-century clock connected to the bells. From its top the landscape is fantastic! The eye captures the whole town; Compitese and Montecarlo Hills; Appennini Mountains and Apuane Alps.
In the immediate proximities, Guinigi Tower (227 its iron steps) opens a garden with secular lecci on the top, an unbelievable green plume becomes one of the symbols of the city.
Crossing Fillungo street towards east, we find other two wonders of Lucca: the Roman Church of St. Frediano with a beautiful Byzantine mosaic on the top of the façade and the Square of the Amphitheater, with a perfect oval shape, hemmed by coloured cottages and built on the ancient terraces of an original Roman arena. There are coffee shops, small pubs, funny artisan and souvenirs shops all around the square which is a very pleasant place. During spring, summer and in fall, it often hosts concerts, artistic shows and other cultural events.
People’s lifestyle is very very pleasant in Lucca. They generally move by bicycles, have lunch or dinner in traditional places like Buca di Sant’Antonio Restaurant, Gli Orti di via Elisa, Osteria Baralla, Da Ciacco; they have late afternoon walks all along the central streets or on the ancient Walls. In Lucca, people know how to enjoy life very well !