Lucca is one of the richest cities in Italy and lies about 50 kilometers west of Florence. The city is home to around 90.000 residents and is the capitol of the province Lucca. The town has a very long history and is build in a very recognizable Roman style.
The well preserved city walls called Le Mura are famous around the world. One can enjoy hiking and cycling in green parks which were build on the original defensive walls of Lucca. Life in Lucca has been good for centuries to the Lucchesi and is definitely a pleasure visiting if you find yourself in Tuscany.
Lucca was the second largest (urban) state after Venice and was independ for many centuries. Only in 1847 did Lucca become officially part of Tuscany. Back in 1805 it had been captured by Napoleon, whereupon he made his sister Elisa Bonaparte ‘Queen of Eturia’. Lucca's historic center, with medieval towers and nearly 100 churches, is completely enclosed by its walls and it's a good city for walking, biking, and shopping.
The walls enclosing Lucca's historic center are some of the best preserved ramparts in Italy and you can walk clear around Lucca on top of the wall. In the 1800's, the top of the thick wall was planted with trees and grass turning it into a huge park and a pleasant place to walk or ride a bike. There are more than four kilometers of walls with six gates and eleven bastions.
San Michele in Foro Church
San Michele Church is in the large square that was originally the Roman Forum in the center of Lucca. Today it's still a lively square lined with medieval buildings housing cafes, shops, and homes. The square is my favorite place in Lucca to sit and have a coffee. The beautiful marble church, built from the 11th through 14th centuries, has a large Romanesque facade, larger in fact than the actual church. It's topped with a large statue of the archangel San Michele, or Saint Michael.
San Martino Cathderal
Lucca's cathedral, dedicated to San Martino or Saint Martin, sits on Piazza San Martino surrounded by impressive medieval buildings. Originally build in the 12th to 13th centuries, it's Romanesque in style and has an intricately decorated marble facade. Next to the cathedral is its tall 13th century bell tower and Casa dell'Opera del Duomo, a typical medieval house of Lucca. The interior is Gothic and holds good artworks, including the Volto Santo and the 15th century tomb Ilaria del Carretto, a masterpiece by Jacopo della Quercia.
Piazza dell' Anfiteatro
Piazza dell' Anfiteatro, an oval shaped piazza, was the site of a Roman amphitheater. Parts of the original oval ground-plan and outer ring of second-century construction can still be seen. Buildings and houses were built around the arena during the middle ages. The lively piazza is ringed with shops, cafes, and restaurants both inside and out. In July it's the venue for open-air music performances.
Church and Baptistery of San Giovanni and Reparata
San Giovanni Church was built in the 12th century and partially remodeled in the 17th but still has some Romanesque features. Inside the church, you can go underground for a fascinating look at the archaeological excavations dating from the first century BC through the eleventh century AD including Roman remains, part of an early Christian church, and a medieval crypt.