Walking the streets of Lucca is like reading the pages of a history book, and the atmosphere of this illustrious old town is made unique by its ring of impressive ramparts, today a luscious green park preserving the city from…modern age!
A Roman colony from 180 BC, it flourished in the Middle Ages as a rich, independent city state.
Lucca silk trade invaded both Oriental and Western markets. The Lucchese established merchants’ colonies everywhere, the bankers lent money even to princes and emperors.
Later the city suffered from some short periods of foreign dominion, yet basically survived as Republic and maintained its independence from Florence until the 19th century.
By the 16th century, as its dynamic merchants slowly turned into more sedentary land owners, the city, as a well fed silkworm spinned around itself its third (and last) circle of walls.
The construction of its massive ramparts took over a century, after that Lucca still enjoyed a long period of peace and stability.
By the beginning of the 19th century the wide ramparts were transformed into an aerial avenue, where the Lucchese enjoy to spend their free time.
And it is from the ramparts that we will start our walk in Lucca. From here we can catch the loveliest views of the city with on one sode the distant Tuscan hills and on the other, Romanesque bell towers and squares.
Our guide will meet you at the bus terminal (it takes slightly more than an hour from Florence bus station) and we will proceed on foot at the discovery of this extremely well preserved old town.
The Roman city is still evident in the grid-like regularity of the streets, and especially in the Piazza Anfiteatro, where medieval houses cluster around the oval site of a Roman amphiteater.
Yet it is above all the wealthy 11th, 12th, 13th centuries that have left their mark upon the city. Along the streets, narrow and straight, rise medieval palaces and towers.
In particular the Torre Guinigi, bizarrely…
…crowned with trees, remains as a noble witness of the days when Lucca starred 250 towers! The holms, on top of the 230 steps, are centuries old…
Your guide will tell you about the most powerful Lucchese families, about the struggles between Guelphs and Gibellins, Black and Whites and will show you some of the loveliest squares and Romanesque churches.
We shall visit the Duomo (St Martin), home of some world known masterpieces. We will pay our tribute to Paolo Guinigi’s wife, Ilaria del Carretto(1379-1405). Forever young and beautiful, her legendary portrait is due to Jacopo della Quercia. The dog at her feet symbolizes her faithfulness.
The other venerated icon of St Martin is the Volto Santo (the Holy Face). According to the legend it had been sculted by Nicodemus, who assisted Joseph of Arimatea in depositing Jesus in the tomb. Your guide will narrate the legends and history of this most worshipped wooden crucifix.
A visit to Palazzo Mansi, one of the most lavishly ornate private mansions in Lucca, will complete our tour.
Built at the end of the 16th century, acquired by the Mansi, a rich family of textiles’ traders, in the 17th, it boasts a very luxurious ‘piano nobile’ (main floor), with frescoes, ancient furnishings and a superb collection of paintings (Ghirlandaio, Domenico Beccafumi; Bronzino, Tintoretto, Domenchino and more). Particularly intriguing is the alcove, were the newly married spend their first night together, splendidly decorated in gold.
Our tour will end with some note on the local gastronomy, based on its excellent olive oil.
And of course, don’t miss the ‘Buccellato’, the Lucchese dessert par excellence!
Cost of this tour
This tour lasts three hours and costs 240 euros up to six people (not per person), only private parties.
For larger parties send us an email
Admission fees per person: St Martin’s Duomo: 9 euro; Palazzo Mansi: 4 euro – closed on Monday
Dress Code and advice
No sleeveless garments. no shorts
Short sleeves & knee high are OK
Wear comfortable shoes or sandals and a hat in summer