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Lucca, a treasure trove of art, history and culture

Lucca is a charming city in northern Tuscany and is the capital of the province of the same name. Very famous for its festivals and cultural events, including Lucca Comics & Games and Lucca Summer Festival, the city deserves a weekend to discover its peculiarities of the center rich in art, history, culture and typical cuisine. 

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Brief history of Lucca 

Lucca has millennia of history behind it, from its foundation by the Ligurians to its becoming a Roman colony of Latin law in 180 B.C. 

From the beginning it was a center of strategic importance for the Roman Empire as a fortress city in the event of attacks by barbarians. 

It was also the capital of the Lombard Kingdom of Tuscia in the sixth century; from 1100 it began to develop as a free municipality and then became a Republic. 

In the Middle Ages it was an important stage of the Via Fancigena. 

It remained autonomous and independent for several centuries until 1799, when, with the descent of the French troops under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte, Lucca became a Principality and later Bourbon Duchy of Lucca

Of course, all this alternation of history has produced an artistic heritage of considerable importance that can be admired in the city and in the province. 

In Lucca were born several famous people of the past, including the great composer and musician Giacomo Puccini.

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Main monuments and works of art to visit 

Lucca can be easily reached by train, car or bus. 

Once reached, after a visit to the Tourist Information Center in Piazzale Verdi, equipped with the city plan, you can easily turn through its streets and squares on foot or by bike. 

Lucca contains in itself, like a treasure chest, valuable artistic treasures: churches, palaces, towers, villas and gardens, an artistic and historical capital numerous and remarkable. 

It is one of the few Italian cities that still retains its original walls of the Renaissance, now transformed into a tree-lined avenue. 

Ancient churches, first of all the Duomo, an imposing monumental and archaeological complex, plus two large monasteries form a part of the architectural heritage of Lucca. 

Moreover, Lucca boasts the presence in the city of many ancient palaces and two famous towers: the Torre delle Ore and that of the Guinigi. 

The Cathedral of San Martino di Tours, is located in the square of the same name in a charming corner of medieval Lucca. 

The façade of the two-tone marble Cathedral is striking for its asymmetrical portico, for its powerful bell tower and for the considerable Romanesque reliefs that decorate the portals and the walls on which they open. 

The cathedral is of Gothic style inside and on the sides, while the facade is Romanesque; the most precious treasures are inside, among these: the famous tomb of Ilaria del Carretto by Jacopo della Quercia and the Temple of the Holy Face that houses a precious crucifix. 

Among the paintings in the cathedral, stand out the works of two great artists: the Madonna enthroned with the Child and Saints, a painting of 1479 by Domenico Ghirlandaio, and The Last Supper by Tintoretto of 1592-1594. 

Do not forget the mysterious labyrinth with inscription on the side that is carved in the facade of the Cathedral near the bell tower.

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Other ancient churches worth visiting are: 

  • The ancient Romanesque church of Sant’Alessandro Maggiore; 
  • Santa Maria Forisportam; 
  • San Pietro Somaldi; 
  • San Frediano; 
  • San Michele in Foro; 
  • SS. Giovanni and Reparata.

The Monumental and Archaeological Complex of SS. Giovanni e Reparata located in Piazza San Giovanni, preserves one of the most expressive testimonies of the history of Lucca, from Roman times to our days, result of an important campaign of excavations and restoration began in the late seventies and ended in the nineties of the last century. 

The entire monumental and archaeological complex has become a museum that can be visited.  

The Piazza dell’Anfiteatro is a jewel of urban planning and stands on the ruins of the ancient Roman amphitheater. 

The square was born in the Middle Ages but it was in 1800 that took shape today thanks to the architect Lorenzo Nottolini. It was freed from all the buildings that occupied it and took the current elliptical shape that follows the perimeter of the ancient amphitheater. It is considered one of the most beautiful squares in Italy. 

The Torre delle Ore is located in Via Fillungo, one of the main streets of Lucca, is fifty meters high and is a medieval civic tower with an ancient dial clock.

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Not far from it is another tower, the Torre dei Guinigi.  

It is a stone and brick tower, considered the most important of Lucca and one of the few remaining inside the city walls. 

Its characteristic is to have oaks on its top, it can be visited inside and you can climb to admire the beautiful scenery of the city from above.

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Lucca has many ancient palaces to visit, among the most important the Palazzo Bernardini, a sixteenth-century residence and the Palazzo Mansi, home to the National Art Gallery of Lucca. 

Also the Palazzo Controni Pfanner and the fourteenth-century Palazzo dei Guinigi are a must see. 

A tour on the mighty Walls of Lucca, the largest and best preserved example of walls in Europe, should not miss in the itinerary of those who visit the city. 

Today transformed into a beautiful tree-lined avenue, every year they become the chosen place of the various national and international cultural events held in its stands. 

Typical gastronomy of Lucca 

Lucca, like the great majority of Tuscan cities, benefits from an excellent gastronomic reputation. 

To introduce tourists to the gastronomic excellence of the city and the territory was born the project Lucca in the dish, which adheres to several restaurants in the city. 

The most famous typical dishes of the Lucchese tradition are included in the above mentioned gastronomic project. 

This is the current list:

First courses: tordelli lucchesi with meat sauce, spelt soup and red bean of Lucca, homemade soup from Lucca, garmugia, macaroni stordellati; 

Main courses: rovelline alla lucchese, cod with leeks, Lucchese tripe, tripe stew, pork livers; 

Side dishes: red bean from Lucca all’uccelletto, beans cannellini San Genese, field herbs; 

Desserts: neccio cake, Lucchese soup and buccellato.

Copertina: dal web

Autore: Rosa Maria Garofalo

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