A Travellerspoint blog

The Walls of Lucca

sunny 18 °C

If only these walls could talk, what a tale they would tell...


They would tell of their first builders and masters, the Romans, who came here with their legions in 180 BC to plunder the verdant valleys of the Northern Appenine mountains, and of the Etruscan inhabitants who were unable to fend them off...


Almost all of the Romans' constructions now lie in the foundations of later buildings, but as we walk and cycle around the top of tree-lined walls we still wonder at the incredible feats accomplished by them more than two thousand years ago...


The Roman walls stood for more than a thousand years until the 11th century when the city outgrew its bounds and needed stronger and higher walls to protect its growing riches. It was at this time that great churches like the cathedral of San Martini rose high into the sky above the walls...


But Lucca just kept growing and growing and by the 14th century the walls were pushed out even further into the surrounding countryside – closer to the Appenine mountains with its hot springs, olive groves and vineyards. But walled cities need fortified gates and the original three, in the north, south and west, still survive...


Lucca's greatest claim to fame today is the completely intact city wall that was built at the very end of the medieval period beginning in 1504. No one can avoid the imposing wall because the only way into the historic city is through one of the fortified gatehouses...


The drawbridges and portcullises are long gone and there are no soldiers pouring boiling oil or dropping rocks onto potential enemies today. Five hundred years ago the inhabitants were ready to fend off attacks from their powerful neighbours, the Medicis, and for that reason there was no gate on the eastern side of the city: from the direction of Florence - the centre of Medici power. In addition to the great gates there are easily defended secret passageways that snake up inside the walls that are only wide enough for pedestrians...


If these walls could talk they would tell of two thousand years of political intrigues, of commercial wranglings, of romantic assignations and war. Despite the walls the city was occupied by Louis of Bavaria in 1408, sold to a rich Genoese, Gherardino Spinola, then seized by John, king of Bohemia. It was pawned to the Rossi of Parma, ceded to Mastino II della Scala of Verona, sold to the Florentines, surrendered to the Pisans, and liberated by the emperor Charles IV. In short, Lucca doesn't need a museum – it is a museum - and from the top of the wall we look down on history. The rich Luchese built soaring towers to show off their wealth in the middle ages and some survive. This is the most famous 12th Century tower– the Torre Guinigi...


However, many medieval palaces survive and one of the finest is the Palazzo Pfanner with its beautiful grounds...


The palace was built in 1660 by Luchese nobility – the Moriconis. However, as soon as it was completed the Moriconis were financially ruined and forced to sell. After many owners the palace became a brewery but has now been restored to its former glory complete with a statue garden full of lemon trees...


The sun is shining so we are off to visit one of the wonders of the world.

Posted by Hawkson 09:35 Archived in Italy

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Glad the weather is holding for you - not so good in the NE. Poor Venice. Thanks for the history lesson - a storied city indeed. Nice shot of the garden through the arch. Lovely place.

by Tom

Nice to have the leisure in one place to ride bikes and explore in a different way. Leaves are still falling in Vancouver, around every corner are leaves of many colours in their splendor.

by Sue Fitzwilson

Yet another disaster following in your wake. Venice flooding with extra high tides.
Minus 20 in Ottawa this morning factoring in wind chill.
Wonderful photo of mossy trees with lamp standards tucked between them.

by R and B

This sounds civilized. Walls, churches, gardens - all that remains from the tumultuous medieval period. The personal rise to power and fall to bankruptcy forgotten. I love Europe for this.

by Janet

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