In literature Lucca is described as the „belted “ city, graphics rarely will lack to show what is now the city walls.
Other than in earlier centuries the traveller of today will not have the pleasure to look at the city silhouette from a greater distance slowly getting used to the mighty walls when coming closer. In our days the approach is different: We turn around the last street corner and have the stark walls just in front of us. Following the city ring road called Viale (with ever changing names on its way around Lucca) we will enjoy a completely new view and prospective.
As the walls lost their military importance, they became a broad promenade ringing the old town.
There is nothing intimidating or unapproachable in this city defence walls any more. The former glacis is now very well kept meadows, the plane trees softly moving with the wind. Nowadays the well taken care of ring-wall is busy with people on a stroll, joggers, families with kids, bikers – just a bit of everything.
Just recently Lucca has started to offer horse and carriage tours, some of them also circling on top of the walls. Almost unbelievable: before Lucca became an “in”-town many years ago even motor cars used to travel on the ring walls street!
Today we can see drawing courses from all over the world set up their easels painting the Lucca silhouette with the greatest of dedication.
History tells us it took more than 100 years until the walls were finished in 1650. There have not been sieges any more, as war technique and in particular modern artillery actually had made such walls obsolete. Thus this mark of “old times” has changed into a unique monument over the last 350 years taken care of with greatest dedication (and investment) by the people of Lucca. 6 gates (porte) give access to the city today, one even more impressive than the other.
With one exception they are all named after saints; just Porta Elisa carries the name of its constructor “Elisa”, sister of Napoleon who – as again history tells us – must have been deeply loved by the Lucca people.
You should try and discover Lucca by foot, otherwise you simply might not find the many hidden places.
You should climb Torre Guinigi as well as Torre delle Ore and enjoy the fascinating view down onto the little gardens and narrow streets. Anyway, even just surrounding Lucca walking you will get in close contact with this town.
On your way you will also pass some houses leaning to the outer part of the wall, one of which built for the executioner who just came into town on request and when he had to do his job – and nobody wanted to accommodate him in his house.
When walking around the town walls you will feel the peace and tranquillity and enjoy a multifaceted scenery – even the town prison can be seen from there. As the scene is changing continuously in the city centre this also happens outside the walls.
In the South the impressive Monte Pisano, to the North the edges of the Garfagnana with its magnificent and almost untouched parts of the province of Lucca and its natural reserves.
And, please, do not forget to visit the beautiful art deco buildings and a number of great family villas around Lucca!
Lucca is surrounded by a scenery so impressive as only nature could come up with.
Downtown you will see the Botanic Garden, in the San Frediano quarter Villa Pfanner built by an Austrian family of famous beer brewers, the descendents of which became famous medical doctors in Lucca.
The extraordinary dimensions of this great construction of a town defence allow for regular golf tournaments to take place just on the meadows outside the walls annually, very much welcome by golfers from all over the world – a truly spectacular event.
It should also be mentioned that on or closest to the walls old and renowned restaurants still offer their services: The “Cafè delle Mura” has itself nicely re-established, very easily to fit in with a walk on the high walls at any time of the day; Cafè delle Mura is just 100 m away from Porta San Pietro (going clockwise). The absolute “in”-place is Caffetteria San Colombano situated on the San Colombano bulwark, i.e. on the walls next to the dome of San Martino: An absolutely modern restaurant inside massive old walls with a fascinating view on the illuminated dome; Thursday from 22.00 onwards jazz concerts; average price category, good food, all in all something quite unique and smart.
Porta San Pietro
close to the station