Many people in Tuscany consider Lucca almost as a foreign body, “it is not Tuscany” it can happen to hear some Florentine saying that it perhaps refers to bread (which is salty in Lucca), to the language (with a certainly unique vocabulary) or to the fact (which also helps explain the other two) that Lucca is the only city-state in the region to have maintained its independence until 1847. The singular historical circumstance has made Lucca a sort of splendid fortified island, which it preserves within it – as opposed to what some would like – a real kaleidoscope of the best that can be found in an ancient Tuscan city.
The first testimony to the eyes of the traveller of the jealous care with which the Lucchese patriciate defended the freedom of the “Civitas” is great, we speak of the splendid and intact circle of walls (XVI-XVII century) that includes, in its more than 4 kilometers , as many as 10 ramparts, a platform and the stands: still today a splendid point of view from which to take a look at the city.
City in the medieval plot of which monuments are woven witnesses of all the historical periods crossed by Lucca, starting from the Roman Amphitheater – today Piazza dell’Anfiteatro – circular and suggestive scenery, born on the ruins of the ancient steps by the architect Lorenzo Nottolini. Proceeding through the centuries and styles we reach the Middle Ages and what can be considered the real treasure of Lucca, not by chance nicknamed “city of 100 churches”, or its incredible collection of places of worship, starting from the Cathedral of San Martino, on the whose facade in Romanesque-Pisan style is inlaid with mysterious and dark symbols, like a beautiful labyrinth. Also in the Cathedral there are the Holy Face and the splendid tomb of Ilaria del Carretto sculpted by Jacopo della Quercia. Walking through the streets of the city you will then discover the beautiful and clean facade of the Basilica of San Frediano, and again the square and the splendid church of San Michele, on the capitals of whose Romanesque façade – restored in the 1800s – you can have fun trying to identify portraits of Risorgimento heroes such as Garibaldi.
But walking through Lucca, the discoveries are certainly not limited to the churches, at the top of a tower (that of the Guinigi) you will be surprised to see a garden with lots of trees, it is open: you can climb it. Getting lost is (impossible but) beautiful in the narrow Via Fillungo, where the most chic shops in the city are located; as well as for the rooms of the Palazzo Ducale in Piazza Napoleone (one of the last testimonies of the Principality of Lucca) or, venturing outside the walls, it will be nice to wander through the beautiful neighbourhood of liberty villas that surround part of the city centre.
Perhaps due to the mediaeval historical centre full of styles and almost intact, Lucca has become (also) a real fantasy scenario. In fact, Lucca Comics & Games, a festival that makes the ancient walls and narrow streets a colourful carnival out of season, takes place every October in the streets of the city, thanks to what is a veritable invasion of aliens, mutants, characters of the cartoons, medieval knights and everything a cosplayer can think of to impersonate.
In recent years, Lucca has become an important point of reference for pop music, thanks to the Lucca Summer Festival where some of the most famous international artists perform in the city.