Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Lucca – A Walled City with a Unique Piazza

Lucca – A Walled City with a Unique Piazza
Lucca is perhaps most famous for the truly unique Piazza dell'Anfiteatro, which takes the shape of the ancient Roman amphitheatre on which it is built. In medieval times, the piazza took the shape it has now as homes were built on the outer edges of the walls of the theatre, and small gardens filled the piazza’s centre until the mid 1800's when it began to take the form that we see today. You can now visit there and enjoy a morning cappuccino, or the town market on Saturdays.

Located in north-west Tuscany, Lucca is probably second best known for being a walled city. The walls were built by the inhabitants from 1544 to 1645 to protect themselves from their arch enemy Florence. Comprised of small red bricks which were made specifically for creating this defensive measure which surprisingly never had to serve its purpose, and even if it did the immensity of the wall alone would have been a substantial deterrent. Today the wall is used as a park area for the town, and makes a great place to jog, cycle, or simply stroll while eating an ice cream.

Lucca may have erected this wall to keep free, but over time it changed hands constantly from one warring fraction to another. However, in most cases it escaped serious physical damage as it managed to barter its way out of harms reach. Though perhaps the revolt of the straccioni discolato is a notable episode. If a citizen, either through wealth or merit, obtained excessive favour among the people, twenty-five signatures were sufficient to banish him. This was an internal check system in order to stop one person from becoming so powerful that the fate of the town weighed upon his greed.

Another great thing about a place like Lucca, is though it is quickly becoming a tourist ‘must-see’, the Italians have taken rather a hands-off attitude, and many of the restaurants and shops you find will be catering to the local crowd and their likes. So if you are looking to eat like a Tuscan and drink your coffee very hot and very fast, then you have settled into the right place.

Don't even try to get your car into the city centre, there’s a lot of parking all around the city, and it gives you the perfect opportunity to enjoy the city wall. Most people think that, since Italians can be lax in so many ways, they will try to park illegally. But keep in mind that big brother is now in Italy as well, and there are local government cameras just waiting to take a picture of your number plate!

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