Piazza Anfiteatro
 
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Lucca

-- click on thumbnails for larger image --

Family off to school by bike

Lucca is often by-passed by visitors to Tuscany attracted by the nearby tourist honey-pots of Pisa and Florence.

Piazza Anfiteatro

Lucca is set within protective Renaissance walls ... which were constructed during the 16th and 17th Centuries. In recent times they have spared the centre from the worst excesses of modern development.

Cyclist in Lucca Cyclist in Lucca
Cyclist in Lucca Cyclist in Lucca
Bikes in Lucca Bike in Lucca
Pedestrianised area Pedestrians and cyclists mix

Lucca sits on the flat wide flood plain of the Fiume Serchio and much of the city within the walls is pedestrianised.

These two factors make it ideal for cycling and as a result a significant proportion of the locals routinely use bikes for day-to-day transport.

Locals on their way home from work

Pedestrians and cyclists circulate freely ... and seemingly without conflict.

Clock

Many more modern cities could learn much by studying this harmonious mix of pedal and foot transport.

Piazza Anfiteatro

I started this short ride from our apartment overlooking Piazza Anfiteatro which is the elliptical space once occupied by the Roman arena.

Preparing the cafe tables at the start of the day

The flagstones were damp from overnight rain ... and in the early morning light waitresses were setting out the tables and chairs ready for another day's customers.

San Frediano

Just north of the Piazza runs Lucca's main shopping street ... Via Fillungo.

Via Fillungo

This street takes a gently curving path through Lucca's otherwise mainly rectangular array of streets ... and causes many visitors to end up walking in circles.

Porta dei Borghi

I joined Via Fillungo directly opposite the church of San Frediano.

This Romanesque church contains the remains of St Zita who died in 1278. She is revered both for giving to the poor and because her body has not decayed since her death.

Once a year ... on 27th April ... a flower festival is held in her honour and her body is brought outside the church for the faithful to touch.

Cici Bizzarri at Piazza Santa Maria Antonio Poli's bike shop at Piazza Santa Maria Antonio Poli's bike shop at Piazza Santa Maria

 

The Walls

On top of Porta Santa Maria Piazza Santa Maria

Via Fillungo emerges into Piazza Santa Maria alongside the gate of the same name.

The Piazza is home to a Tourist Information Office which is sandwiched between two bicycle shops.

Porta Santa Maria Several joggers and one cyclist

Both Cici Bizzarri and Antonio Poli's bike shop offer a wide range of bikes for sale and for hire.

The walls surrounding the old centre of Lucca are 12 metres high and some 25 metres wide.

Baluardo Santa Martino Baluardo Santa Pietro

On top is a broad promenade which is open to allow the public to walk or cycle the four kilometre circuit of the centre of the old city. The circuit is popular among both tourists and locals.

Peaceful scene atop the walls

Alongside Porta Santa Maria a ramp leads up to the top of the walls.

I Cantici - the former Mazzini Barracks being converted to apartments

Outside the walls the original moat has been replaced by a wide swath of grass which separates the city and its walls from the busy ring road and the new developments beyond.

Election posters Children's playground Via Elisa ... one of Lucca's few streets allowing cars
Giardino Botanico

I set off in a clockwise direction. The walls run in straight segments ... joining eleven giant bastions.

Giardino Botanico

Originally there were just three gates through the walls ... but now there are six ... that provide limited vehicular access to the centre of the old city.

Giardino Botanico One of the ramps up onto the walls alongside Via del Fosso

I cycled over Porta San Jacopo and Porta Elisa to the south-east corner of the walls.

Nestled below the walls is the Orto Botanico which contains a Cedar of Lebanon which was planted when the gardens opened in 1820.

View from Baluardo San Colombano along the canal The rear of Lucca's cathedral - San Martino

Crossing Baluardo San Colombano you can look along the canal which runs down the centre of Via del Fosso ... Fosso meaning ditch.

The next bastion ... San Colombano ... is pierced by a tortuous footpath which finds its way out to Lucca's railway station which lies outside the southern ramparts.

Lion guarding the Baluardo San Colombano

Inside the walls you get a view over to the Duomo di San Martino and its campanile.

Duomo di San Martino

The body of the cathedral was built alongside a previously constructed bell tower and amongst other existing buildings ... from the side you can see some of design compromises which resulted.

Baluardo San Colombano ... and the footpath to the rail station Portico above Porta San Pietro
Porta San Pietro Porta San Pietro
Porta San Pietro

The next gate was Porta San Pietro which sits alongside Baluardo Santa Maria.

Bike hire near Porta San Pietro

Porta San Pietro is the main southern entrance to Lucca. Buses regularly drop and pick-up passengers in the square in front of the gate ... which also houses yet another bike hire shop.

On top of Porta San Pietro

The grey clouds were slowly beginning to break up ... and gradually more people were joining the circuit around the walls. More than half were cyclists ... although use of helmets seemed to be the exception rather than the rule.

Trees line much of the route ... which must provide pleasant shade in the summer months. There are also lights which allow the path to be used in the evenings.

Walkers enjoying a break in the weather Cyclists ... most without helmets ... enjoying a break in the weather Via Vittorio Emanuele II
Portico above Baluardo San Donato

Further on I reached Piazzale Giuseppe Verdi named after the composer.

Piazzale Giuseppe Verdi

Not far from the square is the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini one of Lucca's most famous sons ... maybe they should rename the square?

Just beyond the Porta San Donato archaeologists were working on one of the older sections of the walls ... causing many of the walkers and cyclists to pause and watch the activity.

Tuscan roof tiles Archaeologists investigating an old section of the walls Basilica di San Frediano and its tall campanile
Gardens behind San Frediano

Just ahead I could see the campanile of San Frediano ... signalling the end of the circuit.

Ostello San Frediano

I cycled on past the elegant gardens of Palazzo Pfanner and Ostello San Frediano ...

... and down the ramp back into Piazza Santa Maria.

 

The City

Fountain in Via del Gonfalone ... and my bike

After riding around the walls I decided to visit some of the attractions in the centre.

Toyshop in Via Fillungo

I headed back down Via Fillungo ... most of the shops were closed when I set out but now all were open ... and buzzing with life.

Italian silk ties Italian silk ties Materials for the art college opposite
San Frediano Piazza Anfiteatro

Opposite the Basilica di San Frediano I turned off and cycled around the outer walls of the amphitheatre.

In some places the original Roman stonework survives ... now surrounded by medieval brickwork.

Outside of the amphitheatre Outside of the amphitheatre
The devil doesn't look too scary Madonna dello Stellario in via del Fosso

In nearby Via del Fosso the Madonna dello Stellario stands on top of an old Corinthian column ... her head dramatically surrounded by a halo of stars.

On the 8th December every year the Festa della Madonna is held which celebrates the Immaculate Conception ... people gather around the Madonna dello Stellario to hear a sermon delivered by the Archbishop of Lucca.

Torre Guinigi Lucca's towers Lucca's towers Torre Guinigi
More rooftops

I then took a short break from cycling to climb Torre Guinigi.

Clock from Torre Guinigi

This tower ... along with the amphitheatre ... have come to symbolise Lucca.

The tower is one of the tallest in the city ... but is remarkable for the fact that it has a healthy holm oak sprouting from the top.

View of Piazza Anfiteatro from Torre Guinigi View of Piazza Anfiteatro from Torre Guinigi Lucca's towers from Torre Guinigi
Lucca's rooftops from Torre Guinigi Lucca's rooftops from Torre Guinigi Lucca's rooftops from Torre Guinigi
Latin script

After soaking up the view over the rooftops for some while ... I next pedalled through the back streets to the cathedral which I had viewed from the walls earlier in the day.

The cathedral's atrium

The walls of San Martino's atrium are lined with bas-reliefs ... some of which date back to the fifth century.

Labyrinth on the front of Lucca's cathedral

On the side of one of the pillars is a carving of the Labyrinth in Crete ... which Daedalus constructed to imprison the Minotaur.

Some worshipers trace the pattern with their finger to calm their mind before entering the cathedral.

Bas-reliefs in the atrium Bas-reliefs in the atrium
Lucca's bikes

After all this culture and only a little exercise ... I decided that it was time for some refreshment ...

... time to search out one of Lucca's cafes ...

Lucca's bikes Lucca's bikes
Lucca's bikes Lucca's bikes
Lucca's bikes Lucca's bikes
Piazza Anfiteatro at night

Lucca sits at the junction of three rail lines ... one west to Pisa, one east to Firenze and one north to Aulla.

These three lines offer useful jumping off points for extended cycle rides ... tomorrow I would try one ...

 

Kirby James

 
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