Although Bruce and I had walked several streets of Lucca’s historic city center as well as the wall surrounding it, having a guided walking tour was a wonderful way to get a more in-depth look at this beautiful city.
(For all pictures, click on the image to see full screen view.)
Take the perimeter walls, for example. I knew they dated back to the 1500’s, but I didn’t know the walls were once hollow and filled in the early 1800’s. Then, in the 1900’s, car races were held on them! The walls are no longer a race track, but they are used for walking, running, and cycling.
The San Luca Palace Hotel, where we were staying, also had some interesting history. Back in the 1200’s, it was a hospital. After being abandoned and sitting empty for a very long time, it was renovated and opened as a hotel in 1999. The building across the street was also part of the hospital, and the original sign can still be seen on the wall stating it was built in 1257.
Within the walls of Lucca, although the population is only about 10,000, there are 100 churches, although most of them are currently used for other purposes. Why would such a small population need so many churches? Our guide, Simone, explained those churches once served as a place people could come for assistance when they made the pilgrimage to see the Holy Face of Lucca at the Duomo di San Martino (Cathedral of Saint Martin). So many people had made that pilgrimage that the cathedral was overwhelmed. The churches provided shelter and a place to recharge spiritually and physically.
Originally built in 1063, the front of the cathedral was rebuilt in 1204.
As we continued our walk, we noticed that many of the buildings had plaster facades with some exposed brick showing, much like we saw in Bologna and Parma. Originally, the buildings of historic Lucca were made of brick; however, they have been covered with plaster and painted with warm colors as a way to unify and brighten the town.
These are scenes from our walking tour and our afternoon of free time:
Coming up next: FABULOUS FLORENCE