Italian culture and history: Lucca
- WTI Magazine #116 Jun 15, 2019
For its monumental and historic wealth, Lucca's center has been proposed as an addition to the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is bountiful with impressive touristic attraction, beginning with the nearly-intact walls that surround the city.
You can access the city, passing through one of its six gates; moving clockwise from the north, they are: Porta Santa Maria (1592), St. James Gate or Porta San Jacopo alla Tomba (1930), Porta Elisa (1811 dedicated to Elisa Baciocchi), Porta San Pietro (1565), Porta Sant'Anna, Porta Vittorio Emanuele or Buco di Sant'Anna (1910), and Porta San Donato (1629). Other gates, the traces of even more ancient walls, are: the Old Porta San Donato (1590), in Piazza San Donato, seat of the Opera delle Mure; Porta San Gervasio (1198), along Via del Fosso (dating back to the Middle Ages); and Porta dei Borghi.
The old town has preserved its Medieval appearance (due to its finely-worked architecture), ancient and numerous churches (Lucca is also called the "city of 100 churches") and, thanks to its many towers, bell towers and monumental Renaissance palaces. Among the towers, the Clock Tower is the highest, at 164 ft; here you can admire the hand-wound clock mechanism and the internal wooden staircase, with its well-preserved 207 steps. The Torre Guinigi is one of the most representative monuments of Lucca, curiously displaying a fan of holm oaks at its top.
See some of the city's other charming piazzas: Piazza Anfiteatro, built on the ruins of the ancient Roman amphitheatre by architect Lorenzo Nottolini; Piazza San Michele, historic heart of the city; Piazza San Martino with the famous Duomo; Piazza Napoleone, requested by Elisa Baciocchi during her Principality; and Piazza del Giglio, overlooking the homonymous theatre.
The monuments here highlight the various ways in which the people of Lucca have interpreted the message of Italian unity. The Tuscan city, in fact, adhered to the process of Unification in an original way: first with the annexation to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, and then to the Kingdom of Italy, it made known its strong desire to preserve its cultural roots. Lucca chose to celebrate both independence and national unity by embellishing and decorating its city center with brand new monuments. These monuments, dedicated to the fathers of independence, can be admired on a tour of this beautiful town. We can begin with the statue of Francesco Burlamacchi, erected Piazza San Michele in 1863, and proceed with a look at the monument of Tito Strocchi in the city cemetery; follower of Garibaldi and Mazzini, his likeness was realized by Artemisium Mani in 1883. The work in bronze that stands on the Bastion of Santa Maria, rather, is by sculptor Augusto Passaglia, who dedicated it to Vittorio Emanuele II (1885). Finally, Piazza del Giglio bears the marble statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi; created by Urbano Lucchesi, it was inaugurated September 20, 1889. This "Hero of Two Worlds" is represented by a full-length marble statue and two bronze reliefs on its pedestal; they symbolize the landing of the Thousand at Marsala and the Battle of Calatafimi.
The bust dedicated to Giuseppe Mazzini, unveiled March 20, 1890, is smaller and more isolated than that of Garibaldi (its location is the Bastion of St. Regulus). The bronze monument of Benedetto Cairoli was erected in 1893 as a symbol of Freedom. Finally, in the old Piazza delle Erbe, renamed Piazza XX Settembre, we can admire the Winged Genius in the Compound to the Fallen in Patriot Battles, attributed to Urbano Lucchesi.
Within these monuments lies not only the history of a country, but that of an entire community. Lucca's artistic itinerary combines its historic testaments, enriched by documents and images displayed in various museums, or situated throughout the city.