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Spotlight on Tuscany: Lucca

Lucca is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Tuscany, known for its graceful vibe and elegant architecture encompassing Medieval and Renaissance styles. Of course, the main attraction in Lucca is its handsome city wall, an awe-inspiring fortress that encircles the town in its entirety.

You wouldn’t think so looking at Lucca today, but the history of this Tuscan village goes back thousands of years, to pre-Roman times. Being an ancient place, a bulwark was of course needed for protection, and Lucca’s walls have evolved over the centuries into the impressive structure that is now both elegant cornice and calling card of the city. 

The wall has also evolved in terms of its purpose; no longer an impediment to enemies, the 39-foot-high rampart serves as a place to stroll, jog, rollerblade, ride bikes, walk your dog, and sit in the shade of the big, beautiful trees.


And now for a few things you maybe didn’t know about Lucca that are a bit peculiar or perhaps even fully weird.

The Incorruptible St. Zita: 750-Year-Old Mummified Body Of A Peasant Girl

Lucca is home to the 750-year-old mummified body of a local peasant girl, the Incorruptible St. Zita.

Patron saint of servants, St. Zita is attributed with 150 miracles, the most legendary of which is the tale of the bread she was smuggling to feed the poor.  When the head of the household confronted her and pulled open her apron, flowers fell out instead of the concealed crusts. This is why citizens bake bread and bring flowers to the church of San Frediano during the feast in her honour at the end of April.

Ilaria del Carretto: Noblewoman Enshrined In Marble

In the cathedral of San Martino (and at the other end of the social and artistic spectrum from our mummified peasant-girl-turned-saint) dwells the funerary monument of Ilaria del Carretto, who died in childbirth in 1405 at a mere 26 years of age. The noblewoman's sarcophagus is an exquisite work of art in marble by sculptor Jacopo della Quercia.

Of beauty and skill to rival Michelangelo’s David, expectant couples caress her face to protect them from complications during childbirth, and young women kiss her nose in the belief that it will bring swift matrimony.

Elisa Bonaparte: Enlightened Despot & Ambitious Princess of Lucca

Elisa Bonaparte, Napoleon's oldest sister, governed Lucca from 1805 to 1814. She was married but her husband was relatively inconsequential when it came to ruling; Elisa was the one with the ideas and power.

Enterprising and ambitious, Elisa ruled in her own personal style as Princess of Lucca and then Grand Duchess of Tuscany, dissolving monasteries, creating public works, championing education, convincing her brother to exempt Lucca’s males from conscription, and fixing up Palazzo Pitti in Florence into something tourists now line up and pay money to see.

Chet Baker: Jazz Legend, Incarcerated Drug User

Legendary Jazz trumpeter Chet Baker was imprisoned in Lucca for 16 months ending in December of 1961. Arrested in 1960 for illegal drug use, Baker was allowed to play his trumpet for 5 minutes twice a day, while serving time, attracting crowds, and filling the city with melancholy sound.

Cartasia: Gargantuan Works In Paper

Lucca plays host to a truly unique art festival featuring an unusual medium: Paper

The Lucca Bienniale “Cartasia” is the largest contemporary paper art festival in the world. The creations over the years have been decidedly ingenious, moving, and captivating. Some past works are on permanent display (well, as long as they hold out) throughout the city.

DriverInRome would be pleased to chauffeur you around Tuscany (or anywhere in Italy, the south of France, or Athens) with a private car and driver, or arrange a licensed guide just for your group.  Please contact us regarding popular or custom itineraries.

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