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Hamlets, districts and squares

Piazza Napoleone in Lucca

Discovering Lucca’s historical center

Map for 43.841347,10.502516
This piazza has always been the center of political power in Lucca. As far back as 1322, Castruccio Castracani, a Ghibelline mercenary leader from the Antelminelli Dynasty decided to build the Augusta fortress and a palace. Both were completely destroyed by the people of Lucca in 1370 when Castracani was exiled from the city. According to recent studies, scholars believe that an ancient fortress once occupied a space as large as the square’s current-day Ducal Palace.

Citizens of Lucca call this square ‘Piazza Grande’. In reality, it was dedicated to Napoleon by his sister Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi, who led the Principality of Lucca from 1805 to 1815. She commissioned the entire square to be transformed by French and Italian architects who worked to give increased prestige to the Ducal Palace, demolishing surrounding houses and storehouses. The entire project got stalled due to the Congress of Vienna when the Principality was transformed into a Duchy led by Maria Luisa of Borbone. During the mid XIX century, she asked Lorenzo Nottolini to restructure the entire Ducal Palace and commissioned Lorenzo Bartolini to sculpt a self-celebratory statue, to be placed in the middle of the square.

Today, the neoclassic palace occupies the western end of Piazza Napoleone and it serves as headquarters to the Province’s administrative offices. This piazza plays hosts to some of the city’s most important cultural events and concerts, like those organized during the ‘Lucca Summer Festival’.
A bastion-protected medieval city and a blast of comics, culture and colors
Many people born and bred in Tuscany consider Lucca an outlier—it’s not uncommon to hear Florentines mutter “that's not Tuscan”, probably when referring to the bread, which is salted in Lucca and strictly plain elsewhere in Tuscany; or to the Lucchese people's mode of speaking (unique, to say the least); or to the fact that Lucca is the region’s only city-state to have preserved its ...