Up to the early 19th century, the supply and water to the city of Lucca was entrusted to wells that drew from underground resources below the city. Considering the scarcity and bad quality of this water, in 1822, Maria Teresa of Bourbon, Duchess of Lucca, hired the architect Nottolini to build an aqueduct that could bring water from the springs in the high plains near Serra Vespaiata and the Rio San Quirico and Rio della Valle streams. It took 10 years for the architect to construct the 460 arches of the three-km aqueduct, bringing water to the city walls with two separate pipes: one for spring water, intended for drinking, and the other for water taken from the streams, used to fill the fountains inside the city.
Today, the aqueduct is no longer active, but its structure is perfectly intact, and marks the direction of our excursion.
The itinerary begins in the beautiful piazza del Duomo in Lucca, heading past the imposing city walls, through the underpass at the train station, and reaching the small temple-cistern of San Concordio, where the water transported through the overhead pipes once merged before being distributed throughout the city via a network of underground channels. From here, the walk follows the exact route of the aqueduct’s arches and, gradually, brings us to from the city to the green, cultivated countryside.
Nottolini’s spectacular arches end near the town of Guamo, where we come to another Neoclassical building similar to San Concordio. This is the small temple-cistern where the waters would merge before being directed into the two overhead pipes.
We now diverge from the exact route of the aqueduct, but the structure is still easy to see thanks to the presence of small brick filtering wells.
We shortly come to the town known as “With golden words,” a collecting place for the waters coming from the Serra Vespaiata. According to tradition, the curious name comes from the fact that the locals believed that the writing on a memorial stone set into the aqueduct was forged in gold lettering. In reality, it was brass that had clearly been well-polished!
The next part is a bit tiring: we have to climb two kilometres as we move on to Gallonzora, a panoramic town overlooking the Lucca plain. After this final push, the next part heads downhill to the beautiful village of Vorno.