Have you ever known a person, who at first glance did not seem interesting, certainly not popular, but when you got to know them, they turned out to be tremendously interesting and quite beautiful? That person represents Lucca, Italy, a hill town north of Florence and east of Pisa.
Lucca is not one of the tourist packed hill towns for which Tuscany is well known nor is it well publicized in the tourist guides. Geographically, it is in north Tuscany while most attention is focused on south Tuscany. Historically, the city was a pawn in the ever changing city state wars and maneuverings between Florence and Pisa, Florence and Genoa and Florence and about everyone else, never gaining enough power to fend off its ambitious neighbor, Florence. Religiously, however, Lucca was important, ever since the city became the first city in Europe where the whole population converted to Christianity.
Once you arrive in Lucca, with its high wall completely encircling the old town and its imposing towers reaching skyward, you begin to be surprised by what lies in store within the walls. First, the wall is walkable and people with baby strollers and bicyclers and strollers do just that. The old duomo (cathedral) is stately with a beautiful painting of the last supper by Tintoretto and a majestic cross dating from the 11th century with a legend that says it was made by Nicodemus (the man who allowed Jesus to be buried in his tomb) and angels before arriving in Lucca. St. Martin’s Church lies right across the square from the duomo. Below it, reachable by a stairway, are extensive Roman ruins and a large baptismal fount from the 5th century. Old Christian mosaics have also been uncovered. In the city itself, squares and narrow streets lead to more beautiful churches and one of Europe’s oldest clock towers. Relaxed and inviting, Lucca quickly becomes your friend, one you will keep for life. WEG