Over the centuries, four different city walls were built around Lucca. The first was of Roman construction, the last was completed in the mid-17th century. The current wall is so wide that some of its strongholds have been converted into public parks. There are six city gates in the wall.
City wall Lucca
Lucca’s approximately 12-meter-tall city walls were constructed in four different periods. Of the very first, Roman, walls hardly anything is left, however.
The first medieval ring of walls was built between the 11th and 12th centuries. A second medieval ring was erected between the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th centuries.
The last walls were built between 1545 and 1650. At the time, Lucca was fearful of Florentine expansionism. These most recent defensive constructions show a more advanced military knowledge. Of the many contributing architects, Vincenzo Civitali was the only one from Lucca himself. This wall partly followed the route of the medieval defensive ring.
The entire wall is more than four kilometers long. It consists of eleven bastions connected by wide ramparts. The bastions were placed so that they were visible on both sides. They were not all built in the same way. The towers placed at the corners of the medieval wall between 1516 and 1522 were later incorporated into the most recent wall.
The oldest bastion is called Baluardo di San Frediano and is the only rectangular one. Later bastions were round or square and protruded from the walls, making them easier to defend. Each bastion had (and still has) a small guardhouse. Within the structures, there were large rooms for the horses, soldiers, and ammunition. The bastions as well as the city walls were lined with bricks fabricated in local kilns.
On the outside of the walls is a parapet. On the inside is a slope artificially created by compressing large amounts of earth. Surrounding the walls was a large, undeveloped patch of land traversed by ditches.
The walls were defended by field guns (a precursor of the musket, which could be used to shoot far), cannons firing metal bullets and other weapons that used stone projectiles. Both the bronze cannons and the gunpowder were made in factories in the city itself. The 124 guns were never used in the city’s defense, as they were taken by the Austrians after skirmishes with the French army.
The walls proved their worth in 1812, when the Serchio flooded. The gates were hermetically sealed and the city thus survived the disaster.
The strange thing is that Lucca has never been attacked throughout history.
After the Congress of Vienna, the new Duchy of Lucca came into the hands of Duchess Maria Luisa Bourbon of Parma. The new rulers had part of the walls transformed into a green area by the architect Lorenzo Nottolini in 1818.
In 1820, the Botanical Garden was laid out.
In 1840 the Caffè delle Mura was built on the Santa Maria Bastion, which was later removed but rebuilt in 1885.
In 1866 the walls, which in the meantime had become the property of the newly formed Kingdom of Italy, were purchased by the Municipality of Lucca. Today the whole city wall is covered with horse chestnuts, plane trees, poplars, lime trees and holm oaks, among others.