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A Week in Lucca



On a trip to Italy, I had the good fortune of staying in an apartment belonging to a New York City publisher, on the Piazza dell'Anfiteatro in the center of Lucca.  The name derives from its Roman origins, when it was an actual amphitheater.  In later centuries it was fortified and used for various purposes until, eventually, the center was filled in with houses built from the stones of the arena.  In the 19th century the interior was cleared and it became the beautiful piazza it is today. 


Only the houses ringing the ellipse were allowed to remain and it was in one of these I stayed.  It was a big apartment, built across 2 adjoining structures, with a change of level as one walked from one end to the other.  Occupying the entire thickness of the building, some rooms had views to the piazza and the bedrooms overlooked the street, the via dell’Anfiteatro, where one also entered on the floor below.  There were 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a kitchen, a study and a large living room.  Traces of Roman details were still evident protruding on the outside of the building, as well as in the stairwell and living room.  One could not escape the fact, so often an intellectual exercise, that we were living amid the ruins.


During the week I took a day trip to Florence and on another day, to Barga.  I walked on the city wall, now a raised park ringing the old town and used by cyclists, as well as strollers.  Inside the wall is largely a pedestrian zone so, aside from dodging bicycles, it’s a perfectly relaxing place to wander.


Lucca is convenient to other parts of the region and easy to get to by train.  Then one simply has to cross the road from the station and pass through the wall to feel oneself entering history, the Anfiteatro about a 15 minute walk.  Every day, as I climbed the stairs from the street to the apartment I couldn’t help but feel myself passing further back in time, intimate with the relics of 2 millennia.  I recommend it. 










My breakfast spot on the via dell'Anfiteatro.






Bicycles (click for more)











The Torre Guinigi, with its crown of trees, can be seen from all over Lucca.








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I love the looks of Lucca in your pictures...and I'm fascinated to hear the history of the amphitheatre.


When I first saw in Arles that the Roman colosseum there had become a fortress and a village in the years after the fall of Rome, I thought it was interesting and singular.


Since then, I've heard of more, and realized the logic of it. As "Roman order" broke down after the 5th century, moving into an existing defensible space must have occurred in many places; what is unique about Arles, Lucca and the others is that the structures survived long enough for us to know the story.

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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