Piazza Napoleone, Lucca
Square in Lucca
Piazza Napoleone, also known as Piazza Grande, has always held a significant role as the center of political power in Lucca. In 1322, Castruccio Castracani, the Ghibelline condottiero of the degli Antelminelli family, chose this location to construct the Augusta Fortress and a palace. However, these structures were later demolished by the people of Lucca in 1370 when Castracani was expelled from the city.
In the early 19th century, during the rule of Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi, sister of Napoleon, the piazza was dedicated to Napoleon. Elisa led the Principality of Lucca from 1805 to 1815 and oversaw a complete transformation of the square’s appearance. Two architects were tasked with redesigning the piazza, giving prominence to the Palazzo Ducale. In the process, surrounding houses, warehouses, a tower, the archive, workshops, and the Church of San Pietro Maggiore were demolished. A graceful row of sycamore trees was also planted, creating an elegant frame for the square that endures to this day.
After the Congress of Vienna, the Principality became a Duchy ruled by Maria Luisa, Duchess of Lucca. She commissioned Lorenzo Nottolini to renovate the Palazzo Ducale and Lorenzo Bartolini to sculpt a self-celebratory statue for the center of the piazza. The building on the west side of Piazza Napoleone now houses the provincial offices.
In 1998, an archaeological excavation revealed the ancient foundations of the buildings that were destroyed during the Napoleonic era. Visitors can now catch a glimpse of these remains through glass blocks along the edge of the piazza.
During the summer, Piazza Napoleone comes alive with vibrant cultural events and concerts, such as the Lucca Summer Festival, turning the expansive square into a hub of entertainment and excitement.
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Visiting Piazza Napoleone, Lucca