The beautiful city of Lucca, in the North West of Tuscany managed to stay a City State for most of its history. But come 1805, the town was conquered by Napoleon. The French Emperor placed his sister, Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi, as ruler. She was named the Princess of Lucca. There are still many traces of the Napoleonic Era around Lucca. The one that stands out the most is Piazza Napoleone.
If you visit Lucca, you can’t miss this square. And to better get the most out of your visit, we’ve selected six less known facts about the piazza. Ready? Enjoy!
Visiting Piazza Napoleone
But first read some logistical information on Napoleon square.
If you are staying in Florence, the easiest way to get to Lucca is to take a train from Firenze Santa Maria Novella or Rifredi. Once you get off at the Lucca train station, you can easily reach Piazza Napoleone. It’s a short 10 minute walk through the center.
If you choose to go by car, watch out for the many traffic restrictions. As a rule, don’t venture further than the city walls. People from Lucca have special permits to circulate in the city center, but you don’t.
If you don’t want to study the intricacies of Lucca’s ZTLs (zones with restricted traffic), the best option is to go by car. I Just Drive organizes good day trips to Pisa and Lucca from Florence. You will visit the two cities and their main attractions and be back in time for dinner in Florence.
6 Less known facts about Piazza Napoleone in Lucca
1) Elisa Bonaparte wanted to dedicate the central square of the city to her brother. The Princess of Lucca’s reign lasted only ten years. In 1815 she was ousted by another woman, Maria Luisa of Spain. The latter had the statue of Napoleon removed from the square and replaced by one of herself, still visible today.
2) In order to put into action her great plans for the square, Elisa had most of the existing Medieval buildings torn to the ground. These included the post office, private housing, the central salt warehouses and even a church.
3) Due to the contentious history with Napoleon, most people in Lucca still call the square Piazza Grande instead of Piazza Napoleone.
4) The screen of sycamore trees that delimitate three sides of the square today were planted under Elisa’s reign.
5) The whole square was designed to give greater importance to the Ducal Palace (an easy feat to accomplish once there were no other buildings present). This architectural behemoth now houses the Lucca province headquarters.
6) The square is often used to host events and the concerts of the Lucca Summer Festival.