History of the city of Lucca

Lucca is a long-prosperous Tuscan city that is nestled in the Valley of Serchio River and is almost completely enclosed by hills, with the Apuan Alps to its north.

The origin of this iconic medieval city dates back to exiled Trojans, even though there is sufficient evidence of human habitation since the Paleolithic era.

What is the History of Lucca?

Originally called Luk, meaning “marshy place”, the city was presumably founded by a civilization called the Etruscans or the ‘people of the sea’, who lived in ancient Italy from about 800 BC until they were incorporated into the Roman Republic in the late 4th century. In fact, the roman imprint is obvious in the rectangular grid plan of the city’s historical centre, and most of all, in the Piazza San Mercato erected in the beginning of the 19th century.

Soon after, Lucca enjoyed a period of sheer prosperity through the silk trade that began in the 11th century and gave fierce competition to the silks of Byzantium. While the city remained the capital of the feudal margraviate of Tuscany for most of the tenth-eleventh centuries, it was in 1160 when it began constituting itself an independent commune. For almost 500 years, Lucca remained an independent republic until it was conquered by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1805, who recreated the principality of Lucca and placed his sister Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi as “Queen of Tuscany”.

From 1815 to 1857, the city became a Bourbon-Parma duchy before being incorporated into the Kingdom of Sardinia in 1860 and finally part of the newly formed kingdom of Italy in 1861. Soon after, in the second half of the 19th century, the city laid testimony to another favourable period of economic development which was driven by its thriving paper and textile industries. In fact, the city continued to prosper on the path of economic development until World War II, when it was spared from the bombings, but witnessed great turmoil in close proximity, including the infamous massacre of Sant’Anna di Stazzema.

The city recovered quite quickly from the impacts of the war and developed a strong aptitude and a brand new culture for entrepreneurship that not only helped it recuperate on the economic front, but also played a catalyst in the establishment of a strong tourism industry.

Related article: What is Buccellato?

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