In many ways, the town resembles an island, a medieval city standing in the centre of encircling green meadows. The banks and almost three miles of the encircling high walls that once defended the town are now used for walking and riding bicycles.
Quite why Lucca has remained a relative secret is difficult to understand. Art historians have long flocked to see the elaborate carvings on the arched facade of its cathedral and Tintoretto’s painting of the Last Supper – which, thank heavens, is rather less psychedelically colourful than the image shown in the guidebooks.
And archaeologists love to point out how the stones from the Roman amphitheatre, its oval shape cleverly transformed into a piazza in the early 19th century, were partly used to build the city’s marble-clad mansions.
Around almost every corner there seems to be a view of another tower, but still tourists don’t dominate as they do in so many other places of beauty and history.
The house where the composer Giacomo Puccini was born is now the Puccini museum, outside which is a large bronze statue depicting him as an early 20th-century dandy holding a cigarette. He died in 1924 after primitive radiation treatment for throat cancer.
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