Sift through Europe’s best flea markets
By Sukie Chapman
5 June 2015
While on your railway holidays in Europe, spend an afternoon looking at a range of eclectic antiques. Here are some of the best flea markets to discover.Read more
The delightful city of Lucca in Tuscany, north-western Italy, is a feast for the eyes. Within its impressive city walls Lucca's narrow cobbled streets and handsome tree-lined avenues lead to a succession of historic buildings dating from all periods since the city's origins as a Roman colony around 180BC.
Lucca's compact area means that it is a joy to explore on foot and atop the high and almost-perfectly preserved seventeenth-century perimeter walls a footpath forms a four-kilometre circuit which provides views of the city's many highlights.
At Lucca's heart, the unique oval Piazza del Mercato was the site of a Roman amphitheatre built in the first century. Once a magnificent structure of fifty-four arches and with a ten-thousand-spectator capacity, Lucca's amphitheatre was destroyed in the Gothic Wars, but its ancient boundary now forms the edge of the city's marketplace.
One of Lucca's most famous sons was Giacomo Puccini, composer of operas such as La Bohème, Tosca and Madame Butterfly.The house in which Puccini was born in 1858 now houses a museum dedicated to his life and works, with exhibits including his piano, clothing, paintings and personal letters and sketches.
It is cultural, historical and architectural treasures such as these, combined with the city's innate charm, that ensure Lucca remains one of Tuscany's most popular and memorable destinations.
Originally begun in 1063, Lucca's beautiful cathedral was partially rebuilt in the Gothic style in the fourteenth century and notably hosts a precious relic in the form of a carved cedar wood crucifix known as the 'Holy Face of Lucca', as well as many fine artworks including an interpretation of the Last Supper by Tintoretto.
In fourteenth-century Lucca, the construction of a tower symbolised wealth and the Romanesque-Gothic structure built by the prosperous Guinigi family is a fine example. The top of this forty-four metre high tower, from which trees bizarrely grow, offers panoramic views of the city and its surrounding area.
Lucca contains many palazzos - the palacial mansion houses that belonged to the city's prosperous merchants and aristocracy - and this seventeenth century palazzo formerly belonging to the Mansi family provides a well-preserved insight into the lifestyles of Lucca's wealthiest citizens. Opulently-decorated and ornamented rooms house many fine paintings, artworks and items of period furniture and the museum is reputed to host one of the best collections of sixteenth and seventeenth century frescoes and tapestries in Europe.