Lucca was founded by the Etruscans (there are traces of an earlier Ligurian settlement) and became a Roman colony in 180 BC. The rectangular grid of its historical centre preserves the Roman street plan, and the Piazza San Michele occupies the site of the ancient forum. Traces of the amphitheatre still may be seen in the Piazza dell'Anfiteatro.
At the Lucca Conference, in 56 BC, Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus reaffirmed their political alliance known as the First Triumvirate.
Frediano, an Irish monk, was bishop of Lucca in the early sixth century. At one point, Lucca was plundered by Odoacer, the first Germanic King of Italy. Lucca was an important city and fortress even in the sixth century, when Narses besieged it for several months in 553. Under the Lombards, it was the seat of a duke who minted his own coins. The Holy Face of Lucca (or Volto Santo), a major relic supposedly carved by Nicodemus, arrived in 742. During the eighth-tenth centuries Lucca was a center of Jewish life, the Jewish community being led by the Kalonymos family (which at some point during this time migrated to Germany to become a major component of proto-Ashkenazic Jewry). Lucca became prosperous through the silk trade that began in the eleventh century, and came to rival the silks of Byzantium. During the tenth–eleventh centuries Lucca was the capital of the feudal margraviate of Tuscany, more or less independent but owing nominal allegiance to the Holy Roman Emperor.
After the death of Matilda of Tuscany, the city began to constitute itself an independent commune, with a charter in 1160. For almost 500 years, Lucca remained an independent republic. There were many minor provinces in the region between southern Liguria and northern Tuscany dominated by the Malaspina; Tuscany in this time was a part of feudal Europe. Dante’s Divine Comedy includes many references to the great feudal families who had huge jurisdictions with administrative and judicial rights. Dante spent some of his exile in Lucca.
In 1273 and again in 1277, Lucca was ruled by a Guelph capitano del popolo (captain of the people) named Luchetto Gattilusio. In 1314, internal discord allowed Uguccione della Faggiuola of Pisa to make himself lord of Lucca. The Lucchesi expelled him two years later, and handed over the city to another condottiero, Castruccio Castracani, under whose rule it became a leading state in central Italy. Lucca rivalled Florence until Castracani's death in 1328. On 22 and 23 September 1325, in the battle of Altopascio, Castracani defeated Florence's Guelphs. For this he was nominated by Louis IV the Bavarian to become duke of Lucca. Castracani's tomb is in the church of San Francesco. His biography is Machiavelli's third famous book on political rule.
In 1408, Lucca hosted the convocation intended to end the schism in the papacy. Occupied by the troops of Louis of Bavaria, the city was sold to a rich Genoese, Gherardino Spinola, then seized by John, king of Bohemia. Pawned to the Rossi of Parma, by them it was ceded to Mastino II della Scala of Verona, sold to the Florentines, surrendered to the Pisans, and then nominally liberated by the emperor Charles IV and governed by his vicar. Lucca managed, at first as a democracy, and after 1628 as an oligarchy, to maintain its independence alongside of Venice and Genoa, and painted the word Libertas on its banner until the French Revolution in 1789.
Lucca had been the second largest Italian city state (after Venice) with a republican constitution ("comune") to remain independent over the centuries.
In 1805, Lucca was conquered by Napoleon, who installed his sister Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi as "Princess of Lucca".
From 1815 to 1847 it was a Bourbon-Parma duchy. The only reigning dukes of Lucca were Maria Luisa of Spain, who was succeeded by her son Charles II, Duke of Parma in 1824. Meanwhile, the Duchy of Parma had been assigned for life to Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma, the second wife of Napoleon. In accordance with the Treaty of Vienna (1815), upon the death of Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma in 1847, Parma reverted to Charles II, Duke of Parma, while Lucca lost independence and was annexed to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. As part of Tuscany, it became part of the Kingdom of Sardinia in 1860 and finally part of the Italian State in 1861.
The walls encircling the old town remain intact, even as the city expanded and modernized, unusual for cities in the region. Initially, built as a defensive rampart, once the walls lost their military importance, they became a pedestrian promenade, the Passeggiata delle Mura Urbane, a street atop the walls linking the bastions. It passes through the Bastions of Santa Croce, San Frediano, San Martino, San Pietro/Battisti, San Salvatore, La Libertà/Cairoli, San Regolo, San Colombano, Santa Maria, San Paolino/Catalani, and San Donato; and over the gates (Porte): San Donato, Santa Maria, San Jocopo, Elisa, San Pietro, and Sant'Anna. Each of the four principal sides of the structure is lined with a different tree species than the others.
The walled city is encircled by Piazzale Boccherini, Viale Lazzaro Papi, Viale Carlo Del Prete, Piazzale Martiri della Libertà, Via Batoni, Viale Agostino Marti, Viale G. Marconi (vide Guglielmo Marconi), Piazza Don A. Mei, Viale Pacini, Viale Giusti, Piazza Curtatone, Piazzale Ricasoli, Viale Ricasoli, Piazza Risorgimento (vide Risorgimento), and Viale Giosuè Carducci.
The town includes a number of public squares, most notably the Piazza dell'Anfiteatro, site of ancient Roman amphitheater; but also Piazzale Verdi; Piazza Napoleone'; and Piazza San Michele.Ducal Palace: built on the site of Castruccio Castracani's fortress. Construction began by Ammannati in 1577–1582, and continued by Juvarra in the eighteenth century
Villa Garzoni, noted for its water gardens
Casa di Puccini: House of the opera composer, at the nearby Torre del Lago, where the composer summered, a Puccini opera festival takes place every July-August
Torre delle Ore: ("The Clock Tower")
Guinigi Tower and House: Panoramic view from tower-top balcony with oak trees
National Museum of Villa Guinigi
National Museum of Palazzo Mansi
Orto Botanico Comunale di Lucca: botanical garden dating from 1820
Academy of Sciences (1584)
Teatro del Giglio: nineteenth-century opera house
There are many medieval, a few as old as the eighth century, basilica-form churches with richly arcaded façades and campanilesDuomo di San Martino: St Martin's Cathedral
San Michele in Foro: Romanesque church
San Giusto: Romanesque church
Basilica di San Frediano
Sant'Alessandro an example of medieval classicism
Santa Giulia: Lombard church rebuilt in thirteenth century
San Michele: church at Antraccoli, founded in 777, it was enlarged and rebuilt in the twelfth century with the introduction of a sixteenth-century portico
San Giorgio church in the locality of Brancoli, built in the late twelfth century has a bell tower in Lombard-Romanesque style, the interior houses a massive ambo (1194) with four columns mounted on lion sculptures, a highly decorated Romanesque octagonal baptismal fount, and the altar is supported by six small columns with human figures
Lucca is the birthplace of composers Giacomo Puccini (La Bohème and Madama Butterfly), Nicalao Dorati, Francesco Geminiani, Gioseffo Guami, Luigi Boccherini, and Alfredo Catalani. It is also the birthplace of Bruno Menconi and artist Benedetto Brandimarte.National Museum of Villa Guinigi
Museum of Villa Mansi
Museo della Cattedrale
Lu.C.C.A. Museum of the Archaeology of the Lucca Cathedral
Orto Botanico Comunale di Lucca
Lucca annually hosts the Lucca Summer Festival. The 2006 edition saw Eric Clapton, Placebo, Massive Attack, Roger Waters, Tracy Chapman, and Santana play live in the Piazza Napoleone.
Lucca hosts the annual Lucca Comics and Games festival, Europe's largest festival for comics and related subjects.
Other events include:Lucca Film Festival
Lucca Digital Photography Fest
Procession of Santa Croce, on 13 of September. Costume procession through the town's roads.
Lucca Jazz Donna
Mauro Bolognini's 1958 film Giovani mariti with Sylva Koscina is set and was filmed in Lucca.
TopGear filmed an episode here.
Lucca is twinned with: Abingdon, United Kingdom
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Lucca Sicula, Italy
Panther's Contrade, Siena
South San Francisco, United States of America
Daniele Rugani, soccer player
St. Anselm of Lucca, (1036–1086), bishop of Lucca
Giovanni Arnolfini, merchant and arts patron
Pompeo Batoni, painter
Simone Bianchi, comics artist
Luigi Boccherini, musician and composer
Elisa Bonaparte, ruler of Lucca
Giulio Carmassi, composer
Castruccio Castracani, ruler of Lucca (1316–1328)
Alfredo Catalani, composer
Gusmano Cesaretti, photographer and artist
Mario Cipollini, cyclist
Matteo Civitali, sculptor
Ivan Della Mea, singer-songwriter
Theodor Döhler, composer and pianist; lived in Lucca from 1827–1829
Ernesto Filippi, football referee
St. Gemma Galgani, mystic and saint
Tejay van Garderen, cyclist
Francesco Geminiani, musician and composer
Agostino Giuntoli, nightclub owner and entrepreneur
Gioseffo Guami, composer
Pope Lucius III
Vincenzo Lunardi, pioneer aeronaut
Felice Matteucci, engineer
Leo Nomellini, athlete
Marcello Pera, politician and philosopher
Ludovico Marracci, priest and first translator of the Qur'an to Latin
Giacomo Puccini, composer
Marco Rossi, athlete
Renato Salvatori, actor
Carlo Sforza, diplomat and politician
Rinaldo and Ezilda Torre, founded the Torani syrup company in San Francisco using Luccan recipes from their hometown
Rolando Ugolini, athlete
Giuseppe Ungaretti, poet
Antonio Vallisneri, scientist and physician
Alfredo Volpi, painter