Palazzo Ducale (Ducal Palace), known once as Palazzo degli Illustrissimi Signori (Palace of the Illustrious Lords) and today as Palazzo della Provincia (Palace of the Province), is an imposing palace located in Piazza Napoleone, in Lucca.
Until the rise of Castruccio Castracani, Duke of Lucca, in the first years of the 14th century, the seat of the government of the Republic was located in Piazza San Michele. Castracani built the vast Augusta Fortress, in which he transfered the entire administrative power of the city.
The huge complex of Augusta Fortress, which covered about a fifth of the city, was destroyed by population in 1370, after the Emperor Charles IV, King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor, gave the Republic its freedom.
With the new lordship of Paolo Guinigi, a new fortress called Cittadella di Lucca was built on the ruins of the former Fortezza Augusta. In 1430, after the fall of Paolo Guinigi, the Citadel was destroyed as well, but the restored republican government preserved the palace for its headquarters.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, Palazzo Pubblico grew without a precise design, with the progressive addition of new buildings. The structure housed the parliament and the government of Lucca, the soldiers’ barracks, the armory, the powder magazine and the prison. In 1586, the powder magazine exploded, causing serious damage to the complex. This event led the Republic to ask for the intervention of the famous Florentine architect Bartolomeo Ammannati.
Subsequent important interventions took place in the first half of the 18th century, on a project by Filippo Juvarra. With the fall of the Republic and the creation of the Principality of Lucca, the palace became the seat of Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi, sister of Napoleon Bonaparte, Princess of Lucca and Grand Duchess of Tuscany until 1814.
Significant changes were also made by Maria Luisa of Spain, Queen of Etruria and Duchess of Lucca between 1815 and 1824, who comissioned the architect Lorenzo Nottolini to renovate the palace.
The decadence of the building began with the annexation of Lucca to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in 1847. After the Unification of Italy, the palace became the seat of the Prefecture, the Court of Appeal and the Province of Lucca.
ART AND ARCHITECTURE
Through the central portal, you can access the central courtyard, largely unfinished. Surrounded by a portico with a double row of pillars, the courtyard is decorated in the center by the statue of the lawyer Francesco Carrara, work by Augusto Passaglia. To the left, is the unfinished courtyard of the Swiss (Cortile degli Svizzeri), work of Ammannati, destined to the Swiss Guard in the service of the Republic of Lucca.
The staircase of Nottolini leads to a hall now occupied by the Province and the Prefecture. Here, until 1977, the National Gallery was located, now in Villa Guinigi. At the top of the staircase is a gallery of statues, decorated with stuccos and marble statues.
The Hall of the General Council of the Republic hosts a Flemish painting and the fresco of Freedom of Lucca by Pietro Testa. Above the Loggia of the Guards, is the so-called Loggia dell’Amannati, decorated with grotesques and original stuccos of the 16th century. The Sala degli Staffieri has frescoed walls by Luigi Ademollo.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Ducal Palace is located about 650 meters away from the Lucca railway station. The closest bus stop is Napoleone, on the northwestern corner of Piazza Napoleone, on the bus Lines 5, LAM Blu and LAM Verde.