A large amphitheater was built here in the 1st or the 2nd century BC, under Emperor Claudius, and was finished in the Flavian period. The structure, with fifty-four arches and 18 rows of seats, could accommodate around 10,000 spectators.
In the 6th century, during the Gothic Wars, under siege by the Byzantine general Narses, the amphitheatre was fortified by the closure of the outside arches.
Following the shape of the ancient amphitheater, the square was born in the Middle Ages, and in this era was called parlascio, a word derived from the Latin paralisium, meaning amphitheater. Progressively, the square was filled with buildings, used as warehouses, shops or prison.
In the 19th century, thanks to the architect Lorenzo Nottolini, was decided an urban renewal of the structure. The space of the arena was freed from the small buildings that crowded it and the Via dell’ Anfiteatro was built around it. The new space was used for the city market, until – in the first half of the 20th century – the market was moved about 130 meters further to the Mercato del Carmine.
To date, the floor of the square is raised about 3 meters from the Roman amphitheatre. Access to the square is possible via 4 vaulted portals, but only one of these, the lowest, follows one of the original gates.
A curiosity to note, is the cross engraved on a tile in the center of the square, at the point of the intersection between the 4 extremes of the ellipse.
HOW TO GET THERE
Piazza dell’Anfiteatro is situated on the northeastern area of the ancient walled city, at about 1.1 kilometer away from the Lucca train station. The nearest bus station is San Frediano 1, 180 meters away from the square, on the route of LAM Verde.