Piazza Napoleone, commonly known as Piazza Grande, is the main square of Lucca, the place where every year in July is held one of the most important music festivals in Italy, the Lucca Summer Festival.
In this area was built the vast Augusta Fortress, residence of Castruccio Castracani, Duke of Lucca in the first half of the 14th century. The huge complex, which covered about a fifth of the city, was destroyed by the population in 1370.
Subsequently, the ruins of the Fortezza Augusta were restored by Paolo Guinigi, Lord of Lucca, at the beginning of the 15th century, to create a new defensive structure. The new architectural complex was called Cittadella di Lucca, but it was partially destroyed as well after the fall of Paolo Guinigi, in 1429. Finally, on the ashes of the Citadel, the Palazzo Ducale was built, a palace which is still present today.
The square was built in 1806, during the Napoleonic domination, by Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi, sister of the Emperor Napoleon. This is the reason why the square was named after the French emperor.
Under the direction of the architect Giovanni Lazzarini and of the French Pierre-Theodore Bienimé, the square began to develop in the 19th century. The idea was to give greater importance to the Palazzo Ducale, the fulcrum of the city’s public life, and to place a huge statue of Napoleon in the center of the square, to show gratitude to the emperor.
The project faded in 1815, after the Congress of Vienna, when the Principality of Lucca was transformed into a Duchy and was entrusted to the command of Maria Luisa of Spain, Queen of Etruria and Duchess of Lucca between 1815 and 1824. Maria Luisa commissioned the architect Lorenzo Nottolini to renovate the premises of the Palazzo Ducale and to place in the center of the square a monument in her honor, sculpted by Lorenzo Bartolini in 1843.
HOW TO GET THERE
Piazza Napoleone is located inside the city walls, about 650 meters away from the Lucca train station, or about 10 minutes on foot. The closest bus station is Napoleone, located in the northwestern corner of the square, on the bus Lines 5, LAM Blu and LAM Verde.