At the beginning of the 19th century, starts a process of transformation
that continues to the middle of the 19th century.
The functional and formal aspects of the city become object of
considerable modifications. At the end of the Democratic Republic
(1801-1805) Napoleon established the Princedom of Lucca (1805-1814)
under the guidance of Felice Baciocchi and his wife Elisa Bonaparte.
But it will be Elisa who rules the new state, and in 1808 she
assumes the function and title of Grand Duchess of Tuscany.
The active and intelligent sister of the Emperor, undertakes an
ambitious program that invests the ancient town and all the territory
of Lucca to make it competitive and bring it to the high standard
of the greatest European cities.
The plan is realized with great intuition and applying the unusual
concept of an integrated program of intervention in the various
sectors of the town and its territory.
So great was her success that after her departure (1814) the validity
of her enterprise and the substantial quality of many of her initiatives
were continued during the bourbon dukedom (1817-1847).
For the first time in its history Lucca becomes a real capital
in the modern sense of the word: the centre of all the administrative,
directional and political activities of the territory.
The ancient Palazzo Pubblico becomes the royal palace, with the
facade on the new Piazza Napoleone created in 1806 after the demolition
of an entire urban block.
New perspectives and visual prospects are created and a new functional
role is conferred to various important parts of the town: streets
are straightened and enlarged (postal streets); a new gate of
the town walls, gate "Elisa" (1809), is built to connect the capital
with the eastern part of the territory, towards Florence.
The town walls loose the function of "fortress", and are transformed
into a "park".
A new series of works of public utility and embellishment of
the town are undertaken: a study for the new aqueduct to supply
Lucca with water and substitute the ancient system of wells; works
to settle the hydraulic system of the plane of Lucca through a
network of channels to drain the marshes; works for the embankments
of the river Serchio, that with its floods threatened constantly
the city and its suburbs.
But Elisa undertakes as well a radical change in the institutional
and legislative sectors.
On one side part of the religious corporations are suppressed
and ecclesiastical funds confiscated, on the other, various educational
institutions for male and female are founded; a real policy for
cultural improvement is started: a new impulse is given to the
arts; the Public Library is founded, and enterprises are undertaken
in favour of the development in agriculture and commerce.
Elisa is soon considered as a myth and contemporary historians
judge her works with a great sense of gratitude reminding the
words she pronounced when she settled down: "to rule Lucca only
in view of the interest and the happiness of the people".