Pre-roman period
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the towers
Elisa Bonaparte
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Elisa Bonaparte

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".

Elisa Bonaparte

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".

  Comune di Lucca, texts