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The uniqueness of Piazza dell’ Anfiteatro in Lucca is given by its singular elliptical shape. Also, by the frame of medieval houses that embrace it. They cover the entire perimeter, increasing the charm.
If you had ever been to Lucca, you probably visited this beautiful arena. If you have not visited this town – the area is well known and a must-visit. It is now home to approximately eight restaurants and several other shops.
History of Piazza dell’ Anfiteatro
The gladiators fought in this oval shape area for their lives. The Anfiteatro was built between the 2nd and 3rd Century AD by the Roman Empire which controlled the area. It was built so all the citizens of Lucca, and the surrounding area, could enjoy the festivities held here. Just like the Romans were doing in Rome but in a smaller arena. The stadium was built to hold ten thousand spectators. The gladiators and animals were held in catacombs until it was time to perform – just as they did in Rome. The ruins of the ancient Roman amphitheater today are located more than 2 meters below the street level.
Our YouTube Video from 2019
In 2019 while writing our book, we ended the year in Lucca. How funny that we return in 2021 and make this town our home. Here is a video from that year and Ilene’s apologies as we did not know how to correctly say “Anfiteatro.” In the video, she calls it several times an “amphitheater.” It’s a learning process!
At one point in its history the stadium was turned into a prison, and it was also used as a military barracks.
In the mid 16th Century, most of the structure was taken down and houses were built around the old walls of the stadium. The oval shape of the inner stadium has been kept so when you step inside of the walls you still see the original design of the Anfiteatro – minus the seats for the people.
From the Streets
If you walk on the streets outside of this beautiful arena you will see the ancient Roman columns and parts of the original structure still intact and now part of the houses built there.
When we were looking for an apartment here in this area of Lucca, I noticed an apartment that still had the ancient stone steps and seats as part of what is now the living room. If it weren’t priced out of our budget, we would now be living in this beautiful part of history. Another factor going against us living there is the fact that it was a four-floor walk-up, no lift. At my age, anything past the second floor must have a lift, period.
Piazza dell’ Anfiteatro Today
On the outer perimeter, along the Via dell’Anfiteatro, we can see some of the original walls, in particular in front of Piazza Scalpellini. The photo below shows how they used anything they had on hand – brick, river stones, etc. Some of the outside is covered in stucco but this part along Piazza Scalpellini shows the ancient original walls.
Every year on April 27, in celebration of Santa Zita, the piazza explodes in color with the traditional Flower Market.
Let Us Know!
We chose Lucca to be our home in Italy for a number of reasons and Piazza dell’ Anfiteatro is one of those reasons. So, if you had ever visited Lucca – it is time you come back and if you have never visited Lucca I think it is time you did and discover this gem in Tuscany.
If you visit Lucca or any surrounding areas of Tuscany, send us an email. We’d love to meet you for a glass of vino or caffè! It’s one of our favorite things to do is meet people and listen to stories of how much they love Italy. As a reminder, our email is email@example.com.
JoAn FergusonJuly 15, 2021 at 8:41 am
It truly is a unique piazza! During the COVID lockdowns, I often walked in and around the anfiteatro with no one else in sight. That was nice, but I sure appreciate now seeing the tables filled, children playing, and the piazza alive again. As it should be!
imodicaJuly 16, 2021 at 1:40 am
Thank you JoAn for your comment! We know exactly how you feel about seeing the piazza alive again. It must have been difficult in Italy during lockdown and knowing you had just gotten here yourselves – crazy difficult! Love your blog by the way!!