Piazza Anfiteatro is one of Lucca’s main squares, situated on the site of the Roman amphitheatre. It’s the perfect setting for a coffee or an aperitivo. Surrounded by pastel-coloured buildings, flowers in every window and welcoming shops, this square has a wonderful and authentic Italian feel. Its tranquil atmosphere is one of the highlights of a visit to Lucca.

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You enter Piazza Anfiteatro by walking through a picturesque arch. And the effect is so impressive it feels like you are going through a portal into another world. It’s a wide open space lined with cafes and bars, inviting restaurants and small boutique shops. For most this is the classic image of an Italian square, and one you’ll likely want to spend a lot of time in. It’s a relaxing atmosphere, but as we’ll show you, it’s a far cry from the square’s bloody past.

The dark past of Piazza Anfiteatro in Lucca

The Roman amphitheatre must have been a rowdy place. An elliptical structure like Rome’s colosseum, it played host to gladiators and the usual array of unwilling beasts imported from around the world. Like many colonial amphitheatres, it was situated outside the city walls to make it easy for the people to reach it. Current theory has it that it had two levels of arches and could host as many as ten thousand spectators.

During the barbarian invasions the amphitheatre was destroyed and what remained of it was used to build Lucca‘s Romanesque churches. Later new buildings sprang up in its stead until the whole area was eventually built over.

It was not until 1830, under Maria Luisa di Borbone, that the square was cleared and became what we see today – an atmospheric, lively square that still recalls its ancient past.

DON’T MISS: Some of the Roman remains can still be seen in the buildings around the piazza and in the lowest of the four arches leading into it, the only one that survives from its days as an amphitheatre.

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