Unwind in the attractive square where Roman gladiators once fought. For one day of the year it is now completely filled with flowers.
Pull up a seat at a pavement café, sip a strong espresso and people-watch in one of Lucca’s most beautiful squares. Piazza dell’Anfiteatro is enclosed by brightly colored buildings of uneven heights. It was built on the ruins of a second-century Roman amphitheater where chariots raced. More maudlin, gladiators once fought to the death in front of crowds of up to 10,000 spectators within the piazza’s walls.
In the centuries following the fall of the Roman Empire the arena was replaced by a prison, a slaughterhouse and a salt warehouse. Today, it is an attractive square known for its outdoor restaurants, cafés and shops.
Enter the piazza through one of the four arches. Look around you and note the square’s elliptical shape. This follows the imprint of the ancient arena and serves as a reminder of the city’s Roman heritage.
One of the best times to be here is on April 27, the anniversary of the death of St. Zita, a religious figure important to the Lucchese. On this day Piazza Anfiteatro is a sea of blooms as it turns into a large flower market to honor her life.
Zita worked as a maid in the 13th century and used to fill her apron with bread and scraps to give to the poor. Concerned that she might be stealing food, her employer one day asked her what she was carrying. When she opened her apron the loaves had miraculously transformed into flowers.
Most people come to the square to sit and enjoy the surroundings from one of the cafés or restaurants. There are also several souvenir shops.
When you are ready to leave Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, walk around the exterior. You’ll see how some of the original Roman brickwork has been incorporated into a few of the buildings.
Piazza dell’Anfiteatro is located close to the north end of Via Fillungo, Lucca’s main shopping street.