Once the site of the Roman forum during ancient times, now this piazza is a delightful square of bars, cafés and an unfinished 12th-century church.
Piazza San Michele in Lucca’s city center has been a hub of city life for almost 2,000 years. The square occupies the site of the old Roman forum, the venue for triumphant processions, public speeches and commercial and political affairs. Today, join visitors and residents alike to explore its restaurants, medieval buildings and market.
Dominating the piazza is the 12th-century Church of San Michele after which the square is named. The basilica took 200 years to build and even then it wasn’t finished. Construction stopped when the project ran out of money, resulting in a front façade that is larger than the building. Take your time to absorb the details of the white marble exterior. The comparatively plain lower section is topped by elaborate levels of sculptures, carvings, twisted columns and arches. Look to the roof to see a large marble statue of the Archangel Michael slaying a dragon. Then step inside to enjoy the aesthetic beauty of the church’s interior with frescoes, paintings and sculptures. Among the highlights are the glazed terra cotta of the Madonna and Child.
After leaving the church, stroll through the square to explore some of its other sights. Stop by the statue of Francesco Burlamacchi, a prominent 16th-century politician who was beheaded in 1548. Examine the facade of the 16th-century Palazzo Gigli, now a branch of a local bank. See what’s happening at the Renaissance-style Palazzo Pretorio; the building often hosts contemporary art shows and food festivals.
If you are in Lucca during December take your shopping bags to the square’s Christmas market. Browse the dozens of stalls for local handicrafts, toys, sweets, decorations and regional gastronomy products.
Once you have inspected all the sights, relax in one of Piazza San Michele’s cafés or bars. Alternatively, try some of the typical Lucchese cakes in the pastry shops located near the piazza.