The symbol of the city of Lucca is without question its sixteenth–century wall, entirely conserved, which encircles its perfectly harmonious historical centre. Although many modifications have been made to the urban fabric over the centuries, these changes have been made with such wisdom as to increase rather than diminish the beauty of the whole, as happened during the government of Elisa Bonaparte and her husband Felice Baciocchi, who were named the Princes of Lucca and Piombino in 1805 and who supported major and radical urban transformations of the city while filling their own residences with extraordinary works of art.
This happened in the city as well as in the province, where one finds a fascinating alternation of diverse landscapes. A few kilometres from the city walls, on the green slopes of the nearest hills and within the ornate embroidery of the orderly fields, cultivated as if they were gardens, one finds some splendid Lucchese villas built as summer residences for the Lords of Lucca. Among these, a place of honour is due to the Villa di Marlia, renovated in the nineteenth century by Elisa Baciocchi as a country residence. Elisa’s patronage is also behind the major development of the Lucca Baths: these spas were already renowned by the eleventh century, during the time of Countess Matilde di Canossa, but with Elisa they became an elegant European destination for spa vacations. Toward the sea, similar changes were made in the area known as the Versilia: the seaside locales – Viareggio foremost among them – changed their military character of coastal towers precisely in the nineteenth century, when the aristocracy began to move to the coast for the summer sea. Paolina Bonaparte was no stranger to this process, and built an extremely beautiful residence on the shores of the Viareggio sea.