Walls of Lucca

Those of you of a certain age may remember the American Strategic Defense Initiative, otherwise known as Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars defense system. When you walk on the magnificent walls of Lucca, you are walking on the 16th century equivalent. Compared with the medieval walls of nearby Pisa, these are very different and that is because of the invention of gunpowder and the cannon. Medieval stone walls could be knocked down by cannon fire so what was to be done? The walls of Lucca were the answer. Faced with brick with up to 30 metres of earth behind them, these are walls that could absorb the kinetic energy of cannon balls. But as you walk or cycle along the broad tree-lined avenue atop this massive Renaissance fortification just remember that all the earth behind the walls was shifted by men with the most primitive of tools. With a length of over four kilometres and a height of around 12 metres, just marvel at the effort involved. Work commenced in 1545 and took over 100 years to complete. In the end it was never used for its intended purpose but instead became what it is today – a recreational asset for the people.