One of the most fascinating things about Lucca is the ancient wall that encircles the city. Originally the city was built by the Etruscans and later became a Roman colony in 180 BC. As the city grew so did the walls of Lucca. An expansion occurred during the middle ages and the walls were further fortified during the 1500s driven by a perceived threat by the Medici’s of Firenze. The walls were built up with great mounds of earth and trees were planted on the tops of the walls to consolidate the enormous piles of dirt.
The walls never actually used for military purposes and since the time of Napoleon they have instead become a playground for the Lucchese. By day you will see lots of social activity on top of the wall. It is home to bikers, dog walkers, children playing, runners, couples strolling hand in hand, as well as horse drawn carriages. It is a place to relax and enjoy a perfect Tuscan morning or afternoon. By night the walls become quite romantic and a perfect place to take a moonlight stroll. The walls by inspire fantasy and romanticism and even ghost stories!
When I was in Lucca, I took a bike excursion around the walls with Susanna, one of the delightful teachers from Lucca Italian school. As we biked, Susanna a lot of interesting stories about Lucca’s majestic wall, but none more riveting and spooky, than the story of Lucida Mansi.
Lucida Mansi was an actual nobel woman who lived in Lucca in the 1600’s. She seems to have been quite a controversial figure during her time and there are many stories, real and invented that continue to haunt her name. At an early age she married Vincenzo Diversi, but unfortunately for him he died within the first year of marriage. There are some who claim it was she, Lucida who had killed him. She remained a widow until the ripe age of 21 when she married the very rich but very old Gaspare di Nicolao Mansi. Apparently Lucida was quite beautiful, loved luxurious things and sumptuous parties, as much as she loved being surround by lovers and suiters. Some claim she sat for hours admiring herself in the mirror.
As the story goes…one day Lucida woke up to find a small wrinkle on her face and became quite desperate at the thought of aging and losing her beauty. At that moment the devil appeared who promised her that she could remain youthful and beautiful for 30 years* in exchange for her soul. It seemed like a great deal to Lucida and she gratefully accepted the devil’s offer. Time flies when you are having fun, as did Lucida’s years of youthful splendor. True to his word, 30 years later one dark stormy night, the devil reappeared before Lucida ready to claim Lucida’s soul. All of a sudden the devil’s bargain didn’t seem like such a great idea to Lucida. Attempting to outrun the devil she jumped into her a carriage and began racing around the walls of Lucca. Unfortunately for Lucida, the horses frightened by lightning leaped from the wall ending up in a small lake where Lucida drowned. Some people claim that if you go up on the wall at midnight on the night of the full moon you can hear Lucida’s screams and even see her face reflected in the surface of the pond which is located in Lucca’s botanical gardens.
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