The charm of Lucca is also in the interweaving of epochs, stories, characters and architecture.
The journey through an unsuspected Napoleonic city can hold many surprises in store.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the princess of Lucca, Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi, embarked on a programme of renovation of the city, sometimes sacrificing historical spaces in favour of a more 'modern' layout of the city that would not have been the same without her intervention.
He renovated streets, palaces and the city walls themselves, promoted the foundation of educational and research institutes, and brought new fragrances from all over the world into the gardens and palaces.
Porta Elisa and the Prince's Palace are the two cornerstones of what, in the plans of the Princess's architects, would have constituted an imperial course within the walled city.
The entrance from the new Porta Elisa, significantly opened in the direction of Florence, would have been the triumphal arch, the entrance to the avenue that would have led, cutting through the city, to the Ducal Palace in front of which, sacrificing an entire urban block, the great square dedicated to the Emperor would have been opened. However, the project was only partly completed.
On 14 July 1805, Élisa moved to the Princes Palace. On 10 August of the same year, work began on the renovation of the Princes' Palace and in December of the same year on the square.
The palace has been the centre of political power in the city for centuries. Under Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi it took on the appearance it has today, and only with her profound and innovative intervention did it become visible and legible on the functional map of the city.
The aim was: tout comme à Paris with the adaptation of the service area, pantries, plumbing with hot and cold water in both kitchens and bathrooms, but also the art of reception and cooking, fashion, and court life, which had a considerable development and spread in this period.
The Botanical Garden was founded by Élisa in 1814 shortly before she left the city. The project was then abandoned to be completed only with the intervention of Maria Luisa of Bourbon a few years later. Witness to this period is the large Cedar of Lebanon that greets visitors at the entrance.
Also by Élisa was the first project to transform the Mura Urbane from a military building into a public promenade where long tree-lined avenues, roundabouts for carriages, and fashionable cafés could be set up, which the compressed spaces of the city could not accommodate.