Lucca was founded by the Etruscans, the Tuscany Natives, but became a Roman colony in 180 BC. The rectangular city grid preserves the Roman street plan, and the Piazza San Michele occupies the site of the original forum, and traces of the amphitheater can still be seen.
Lucca was an important city and fortress even in the 6th Century, and was plundered by a the first Germanic King of Italy, Odoacer. When under control of the Lombards, its was the seat of a Duke who minted his own coins. Later, in the 11th Century Lucca became prosperous through the silk trade and came to rival the silks of Byzantium!
Lucca then gained independenceand became a leading state in central Italy, and for a time rivalled Florence. Lucca lost its freedom after the French Revolution and fell under Napoleonic control. By the middles of the 19th Century, Lucca entered into the Italian State.
The original Roman walls remain intact around the city and have been expanded and built upon throughout the centuries. Now, they are a pedestrian promenade that visitors can walk along to get a 360 degree view of the city.
The Cathedral of St. Martin is a major site in the city and the asymmetrical facade makes it unique in Italy. Inside, the most precious relic in Lucca is housed. It is the Sacred Countenance which is a cedar-wood crucifix carved by Nicodemus, a contemporary of Christ. The town has a multitude of other Churches full of a rich history and gorgeous artwork.
The Palazzo Pfanner is a palace and gardens which was converted in a museum. The grounds are absolutely stunning and well worth the visit.
Two final things to do in Lucca are climb the clock tower to get a stupendous view of the entire city or take a day trip to Cinque Terre, a seaside beach town.