The very symbol of Lucca, the amphitheater square, which was once the center of the show and was born out of the Roman city, is now the center of city life. It is a singular, elliptical square closed in an embrace of ancient medieval houses and, despite the passage of millennia, is still alive and has witnessed countless changes.
When it was created, for shows and gladiator games, the amphitheater of Lucca was an imposing building, which had 54 arches and an auditorium that can accommodate ten thousand spectators. Its construction began in the I Century A.D. with the Emperor Claudius and ended in the Flavian age.
During Middle Ages, when the place became a square, was called "Parlascio" and it was thought that the name derived from the verb "talk" because there were held popular assemblies; in fact it was the mispronunciation of the name "paralisium", "amphitheater" in Latin.
During the long, medieval sieges, the Roman structures were transformed into fortresses. This was the fate of the amphitheater, which, during the Gothic Wars, under Narsete siege, was fortified and sealed with the closure of the external arcades.
When even the fortress was no more used, townhouses were built on the surviving, crumbling structures. Later they became a powder keg, a salt deposit, a prison known with the name of "caves", and finally stores and “trattorie”, while the center of the square was divided into portions and used also for vegetable gardens.
In the 19th Century an architect from Lucca, Lorenzo Nottolini, revalued the ancient space making the amphitheater an essential framework for the urban layout of the city: the buildings that over the centuries had crowded into the space of the arena were dismantled, and the new Amphitheater Street surrounded the old structure.
This new, elliptical space was dedicated to the city market, (in fact it was called "Market Square") while the amphitheater maintained its original structures at more than two meters deep to the road surface, lending original re-emerged arches and vaults to shops overlooking the square.
Some of the Roman ruins are still visible, along Amphitheatre Street, in buildings that nowadays line the piazza and on the lowest of the four arches through which the piazza is accessed, the only one remained from the ancient structure.
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