Behind the Duomo, nestling against the wall of the archbishop’s palace, lies the exquisite little Gothic church of S. Maria delle Rose. The trailing sprays of roses that are carved all over its singular exterior recall the fairy-tale mood, and look as if they had escaped from the bower of the Sleeping Beauty.
SS. Giovanni and Reparata, the ancient Baptistery, is one of the most picturesque features of this part of the city. Seen through the arches of the atrium of the Duomo, its red-tiled dome and rude campanile mingling with the trees of the palace at its side make a charming picture.
Here S. Frediano baptised his first converts, and a font almost belonging to his day is still to be seen, with a mosaic pavement of great age, many feet below the level of the existing church.
Hence we pass through the little Piazza del Giglio into the spacious Piazza Napoleone, whose orderly ranks of trees, coldly correct statue of the Duchess Marie Louise, and dignified palace all bear the unmistakable stamp of the first years of the nineteenth century.
The Palazzo Provinciale, as it is now called, is in reality an Ammanati structure, but was planed down into Empire formality by Elise Baciocchi when she made it the seat of her mimic court, at once the delight and despair of Lucca. Leading from this oasis, labyrinthine streets wind in every direction. On he map they have a spuriously rectangular appearance ; in reality they are bewildering in the extreme.
Narrow and illogical in their course, baffling the topographer, they turn and double back upon themselves and lead apparently nowhere. But it does not matter much to one whose business is to explore, for all these elfin ways end in something interesting or beautiful. And deliverance is never very far off. Though often unseen, the ramparts are always close at hand, for the city covers but a little space, and the wearied searcher for this or that church can surely reach it by following their clear if not expeditious course. The campanili are visible from this vantage ground, and all one has to do is to pick out the desired one and make as straight a dive in its direction as possible.
( Janet Ross e Nelly Erichsen, brano tratto da “The Story of Lucca – Illustrated by Nelly Erichsen” – London: J.M.Dent & Sons, Ltd, 1912 )