Today this is one of the most popular places to walk in Lucca, but in the past, the walls and ramparts were key to keeping intruders at bay.
The walls and then the ramparts were built in four stages. The first circle was the Roman walls, parts of which were incorporated into the first medieval walls which were built between the 11th and 12th and 13th-centuries. As the town grew from the second half of the 14th to the first decades of the 15th-century, these walls were extended.
The last expansion of the walls took place in the 16th and 17th-centuries with the objective of using military technology to defend the city better during the Medici's expansionist policy. The ramparts are over 4km long with three original gates in the Renaissance walls: the Porta San Pietro, the Porta Santa Maria, and the Porta San Donato, which were built in the second half of the 16th century. They were fortified gates, with drawbridges on chains, with iron-studded gates, in the front and in the back. A fourth gate, The Elisa, which looks more like an Arc de Triomphe was opened in 1811 in honour of Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi. Two more gates, the Vittorio Emanuele and the San Jacopo were opened in 1911 and 1931.
As you walk the walls you will see century-old trees growing out of them, which were planted to consolidate the huge mounds of earth which were deposited to make up the ramparts. In the 19th--century, Duchess Maria Luisa of Bourbon commissioned the royal architect Lorenzo Nottolini to arrange the walls definitively as a public walkway.