With the media bombarding us every day with the world drought problem, Lucca’s ever-flowing fountains are attracting more attention than ever.
Water deserves the value given it and our much beloved architect, Lorenzo Nottolini, would have been extremely proud of the extra attention currently devoted to his beautiful fountains in town. It was the Duchess of Lucca, Maria Luisa of Bourbon, whose statue you can admire in Piazza Napoleone, who decided in 1822 to have an aqueduct built to exploit the springs of the San Quirico torrent in Guamo.
Too many people in Lucca were falling sick because of the water; the wells in town were polluted and the problem of a public aqueduct had to be faced. Heavy taxes were imposed on the population to raise the amount of money necessary for the works, and in 1832 the water channelled through the aqueduct started pouring from the fountain located next to San Martino Cathedral.
The aqueduct is four kilometres long. The arches that run very gently down from the hills to the town begin in Guamo and end in the San Concordio suburb of Lucca.
There are 459 of them with an average height of approximately 10 metres, delimited at both ends by a neoclassical cylindrical stone temple with more than one role: hydraulic, to connect and link the underground pipes to the aqueduct, static because they contain the thrust of the arches and the third role is to decorate and complete the monument.
The Lucchesi refer to the aqueduct water as the water of “la Pupporona”, that is, of the lady with large “puppore”. If you look this popular word up in the dictionary you won’t find it: “puppore” in Lucca means bosom, so a “pupporona” is a lady with a large bosom.
This unidentified young lady, sculpted in neo-classical style, has surpassed the noble Duchess in fame. Her statue stands on a pedestal behind the fountain in Piazza San Salvatore – always referred to by the Lucchesi as Piazza della Pup-porona, because her dress, sliding off one shoulder reveals her bosom and so shows her “puppora”. In town we now have eight fountains which deliver water from the aqueduct.
The chemical-physical characteristics and taste of the water are excellent and superior to many mineral waters on sale. It’s tested daily and you can always see the Lucchesi filling their bottles and thereby getting good water at no cost. This water is also used by the Botanical Garden to water their large variety of azaleas and rhododendrons because of its acidic content.
The style chosen by Nottolini to decorate the fountains reveals his attention to the urban setting. He chose the white marble of Carrara and, apart from the Pupporona, geometrical shapes, such as the cylinder and the parallelepiped, often enriched with engraved masks.
A walk or a bike ride alongside the aqueduct is pleasant and interesting. Keep your camera at the ready, and abandon yourself to the pleasure of looking at such an important masterpiece of architecture, where Nottolini has succeeded in matching beauty and function.
In some way you will find the atmosphere of certain eighteenth century prints depicting the Roman country ruins.
You can start this enjoyable outing by turning left behind the railway station. At a glance you’ll see that the aqueduct is in a critical condition, due to structural subsidence, acts of vandalism, lack of maintenance and the continuous pillage of stones. But it still manages to fulfils the purpose it was built for.
Nottolini’s Aqueduct Duchess of Lucca Maria Luisa Porta S. Gervaso Piazza Antelminelli


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