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Lucera is a small city with a mixed history reflected in its architecture. Key sites to visit are the Roman ampitheatre and the medieval castle. Lucera is in the Puglia region of southern Italy.
Luceran had a troubled history during Roman times passing from one Roman emperor to another as battles for supremacy were fought amongst the Roman leaders. Finally under Octavian (who took the name Augustus) the town entered a relatively peaceful and prosperous era and many of its Roman monuments are from this period. Chief amongst them is the Roman Ampitheatre.
The Roman Ampitheatre is one of the largest in the South of Italy and dates back to the 1st century BC. It was covered over in the centuries since Augustus' times and only rediscovered in 1932. It is now fully excevated and undergoing restoration. 18,000 spectators could watch the gladiators battling in the ampitheatre.
In the 13th century following uprisings in Sicily the islands Muslim population were transferred to Lucera. Their numbers grew to 15-20,000 and Lucera became the last Muslim stronghold in Italy. 75 years later in the early 14th century the town was sacked and all Muslim's who refused to convert to Christianity were sold into slavery or executed. The mosques were demolished and churches erected in their place.
The Cathedral of Lucera was one of these. Indeed the mosque that it replaced was the last remaining medieval mosque in Italy. The cathedral is Gothic in style and its stone altar was once the banquet table of castle Fiorentino. It has some noteworthy 15th century frescoes.
Lucera's castle, the fortress of Svevo Angioina was built in the 13th century. The castle stands on a hill the base of which is surrounded by a defensive wall 900m long with towers and buttresses. The castle was badly damaged by an earthquake in 1456 and then extensively dismantled for building materials in the 18th century. A restoration project was started in the 19th century and the site is open to visitors.
Also worth seeing are the Gothic Church of San Francesco with its large Rose window, the churches of San Domenico, Santa Caterina, Chiesa del Carmine and S. Antonio Abate. Be sure to visit the beautiful Garibaldi theatre.
Places to Visit Nearby
You can find more local travel ideas in the Puglia guide.