Nottolini’s aqueduct: facts and figures

Categories Art in Lucca

There is a majestic work of art, architecture and engineering just outside Lucca walls. It is so easy to get there but at the same time it can be a little bit tricky to find it.

I will give you some good reasons to make sure you will not miss it!

Furthermore, in this blog post, I will give you some background information that will be useful to appreciate: Nottolini’s aqueduct.

Nottolini's Acqueduct Lucca

First of all, let’s meet the man behind it.

Lorenzo Nottolini, born in 1787 in Segromigno (Lucca) in a quite large family.

He did his apprentice with Giovanni Lazzarini, the architect that helped Elisa Baciocchi, Napoleon’s sister to add that French touch to Lucca.

As soon as Nottolini obtained a sort of pension, he asked to leave the city and improve his knowledge studying in Florence, Rome, Bologna, Genova and Verona.

He knew quite well how to choose his masters and even more he really wanted to see and have a direct experience of the architecture and of people, as well.

Nottolini self portrait at the age of 20 years old

In 1818, the Bourbon family, Maria Luisa and her son called him back to Lucca because they needed him. It was time to put in practice what he learnt in his personal study abroad program.

There will be, thanks to the Duke Carlo Ludovico, two more fundamental trips in his career: Germany and UK.

Lorenzo Nottolini’s life does not match the damned and rebel genius stereotype, on the contrary he refused even to get married as he was so committed to studying and working to the point he did not want any distractions or ties. Likewise, this humble and sober attitude lead people almost to forget what he accomplished as an architect.

There is a very long list of his works in and around Lucca: bridges, roads, fountains, restorations and renovations of existing places (Piazza Anfiteatro just to mention a very important one.)

Although, probably only the Aqueduct shows that artist’s sensitivity to combine: utility and beauty.

Very often, at present times, men have to consider the environmental impact of their actions and works. It seemed that Nottolini had already got to that conclusion at the beginning of the XIX century.

The Guamo water cistern temple Lucca


  • Built between 1823-1832
  • 459 arches – 6 unfortunately they were demolished for the highway A11 from Florence.
  • Each arch is about 12 m high.
  • 3269 m is the length of the aqueduct
  • Every 17 arches, there is a buttress to give stability and for decoration. Each buttress is numbered and has marble label.
  • The water of 18 springs was originally conveyed into the city fountains, nowadays instead only 12 springs are in use.
  • 2 big cisterns – built as Neoclassical temples. The Guamo is the uphill one, while the one in San Concordio, behind the train station, is downhill.
  • Plus underground filtering tunnels, dike and canals.
  • It costed 1.469.204 lucchese lira.
  • The water ran on top of the arches on two parallel separate tracks: as one was the “luxury” water used by the monumental fountains and the other one was the water of public utility.
  • You can still admire 5 fountains designed by Nottolini and go to fill your bottle while you are wondering around the city in Piazza Antelminelli or in Piazza San Salvatore (the so called “booby” square), along the water canal at Porta San Gervasio and at the Stellario Madonna and then in Via del Gonfalone. Some of these fountains were completed and located after his death.
The canals and more cisterns in Lucca

5 things you can do along Nottolini’s aqueduct

  • Along this long straight line of red bricks arches you can walk, run, ride a bike from the city to a cool shady wood area called The Golden Words.
  • Photo op: depending on the season and the weather you might find red poppies, sunflowers or bales of hay and some very beautiful villas.
  • It is quite impressive to be so close to the city but at the same time you will be completely surrounded by the nature.
  • You can keep going and pass The Golden Words to start an easy hiking path which will take you to the astronomical observatory and then Vorno with its villas or even continue with the Pisan Medici Aqueduct
  • Have a picnic, practice yoga, read a book, take a nap at the Golden Words… just some “me time” that it is what you need on vacation!
Parole d'oro - Golden Words Lucca