Lucca by Candlelight

January 17, 2014 / Events
Lucca, Tuscany

It was no accident, being in Lucca on September 13. We came to witness the Luminaria di Santa Croce, procession of the Holy Cross. It is a stunning example of how Italians passionately express their sacred beliefs through art and celebration.


Before sunset, from our second floor windows, we watched men on ladders light candles that lined doorways and buildings on the streets between two of Lucca’s 40 beautiful art-laden churches–San Frediano and the Cathedral of San Martino. The cathedral is home to the must-see and venerated Volto Santo of Lucca, a stirring eight foot crucifix with the Holy Face of Jesus carved into it, which can be viewed during the day.


Gradually, the narrow streets began to glow, revealing the growing crowd. Thousands of past and present Lucca residents, many in traditional dress, carried long candles, slowly making their way through the streets, often stopping to sing or play music throughout the 3-hour event.


We were thrilled to see one of the centerpieces of the procession, a beautiful large flower covered cross passing beneath us. Shining in the night, it was a breath-taking reflection of Lucca’s blazing devotion to faith and sacred artistry.

A brilliant way, literally and figuratively, to experience Italy every September 13!


by Lenora Spatafore Boyle

Lenora guides women into the sweet life each year through her popular Italy Retreat for Women to Live La Dolce Vita. A Sweet Life coach for 23 years, Lenora sets an irresistible stage for colorful travel adventures and transformational workshops. She is a happiness and belief expert who guides women into la dolce vita in Tuscany and the Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera.

21 Responses to “Lucca by Candlelight”

  1. Rosemary

    I loved Lucca! And the processions we saw in so many cities and town throughout Italy. We had a similar birds eye view at Spello’s L’Infiorata (flower festival). Thanks for bringing me back!

  2. Linda Boccia

    Leonora did not mention that all the main piazza shops have candles or lights above their doors and in windows. It is a lovely sight. In the parade there are banners carried by Lucchesi from all over the world. When we lived there we saw Australia, U.S., and many other countries. For some this is an annual pilgrimage back to Lucca. While most of the lights are near or in the main piazza other side streets also have candles or lights around their doors and windows. It is really beautiful.

    • Linda, Yes it is truly a reunion and homecoming. I loved watching everyone lighting their windows and doors so patiently in the late afternoon and early evening. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Denise Pisani O'Shea

    My mom marched in this procession as a little girl & still speaks of it at 93 yrs old. We got to see it 10 yrs ago & I have some photos, too, if you would like to see them:)

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    • Denise. That is amazing that your mom walked in the procession as a young girl. That is so sweet. I am not able to get the links to your photos though.You may have to put them on facebook.

  4. Lucca is my town to retreat to when I need a rest while working in Italy. I have deliberately returned to Lucca the week of September 13 many times after first accidently happening to arrive that day on my first trip there. It is a solemn occasion and even some find it gloomy… but not me! I love it! and have figured out the back streets to scurry along the route to watch from the beginning and along the walking route, the piazza and then at the Cathedral. It can go on for hours. And it is especially glorious to walk the streets well after mid-night when everyone has gone home. To see a few lights or candles still burning in a window or two is especially magical. I adore Lucca and would live there in a heart beat. Terrific restaurants, beautiful stores, wonderful people… a great place to base for a few weeks with reasonable rates. And those mysterious hills and valleys of the Garfagnano are so hautingly inviting! I’ll be there next month for a few days. I love it in the winter as well…

    • Harold, that is so great that you have figured out the back streets during the procession. I like the idea of walking around after everyone has returned home too. Thanks for sharing!

  5. This is on my bucket list!! My cousins who live a few miles ago have told me about it. They march every year.

  6. Allison Herron

    Would you please share where you stayed in order to have this perfect view-point? We would like to do that maybe next-year!

    • Allison,
      Look for places on the Via Filunga in the center of Lucca as the procession continues along this street.

  7. Gina Carpentieri

    My sister sent me this link because she knows my husband and I will be in Lucca for the Volto Santo. Your pictures are beautiful and we can’t wait to be there in September.


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