Lucca, the city where the population grows tenfold for a long weekend

Spidermen, zombies, Japanese manga heroes. And 800,000 tourists. Every year thousands of cosplayers and video-game-lovers of the Lucca Comics & Games turn a peaceful Italian town into a metropolis, where reality and fantasy merge.

When we think of Lucca, we think of an incredible art city (one of the most important cities in Italy), with its wholly intact sixteenth-century walls (some of the best preserved walls in the world), and its many medieval churches and monumental Renaissance palaces in the historic centre. Every year, however, this scenario changes completely: for five days (this year from October 30 to November 3), Lucca gets invaded by thousands of cosplayers and comics, games and video games lovers.

Lucca Comics & Games started in 1966 as a niche festival, but since 2004 the event has been held within the city walls, and it has since become massive: last year Lucca welcomed 250,263 paying visitors (18,581 of them coming from abroad), 13,000 AOs, 707 exhibitors, plus the general public visiting the "free" areas, for a total of almost 800,000 people inside and outside the walls and in the 42 areas of the historic centre, and a total exhibition space of 55,500 square meters.

Just like the Salone del Mobile in Milan, which attracts almost 1 million people in 5 days, and the Grand Prix, which every year transforms the streets of Monte Carlo into a Formula 1 circuit and the terraces of the houses into privileged grandstands, the historic centre of Lucca gets transformed by comics fans as well. Proportionally, one could also say that Lucca Comics & Games is to Lucca as the Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage, is to Mecca. Both cities, in fact, more than double their population in the days of the event: from 88,397 inhabitants to almost 900,000 people in four days (Lucca), and from 2 to 4 million in five days (Mecca).

The passion that fuels the participants also turns Lucca into a huge and vibrant stage: the most interesting show, after all, is not in the stands, pavilions, theatres, cinemas and palaces, but in the streets of the city centre, where the visitors meet and organize parades, flash mobs and competitions. Cinema and fantasy literature lovers, cosplayers and gamers, nerds and geeks – they all make up a varied audience that doesn't simply attend the festival, but rather lives the experience at its fullest.

Among the side effects there is certainly the incredible rise of Lucca’s housing prices (according to Il Tirreno, a 250% increase in comparison to other months). During the four days of Lucca Comics & Games an apartment can cost up to 1,172 euros, writes the Tuscan newspaper. More generally, the entire economic impact is considerable: ‘Impact!’, the three-year research of IMT – Scuola Alti Studi Lucca estimated a turnover of 55.8 million euros, if considering only the paying visitors (2017 data), but this turnover “could reach 100 million euros, considering all trade people, operators, guests and visitors in general, and expenses for purchases, food, accommodation and shopping outside the halls of the fair,” as estimated by Il Sole 24 Ore. It is a positive outcome that has helped the city of Lucca as well as the neighbouring cities and, more in general, the entire region of Tuscany. Also, many visitors admitted to taking advantage of the event to visit the monuments, museums and art galleries in the area.

The city of Lucca does not only benefit from the event on an economic level. According to IMT, the festival is also an efficient operation of city branding since 46% of visitors say that the most interesting aspect of the event is the city of Lucca and 98% intend to return. When asked how the festival has changed the perception of the city, 62% answered “for the better”, while the 15 million euros of revenue thanks to media coverage are the proof of a widespread promotion of the city on press and television.

Lucca Crea, the company that organized Lucca Comics and Games and that invested 6 million euros (and 800,000 euros in cultural productions) for last year’s edition, explains that the festival “created a new concept of events that enhances contemporary mythologies, promotes the city's heritage and amplifies the value of assets in the relationship with the emotional effects of new collective narratives.” As if to say that, in an unexpected way, now comics, too, can help to discover, appreciate and promote the monumental heritage of Lucca and Tuscany, which is the perfect historical setting for a world of imagination and creativity.

Event title:
Lucca Comics and Games 2019
Opening dates:
30 October – 3 November 2019
Lucca Crea

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