The Walled City of Lucca

Lucca is a small city in Tuscany, very near Pisa, completely surrounded by ramparts.  We stopped in Lucca for two nights on our way from Turin to Rome last fall.  We were traveling by train, so we stayed in a hotel near the station that was also convenient to one of the main gates of the town, Porta San Pietro.

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We walked into town on our first evening to absorb some of the local ambiance. 

Piazza San Michele

DSC06249 C Chiesa di San Michele in Foro

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Chiesa Di San Frediano is decorated with a 13th century mosaic.

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IMG_7159 C1 Basilica di S Frediano

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We explored more of town the next morning.  Lucca began as a Roman colony in 180 BC.  The wall surrounding the city, called the mura, was begun in 1500 and finished in 1645.  It remains in almost perfect condition.  It is 12 meters high and 4.2 km long with a path running along the top.  It’s an easy walk and gave us a great way to view the city.

DSC06268 C Passeggiata delle Mura

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DSC06272 C Via Del Fosso

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Lucca hosts Europe’s largest annual Comics and Games festival every fall.  There were tents being set up for venues all over town.  Lucky for us, it was starting after we left.  Can’t imagine what it’s like with thousands of gamers here!

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My favorite site in Lucca was Palazzo Pfanner.  Easily seen from the wall, we took a break from our walk for a visit. 

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The baroque, formal garden was laid out in the 18th century.  They hold chamber music concerts here in the summer.

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The palazzo was begun in 1660 by the Moriconi family.  They went bankrupt and had to sell it to the Controni family, who were silk merchants.  They extended the building in 1686, adding the grand outdoor staircase.

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In 1846 Felix Pfanner established his brewery here and acquired the palazzo.  The brewery closed in 1929, but the property is still owned by the Pfanner family.

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The frescoes are from the early 18th century.

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We joined an organized walking tour of Lucca in the afternoon.

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Giacomo Puccini was born in Lucca in 1858.

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San Michele in Foro was built between the 11th and 14th centuries.  It has tiers of carved columns, all different.  Archangel Michele, slaying the dragon at the top, has wings on hinges that the priests could move back and forth to “Wow” the crowds. 

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Torre Guinigi is topped with a small garden that is planted with oak trees! 

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DSC06343 C Roman walls of theater on via dell' Anfiteatro

This bit of wall is original to the Roman Amphitheater.  Inside the amphitheater is now Piazza del Mercato, filled with shops and restaurants.

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DSC06344 C Piazza Anfiteatro

Porta Santa Maria dei Borghi is on the north side of Lucca.  It was built between 1198 and 1265.  This gate is the oldest part of the wall.

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Luigi Boccherini was born in Lucca in 1743.  His statue is in front of The Institute of Musical Studies Luigi Boccherini, one of the oldest music schools in Italy.

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The Cathedral of San Martino, built in the 11th century, was designed around the pre-existing campanile.

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The carvings are from the 13th century

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Chiesa dei Santi Giovanni – it’s dome and tower can be seen better from the side of the building.

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We ended our day in Lucca with a Spritz, a mixture of prosecco and aperol, and snacks on the Piazza San Michele.

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We thoroughly enjoyed our day in Lucca!

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A few more sights in Turin

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IMG_7036 C Poe River

On the other side of the Po River from the main part of Turin is the hill of Superga where Vittorio Amedeo II of Savoy built the Basilica of Superga after the siege and battle of Turin in 1706. 

You can drive up the mountain to the Basilica but since we didn’t have a car we took the cog rail tram.

IMG_7038 C tram to Basilica of Superga

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At the end of the tram, there is still a bit of a hike to the top.

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Although the view was hazy, you can imagine how far you can see on a clear day.

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Vittorio and his cousin had gone to the top of this hill to evaluate the best strategy to liberate Turin.  He vowed to build a church if his strategy worked, and he kept his word.

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I spotted a couple church cats.

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One day we had a lovely tea break at the historic Baratti & Milano Café.

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We also had a meal at Eataly.  Think WholeFoods/Italian market/bakery/retail/restaurants and cooking school!  Eataly started in Turin and there are now stores around the world.

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We shared a pizza and the Cola was local – Mole Cola (the Mole is an iconic sight in Turin).

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Parco del Valentino is a large park along the Po River in Turin.  It was opened in 1856 and was Italy’s first public garden. 

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The park is home to Borgo a Medioeval, a medieval village and castle.  Although it looks ancient, it was built for the 1884 Italian General Exhibition and was intended as an educational and promotional tool.  The buildings and decorations are faithful copies of 15th century castles that can be found throughout the Piedmont region of Italy. 

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The village is a cluster of houses and workshops.  In the summer visitors can watch artisans at work.  We almost had the place to ourselves in October.

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The Rocca, or fortress, is a fortified aristocratic residence.  The rooms are richly decorated with furniture, accessories and fabrics that reflect the lifestyle of the nobility in 15th-century Piedmont. 

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IMG_7113 C  IMG_7112 C Castle courtyard

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In 1998 a medieval garden was added, featuring plants that would have been grown at the time. 

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This is a delightful castle even though it’s a re-creation, albeit almost 150 years old.  (It may be more delightful because it is a re-creation!  Real castles can be in pretty bad shape.)

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We saw a bit of wildlife in the park.

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There’s a police horse stable there too!

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And pretty views of the river.

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This wraps up our week in Turin.  We would highly recommend a visit.  All the fun of Italy without all the crowds! 

Posted in Italy, Turin | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments