Sunday, 29 December 2013

Lucca - one of our favourite towns in Tuscany

After the hustle and bustle of Cinque Terre, Lucca was a quiet haven.  Lucca is an ancient city founded by the Etruscans and became a Roman colony in 180 B.C.  Throughout its long history it was an important centre and had its share of political upheaval but its ancient walls remained intact. Apart from it being a historical town, it also looked like one that people actually lived in and have a life.  It is famous as the birthplace of Puccini and I was surprised to learn that Boccherini was also born there.

It is not a big town and we had thought a half day would have been enough.   We covered the highlights in the few hours we spent there but would have appreciated a more leisurely stroll through and the opportunity to see more of this charming historical town.

Lucca's city walls had remained intact since the Renaissance - you can walk all around the city on these walls

Porta Santa Maria where we entered

Streets of Lucca - pedestrian and bike friendly

You can see here at #67 Via Fillungo the remnants of a former 5 storey tower house - the stone stubbles sticking out of the walls were used to support staircases.  We happened to have lunch on the other side of the street and so had the opportunity to notice this detail, mentioned by Rick Steves.

Also on Via Fillungo, the main street, is the famous Clock Tower - climbing up the more than 200 steps to the top will give you a panoramic view of the city and its red roof tops
View from the top of the Clock Tower with the Guinigi Tower in the distance - it has oak trees on its roof

The original clock on the tower was still working and the clock mechanism was visible as well as a closeup of the 14th century bells

Statue of Puccini near his house.  You have to get tickets in the office near the statue before heading to the house where his apartment is located.  

Church of San Michele in the large square that used to be the Roman forum - an elaborate exterior with the statue of St. Michael the Archangel at the top but I love the plain romanesque interior

Historical jeweller Carli with its 19th century shopfront on Via Fillungo

We were attracted by this beautiful golden mosaic on the facade when we first entered the city and made a detour to come back to visit the Basilica San Frediano - another lovely romanesque interior 

The handsomely carved gold-plated organ stall stood out as did this unusual statue below - I was unable to find a reference to it but if it is a representation of the Virgin Mary, it is certainly very medieval in dress 

The Piazza dell'Anfitheatro - built on the ancient Roman amphitheatre site, retaining its oval shape 

It took us a long time to find the Cathedral and by the time we found it, we were tired and it became just another church.  The Duomo di San Martino is actually quite impressive but we missed an important detail inside - it is supposed to have a crucifix carved by Nicodemus, a contemporary of Jesus, in a standalone chapel inside the cathedral.  Too bad we didn't read up on it before we went.  For a picture of the Volto Santo (Nicodemus' crucifix) and interior details of the San Martino Cathedral, visit the Sacred Destinations website. 

Our last stop was the Botannical Gardens, at the far end of the city from where we entered. The highlight in this mostly unimpressive garden was the pond at the end with its creepy weird growth at the foot of the tree.  Posted here is the interesting Legend of Lucida Mansi - the story of a vain 17th century lady who sold her soul to the Devil in exchange for 30 years of youth.  The legend had it that the Devil came back to retrieve his prize but first dragged her in his flaming  chariot through the town so everyone could hear her harrowing screams before his chariot sank in this pond in the garden.  No doubt a favourite haunt during Halloween when one can purportedly hear horses' hooves and possible glimpses of the flaming chariot descending into hell.

And then this -
A charming house with a rather large niche (if it were even one) dedicated to the usually docile Mary but who in this instance might be threatening the sweet child with a baseball bat??
One of the reasons why I love Lucca!

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