Palazzo Mansi belonged to a family of silk merchants. It dates from the end of the XVI century to the beginning of the XVII.
It houses an interesting collection of paintings and several rooms where you can admire frescoes, old furniture and tapestries.
One of the highlights of the palace is a big dance hall with beautiful frescoes.
There is a lovely church in the square and other older well preserved structures. The old church was from 786 origin and it was destroyed in 940, to be re-built again in 970. The church is right on the main street of the town and the Sanctuary is also nearby. The old church got another face lift inside in 1640, and transitioned into 1800 for renovations. The campanile is 33 meters high
Walk down the main street -it is only 4 blocks- to the back entrance to the village. It has some real quite shops that are for daily shopping by locals. The machelleria, dolce neggozia, hardware store, clothing, etc. One of everything a person needs is there. It is a nice feeling to notice local environment in daily living. The main attraction is the chiesa. It was first founded by a monk that build Saint Quirico in 745. That led to continued grow in agriculture. The city of now 41,000 and has a derivitive name form the pharase "little house". It has a lot of substance in growing crops of cereal wheats, vegetables, olive oil and grapes, spread through the flat plains east of Lucca.
Main attractions are the villa tours of Mansi, Torrigiani and Reale. These are very nice tours and well worth the trip through each. A brief of each. Mansi is a restored but abut to decline open villa(windows and all) The frescoes are super, but fading due to climate/humidity. The baroque facade was added in 17th century. Villa Torrigiani was built in mid1500 and has had hard times, but the gardens are remaining intact. Villa Reale was built before 1500, ands Napoleon's sister who lived in Lucca built a great garden in the back. Only the garden can be visited, because a family occupies as a home. The web sites are shown below forvillas
If you're interested in seeing something of the 'outside' of the wall - I'd suggest contacting Serena and spending a morning riding around the river Serchio and learn something about the ways in which the river has changed and what is being done to look after the river.
Despite being told when I contacted them that an English speaking guide was not available - Serena speaks very understandable English and we enjoyed a lovely morning together.
Just a lovely way to enjoy the Tuscan countryside.
And it is very reasonably priced.
The Teatro del Giglio, a landmark of Lucca, is situated on the square of the same name. Very famous place offering a changing programme according to the season: Opera, Theater, Dance and Symphony.
It's known as the most ancient classic theater of Italy.
The Square is small and quiet, locked in as it is between the Duomo San Martino and the rather too large Piazza Napoleone.
The composer Giacomo Puccini is a child of Lucca and is forever honoured here. He was a piano accompanist at the Giglio in his early years as a musician, and returned to it years later as a composer. His operas were mounted there during his lifetime and received triumphantly. The list of his works played at Teatro del Giglio follows:
Edgar, September 1891
Manon Lescaut, September 1893
La Bohème, September 1896
La Bohème, Summer 1899
Tosca, September 1900
Manon Lescaut, Autumn 1906
La Bohème, January 1906
Madama Butterfly, September 1907
Manon Lescaut, Autumn 1910
La Fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West), September 1911
Tosca, Autumn 1912
La Bohème, Carnival 1917
Tosca, Spring 1919
Madama Butterfly, Autumn 1920
La Bohème, Carnival 1923
Manon Lescaut, September 1923
Tosca, Carnival 1924
Now I'm upset with myself for the photo I took at the square... I thought I was getting Puccini but I got Garibaldi (again!) -- a tragedy of Toscan proportion!
There's a very pleasant Enoteca tucked into a corner of the square, where I had a long Aperitivo in the company of two nice German or Swiss women. When they left, a young family took their place. The baby stayed in his stroller and babbled but the 3-year old boy immediately set out to explore what obviously was the largest playground he'd ever seen. Amazing to watch him walk away from his parents to climb stairs to the buildings, touch the old stones, constantly looking back towards the Enoteca to be sure he wasn't left behind! And to hear his cries of joy! A beautiful moment at the end of the day.
There's a good statue on Piazza San Michele that linked me to my Canadian history and I decided to focus my tip on it. (The Church of San Michele in Foro is extensively covered already, across the web.)
The statue is of Francesco Burlamacchi, a politician from Lucca who dreamed of a Confederation of ancient Tuscan Republics with Siena and Lucca, to counter the gradual control of the Pope and Emperor Charles V. His plan of attack was revealed and he was decapitated by order of Charles V. He was later recognised as "First Martyr to Italian Unity". The statue by Ulisse Cambi shows a noble figure of great character.
The Burlamacchi family had converted to Protestantism. After Francesco's death, they found refuge in France, then in Geneva. One descendant, the French General François Charles de Bourlamaque, served in Canada from 1756, during the Seven Years War. Bourlamaque defended French positions at Oswego, New York, on Lake Ontario (near Syracuse, New York.)
I walked along a street called Burlamacchi in Lucca, by chance. I had a feeling it was linked to the Bourlamaque name, very well-known in my hometown of Québec City. My primary school in Québec was on Bourlamaque Street... After a quick search, I found that Burlamacchi and Bourlamaque are one and the same family. It's a small world...
Built towards the end of the 16th century, Palazzo Mansi is described as one of Lucca's most luxurious residences. The palazzo's walls were once decorated by frescoes, but these have unfortunately disappeared, leaving the facade rather bare. The main doors, featuring the Mansi's coat of arms, are quite impressive. The palazzo now houses a small museum, which we didn't get to visit since it's now closed on Sundays. It is said to feature the works of many local artists set in rooms that have been restored to their original appearance whenever it was possible to do so. I saw a picture online of the palazzo's amazing Baroque-style bridal room and was sorry to have missed this chance of seeing it with my own eyes!
The city of Lucca is famously surrounded by sumptuous country villas, such as the Villa Mansi, Villa Torrigiani and Villa Garzoni. You do need a car, however, to get there. If you'd like to get an idea of what these villas look like, a good option is to visit Villa Bottini, which is located in the historic part of Lucca. The 16th century villa itself is generally not open to visitors, except for different city events. However, it's possible to go for a walk around its lovely gardens and get a little taste of the countryside right at the heart of Lucca.
Admission is to the gardens is free.
Lucca's botanical gardens were established in 1820 by Marie Louise of France, the second wife of Napoleon. Marie Louise, then known as the Duchess of Parma, had also founded the University of Lucca and the gardens were meant to become a research facility for botany students. Important scientific research has been conducted at the gardens throughout the years, and although there are still experiments going on, the gardens are open to the public. The arboretum features several exotic species and in the greenhouses it's possible to see a collection of plants with medicinal properties, as well as a collection of edible wild species that are often used in the region's traditional recipes. The Orto botanico is not that big, but it's beautiful and there's enough to keep plant lovers busy for a while.
L'Orto botanico di Lucca is open from the end of March to the end of October, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (7:00 pm in the summertime). Admission is 3 Euros.
Any point north of the city are hills/mountains. They merge into the Apuan and Appenine ranges and within these ranges is a valley. In that valley is the Serchio River that winds through it, and that also allowed people to settle in the low lying valley and into the small hills. This scanned picture depicts the valley where villages thrive surrounded by the hills on either side.
The grounds are a real treat and well maintained. There is about 20 acres under maintenance, and they used to have much more grounds when it was a working estate. Gerardo Mansi was instrumental in preserving the villa after he married a niece of Parenzi family; they were the original owners. The garden was designed for the times of 18th century, and has open spaces, pools of water, statues, stone walls, and an English garden and tropical area.
The inside is decorated very nicely, and tours are easy to take with or without a guide. The unfortunate issue is the windows are left open and with humidity, it is only a matter of time where frescoes and paintings deteriorate. Some water damage is prevalent already. The funding to maintain the villa is tight, and still occupied by two family heirs, who do what they can. They are proud of the heritage, but also know it costs a lot to keep up. Why they keep the windows open??
This delicate and ornate church was hidden in between some buildings when we went by. The structure is from 1700 called chiesa S. Maria Assunta. It is right smack in the middle of the small town square/street and we stopped for a bit at the deli shown next to the other church.
The first notice of this church was from 816 and in 12th century they expanded the size. In the 18th century another facade was put on it. It is a lovely church with decorative statues on the top and white marble striped in the facade. It is right on the main winding road going up the hill.
The church called S Giovanni e Andrea is of era in 919 and upgraded in 1260. It serves the Pieve di Compito area, a part of CAponnori, suburb of Lucca. It was restructured in 1796 and again restored in 1901. The clock tower is right next to the church and looks cramped but not, and it is functional.