Day 23 – Lucca

Daily Wrap-Up

One Word
  • Barb: Romanesque
  • Mike: Ramparts
  • Jen: Bicycles
Two Words
  • Barb: Exuberant facades
  • Mike: Tree-topped tower
  • Jen: Palm olives
Three or Four Words
  • Barb: Leisurely day in Lucca
  • Mike: Park on a wall
  • Jen: Cozy, bright, roof-top gardens
One Sentence
  • Barb: These bird’s-eye views out over cities from towers and domes sure are fun.
  • Mike: Sure, large tour groups in small streets are bad, but we can make them worse: Put the people on bikes so they go faster and take up more space!
  • Jen: Pastries after breakfast + biscuits after lunch + a gelato snack + cookies after dinner = a yummy day.
A painting of Torre dei Guinigi in Lucca

Torre dei Guinigi in Lucca

Ahhh. We slept in…but were still up by 7:00 a.m. One gets used to getting up early. The forecast wasn’t great for the day, so we decided to stay in Lucca and get to know our host town. This way, if it started to rain, we could dash back to our comfy, dry home. (Mike’s positive attitude and good humor are made of sugar and dissolve in rain.) It’s also Palm Sunday, and many things aren’t open on Sundays, let alone a special Sunday.

Our first stop was Torre dei Guinigi, the tree-topped tower just a few steps down the via from our flat. The kid selling tickets politely grinned at my effort to speak Italian, so I liked him right off the bat. Few people were out and about, so we had to share the small tower top with just a handful of people, none of whom stayed very long.

The view of Lucca from tree-topped Torre dei Guinigi.

The view of Lucca from tree-topped Torre dei Guinigi.

We got our bearings and enjoyed the view at our leisure.

Looking down on Via Santa Andrea from Torre dei Guinigi

Our street: Via Santa Andrea. People walk it and cars drive it.

One of the things I pay particular attention to when we have these bird’s-eye views is the rooftop gardens, some of the only (relatively) private, green, open-sky places in these close quarters, little oases of fresh air and nature. It’s barely spring, so flowers aren’t blooming, but many have green things growing and are decked out in cozy garden furniture.

If we were to return to Italy for an extended stay, I would try very hard to find a top-floor flat with a rooftop garden/terrace.

A cozy, open-sky rooftop garden in Lucca.

A cozy, open-sky rooftop garden in Lucca.

We enjoyed a walking tour of Lucca that was outlined in one of our guide books. One of my favorite points of interest was San Michele in Foro, St. Michael’s church which was built between the 11th and 14th centuries on the site of an old Roman forum (“in Foro”). It’s described as “Pisan-Romanesque,” but I barely know what makes something “Romanesque”, and I have no idea what “Pisan” indicates. I can tell you, though, that the facade has three tiers of twisted or carved pillars, all of which are different, and the majority of symbols and decorations are pagan rather than Christian. Delightful!

Wide angle view of San Michele in Foro with its campanile

The Piazza San Michele is small. It was hard to get enough distance from the church to get a wide angle shot of the entire church with its campanile.

The facade of San Michele in Foro.

San Michele in Foro. All of these pillars are different; the details are wonderful. That’s winged St. Michael on top.

Two pillars and some details on San Michele.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the details on San Michele. See the carved spiral pillar? The animal motifs? And this is just a tiny section of the facade.

We saw the house in which Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924), composer of La Boheme and other operas, was born, and we visited several other churches. We popped into what turned out to be a Russian Orthodox church where something like baptisms seemed to be taking place. Members knelt in front of the minister, and he draped his sash over their heads. We got gelato in the Anfiteatro Romano which is now the Piazza del Mercato. I’m curious about the spelling: instead of “amphitheatro” it’s “anfiteatro.” As the name indicates, this used to be a Roman amphitheater, but then it was filled with slum housing until a ruler ordered the area cleared out in 1830. The oval shape and original purpose, which had been forgotten, was then rediscovered, and the arena was made a shopping area.

Anfiteatro Romano, Piazza del Mercato

Anfiteatro Romano, Piazza del Mercato. Once a Roman amphitheater, this is now an oval-shaped square ringed with shops.

We ended our Lucca tour with a walk along the ramparts. It was a nice, calm, relaxing day, still loaded with exploration and discovery.

Categories: Italy, Travel