ITALY, Sep. 2008

Photos © Ruud Leeuw

In September we drove down to Italy and visited some cities in this beautiful country.
After visits to Bologna, Perugia, Siena, Firenze (Florence) and Pistoia, we also found time in our busy schedule to visit Lucca.

Click on the thumbnail images to view a larger image



Hotel MelecchiIt had been only a short drive from Pistoia to Lucca, so a little after 10:00 we arrived in the town of Lucca 9in history also knows as Lucque, Luccqa).
We checked at a house with a bed & breakfast sign, as we had made no prior arrangements, but found it fully booked.
We stumbled upon the local tourist office and checked at the desk. We were surrounded by backpackers, also anxious to arrange night accommodations. Never thought a rush for hotels would be on so early in the day.
We missed out by a minute on the last bed inside the city wall and were booked in the Hotel Melecchi, about 5 minutes outside gate 'Porta Elisa'.
We quickly left the tourist office to claim our booking and in fact had to wait 15 minutes while our room was prepared. We were quite pleased with the room: nicely decorated, a good bed, quiet vicinity. But we quickly left again to explore the city..


Lucca gate
We entered through Porta Elisa.

The 16th century wall certainly has impressive dimensions!

this is so Italian I think...


We continued walking on the city wall (there actually is a road on it, wide enough for a car and a pleasure for cyclists), but we only went as far as this cathedral: "Chiostro della Cattedrale" a.k.a. "Duomo de San Martino".We descended to have a closer look.
The tower ('Campanile') dates back to the 13th century. The cathedral goes back even further: building started in 1060, though decorations on the façade were completed in 1241.
The white and grey marble don't exactly sparkle on a grey day, but the decorations are impressive nevertheless.
The archway on the far right is smaller than the other two: a design flaw when they found that the tower was a little closer to the cathedral than measured on the drawing.. The expression 'shit happens' goes back centuries!!

Wikipedia writes: The Cathedral of St Martin (Italian Duomo) is a church in Lucca, Italy. It was begun in 1063 by Bishop Anselm (later Pope Alexander II). Of this structure, the great apse with its tall columnar arcades and the fine campanile remain.
The nave and transepts having been rebuilt in the Gothic style in the 14th century, while the west front was begun in 1204 by "Guidetto" (Guido Bigarelli of Como), and consists of a vast portico of three magnificent arches, and above them three ranges of open galleries enriched with sculpture.
LEFT: In the nave a little octagonal temple or chapel shrine contains the most precious relic in Lucca, the Volto Santo di Lucca or Sacred Countenance. This cedar-wood crucifix and image of Christ, according to the legend, carved by his contemporary Nicodemus, and miraculously conveyed to Lucca in 782. Christ is clothed in the colobium, a long sleeveless garment. The chapel was built in 1484 by Matteo Civitali, the most famous Luccan sculptor of the early Renaissance.


Hidden door

The guy selling umbrellas is doing better than the guy selling snacks & pastries..
We had enjoyed fair weather until lunchtime, then thunder and lightning chased us to.. an extended lunch!


Lucca is a city in Tuscany, northern central Italy, situated on the river Serchio in a fertile plain near (but not on) the Ligurian Sea. It is the capital city of the Province of Lucca. Among other reasons, it is famous for its intact Renaissance-era city walls (although the city has expanded beyond the wall's boundaries).
Lucca was founded by the Etruscans (there are traces of a pre-existing Ligurian settlement) and became a Roman colony in 180 BC.
Lucca became prosperous through the silk trade that began in the 11th century, and came to rival the silks of Byzantium. During the 10-11th centuries Lucca was the capital of the feudal margravate of Tuscany, more or less independent but owing nominal allegiance to the Holy Roman Emperor.
Dante’s Divine Comedy includes many references to the great feudal families who had huge jurisdictions with administrative and judicial rights. Dante spent some of his exile in Lucca.
In 1273 and again in 1277 Lucca was ruled by a Guelph 'capitano del popolo' (captain of the people) named Luchetto Gattilusio. In 1314, internal discord allowed Uguccione della Faggiuola of Pisa to make himself lord of Lucca. The Lucchesi expelled him two years later, and handed over the city to another condottiere Castruccio Castracani, under whose rule it became a leading state in central Italy. Lucca rivalled Florence until Castracani's death in 1328. On 22 and 23 September 1325, in the battle of Altopascio, Castracani defeated Florence's Guelphs. For this he was nominated by Louis IV the Bavarian to become duke of Lucca. Castracani's tomb is in the church of San Francesco. His biography is Machiavelli's third famous book on political rule.
In 1408, Lucca hosted the convocation intended to end the schism in the papacy. Occupied by the troops of Louis of Bavaria, the city was sold to a rich Genoese, Gherardino Spinola, then seized by John, king of Bohemia. Pawned to the Rossi of Parma, by them it was ceded to Martino della Scala of Verona, sold to the Florentines, surrendered to the Pisans, and then nominally liberated by the emperor Charles IV and governed by his vicar.
Lucca was the second largest Italian city state (after Venice) with a republican constitution ("comune") to remain independent over the centuries. In 1805, Lucca was taken over by Napoleon, who put his sister Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi in charge as "Queen of Etruria".
After 1815 it became a Bourbon-Parma duchy, then part of Tuscany in 1847 and finally part of the Italian State. [Source: WIKIPEDIA]


A view from a window..



After a pleasant lunch with chilled white wine, coffee, more coffee... we decided we had to endure the drizzle and see a little bit more of Lucca. We came to this church .
Frankly I had a hard time recalling the name of this church, using the list on Wikipedia..), I managed to identify it: Chiesa dei Santi Paolino e Donato.
We could only glance inside, not enter it, as it was being prepared for a Puccini concert that evening.


Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini (22Dec1858 – 29Nov1924) was an Italian composer whose operas (including La bohème, Tosca, and Madama Butterfly) are among the most frequently performed in standard repertoire.

Giacomo Puccini celebrations:
1858 - 2008.
The whole town was participating in the celebration of this composer.

Another view from another window..


San Michele in Foro is a basilica church in Lucca. It was built over the former Roman forum. Until 1370 it was the seat of the Consiglio Maggiore (Major Council), the commune's most important assembly.
The church is mentioned for the first time in 795 as ad foro (in the forum). It was rebuilt after 1070 by will of Pope Alexander II.
Notable is the façade, from the 13th century, with a large series of sculptures and inlays, numerous of which remade in the 19th century.

The church interior has a nave and two aisles with transept and semicircular apse; the nave is supported by arcades on monolithic columns.
From the southern transept rises the bell tower, built in the 12th-14th centuries, with a series of single, double and triple mullioned windows.


A look at the market next to the church San Michele in Foro. The rain that afternoon had put a chill in the air.

Note on below photo how the rain drainage has been arranged..

Unlike many of the towns of Tuscany we'd been to sofar(Pistoia excepted) , Lucca is almost completely flat. No trudging up steep grades to enjoy this romantic city!

One more look before we had back into the small streets...


We made our way to the tower (130 ft) which is so recogizable from a distance; it has trees growing on its roof!
The climb upstairs (230 steps I read somewhere) I found disconcerting to say the least; I had a bad spell of acrophobia (fear of heights) and could only walk upstairs with my eyes partly closed, avoiding the look down. And the same going down...
But the view was nice.


Piazza dell'Anfiteatro.
This oval square was rebuilt in the XIXth century following the shape of the old Roman amphitheater. Buildings surround it and only through of a few of these entrances one can enter this square.

I had a nice guinness beer here, of course at a hugely inflated price, but we were in need of shelter against the rain once more. And nature called, unavoidable in combination of drinking wine & beer in this damp weather..


A few nice statues I noticed on our walk.


The walkway on the citywall is wide enough for a car but they are not allowed. The police however does patrol here by car; many countries put their police on bicycles for duties like these but apparently not the Italians.. Anyway, these ancient ramparts are good fun for biking and walking.


Final view
A last view from our hotel Melecchi; in the evening the weather cleared nicely, offering hope for the morrow.






ITALY 2008