Tuscan Treasures – I: Lucca

It is almost impossible not to like Lucca. It has a little bit of everything and caters to pretty much every taste. It may lack the skyline of San Gimignano and the monumental complexes of Pisa and Siena, but it has its own charm: where else can you laze in an oval piazza that was once a Roman amphitheater to enjoy a fig and walnut tart? Where else can you admire a Ghirlandaio, a Tintoretto and a Giambologna only a few meters apart? Or enjoy a piping hot cecina in the shadow of St. Michael? Or contemplate the city and the mountains beyond from a hanging garden on top of a 45-meter high tower (Torre Guinigi)?

But, in case none of that sounds interesting, how about a 4-km stretch of XV century walls? And how about a bicycle ride and a picnic on top of these walls?
Furthermore, if music is your thing, then mind you: this is the birthplace of Puccini! In the evening, music fills the air as several concerts resurrect the tunes of his Madama Butterfly and la Bohème.

Long before Florence became a wealthy metropolis, Lucca’s silk trade had made it a prosperous city of beautiful piazzas, Romanesque churches and cobbled streets that can still be enjoyed today.
But beyond the ‘birthday cake’ Romanesque facades and the crowds occupying the café terraces, Lucca rewards those who scratch beneath the surface with surprising wonders. Take, for example, the medieval labyrinth carved on the Cathedral wall and the fantastic animals depicted in its decorative roundels. Then comes the Church of San Michele in Foro, whose façade can keep you busy for hours trying to decipher the densely packed figures in and between the columns, while inside, Filippino Lippi’s magnificent ‘St. Helen’ present a wonderful allegory (that will be another post). A splendid XII century baptismal font in the Basilica of San Frediano makes a visit all worthwhile.

Still, Lucca remains to be somehow eclipsed by other Tuscan destinations like Pisa and San Gimignano, so, how about these cities? Stay tuned and enjoy the photos.

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