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Lucca Coat of Arms

Sep 2012

luk Celtic-Ligurian marshy place.

Population - 87,467.

Lucca Coat of Arms

'In this medieval walled city, the streets were a complete maze.' Not our words, the words of Top Gear™ Magazine or, actually, Top Gear™ the TV show.

Remember the one where little Hammy couldn't remember where he'd parked the car? The one where Brian May accidentally took a wrong turn and found himself atop the city walls? The one where old Clarko had to take a never-ending succession of tight, right turns?

Yes,  that one so it means the holiday here is based on the contrived comparison of three hot hatchbacks?

And on that bombshell... why not? It's only 11 miles from Pisa and that's easy enough to jet to if you've a local flight provider.

Your rented, bottom of the range Fiat Cinquecento might not cut the mustard with those muscle-headed petrolheads[1] but you'd best leave the car outside of this medieval walled city, the streets are a complete maze.

Lucca - Via della Zecca Lucca - Piazza dell'Anfiteatro

Your starting point, and the tiresome trio's, is the Piazza dell'Anfiteatro, oval in shape with 4 archways in and out. It's on the site of a 2nd-century BC Roman amphitheatre with some of the ring of buildings dating from then, they say, although since BC is also Before Concrete, that's unlikely.

[1] Yes, it's known that you know that this pair now know that they are playing 'characters' but there May be just one of them really acting up.

 
Locanda Tre Merli (Via Anfiteatro)

Pick of the pasta providers in a snug side street just behind the amphitheatre.

Lucca - Opposite Locanda Tre Merli

It does, however, look like the anarcho-Euro-graffiti has now been scrubbed off.

Hang on a minute? Is that a tower with some trees on it? It certainly is and they'll let you up and inside the Torre Guinigi for a few €euros.

Lucca - Torre Guinigi Lucca - Torre Guinigi

Back in the late-14th century, disease, depravity and general delinquency down at street level meant that the safest place to be was 100ft in the air. Once home to some wealthy family or other, 250 similar towers were housed within these walls but now just nine remain.

You might not make it all the way to the top because of a combination of the crowds and the wobblies[1]. Still, nice view of town and the hills to the north, it's thought, from more than halfway up.

Lucca - View from Torre Guinigi

[1] Yes, that'll be the old vertigo.

What about those walls then? Well, the foundations are reportedly Roman but what you can see is pure, 16th-century Renaissance. You're allowed on top and you can just about walk all of it avoiding any unexpected hatchbacks.

There's some, to-be-expected, Euro-grafitti[1] on your way, which is irritating. Irritating because  that tune can't be gotten out of our heads now...

Lucca - Baluardo S. Paolino

'Guarda le stelle... era tutto giallo.'

[1] C'mon kids! A bit of brighter paint next time would save on the Photoshop™ping.

The Passeggiata della Mura also acts as a spectacular sunset provider, later in the evening, on your way west...

Lucca - Via delle Mura Urbane Lucca - Passeggiata della Mura

'Guarda il sole... era tutto arancia.'

 
De Cervesia Pub (Via Michele Rosi)

Early adopters of craft beer on the continent. Recommended, back then, by Guardian™-writing types and they're still going strong, 8% strong some of them, hic!

English accents aren't prominent here but the couple on the next table sounded well-heeled and well on their way to being well-oiled. They haven't been seduced as much as this pair and thought Lucca 'OK' but ' Bagni di Lucca is beautiful and gives you much more of a feel for the region', or slurry words to that effect.

Seems that Bagni di Lucca refers not just to the village of that name but to all twenty-odd villages[1] that run east along the River Lima about 12 miles north of Lucca.

Where they were describing wasn't Bagni di Lucca itself, which didn't offer up much more than a small park with a fountain in it and, quite frankly, a disappointing sandwich[2].

Bagni Di Lucca - Parco Contessa Casalini

The haven's heyday as a spa resort may have gone but the springs that named this toon still bubble up in the hills and the luxury resort nearby is where the millionaires must have meant, probably.

[1] The best bet looks to be the bit next to the river below Colle.
[2] Unforgivable in Italy. See also a bad cup of tea in Yorkshire.

There's no real access to the River Lima, which might have made for a stroll. At least you're allowed on their bridge as you are again now with the Ponte della Maddalena, about 3 miles to the south-west.

Bagni Di Lucca - River Lima Near Bagni Di Lucca - Ponte della Maddalena

You weren't for a while when they patched up this 10th-century effort and it's quite a piece of work, historic bridge-wise. This one inevitably had the devil offering to finish it off on condition of claiming the soul of the first living thing to cross and yup, he was duped by a dog as well.

'Your starter for ten, no conferring, which Italian composer...' BZZZZ!
'
Guffer, Newcastle Poly.'
Verdi!
'No it's Puccini.'
[1]

Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria  Puccini was a local, Lucca lad, born of a notable, musical family in 1858 and celebrated in bronze in a small Piazza. He lived here until his early thirties by which time his tunes had started to take off and were playing in the big rooms.

Lucca - Giacomo Puccini

[1] Buzz in early because it's always one of them two. Unless it's Donizetti or Monteverdi or Rossini. Or Vivaldi.

On the back of that success, he decamped to a lakeside retreat at Torre del Lago, a colorful-looking place 10 miles west.

Torre del Lago - Chalet del Lago Torre del Lago

Here is where he tinkled about with La bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly, which isn't a bad back catalogue.

 
Torre del Lago

No sign of any tower that the place name promises and ignore the dull-looking sprawl on your approach. Head under the motorway to get to the lake where Puccini's mansion is now a museum although the  opening times are rather random.

Torre del Lago - Fondazione Festival Pucciniano

No, that's not Torre del Lago F.C.'s ground in the background, that's the open-air venue for the annual, Puccini-themed  festival of opera, which features his best of and has room for some 4,000 hums on seats.

Meanwhile, back in Lucca, it's like being in a 16th-century, 3D version of  PAC-MAN™ with an architectural reveal at every turn. The Chiesa di San Michele in Foro is Lucca's most prominent feature, probably, and dates to the 11th century although the interior designers went all Gothic on it in the 15th.

Lucca - Via Cesare Battisti Lucca - Chiesa di San Michele in Foro Lucca - Basilica di San Frediano

All of this within the medieval walls, remember, and this could go on and on but just how do you describe a Renaissance theme park?

Hang on a minute, there's a bloke here wanting directions... 'Sorry shorty, no, haven't seen a parked-up, white Fiat.'

Here's another one in a car... 'Turn right at the end here, take the next right then it's right again.' It's not known who the curly-haired grouch was but he's going to be very uncomfortable driving round in denim in this weather!

 
San Marco Holidays (Via San Marco)

Open-plan lodgings in a modern apartment block with a balcony and a small swimming pool. The surrounding streets are pleasantly residential and it's a short hop to the ancient, walled interior.