The Opulent City of Lucca
In our opinion Lucca is perhaps the most opulent and culturally interesting of all the magnificent cities in Tuscany. Founded originally by the Etruscans and then passed on to the Romans, Lucca prospered as it became the center of the silk trade in the 11th century. The silk trade brought considerable wealth into Lucca and both a middle and an upper middle class emerged. The Bernardini and Buonvisi families rose to considerable prominence not only within Lucca, but across what is now Italy. It was this wealth that allowed the city to become an independent republic, and in the 14th Century it rivaled Florence as the dominant city of what is now Central Italy.
Because of this prosperity the walled city of Lucca attracted many of Europe’s preeminent artists, musicians and architects who were seeking the patronage of the city’s newly minted aristocracy and merchant class. Conspicuous consumption was the rule of the day, and spectacular villas like Torrigiani, Grabau, Oliva, Mansi and Marlia were built each trying to outdo the other in sheer opulence.
Other notable architectural marvels include the magnificent Ducal Palace, the Basilica di San Frediano, the Guinigi Tower and the Church of Sant’Alessandro.
The glorious Gothic Duomo di Lucca, Cattedrale di San Martin was started in 1063 by Pope Alexander II who was then Bishop Anselm. This stunning cathedral, highly reminiscent of the Duomo in Florence, was not completed until 1484, and contains the sacred Holy Face of Lucca, a wood crucifix that was allegedly carved out of cedar by Nicodemus, a contemporary of Christ.
The majestic San Michele in Foro basilica was originally built in the 8th Century and restored by Pope Alexander II. Within the construction of arches are a series of stunning arcades lined with sculptured inlays. Amongst the art treasures inside the Church are Lucca della Robbia’s Madonna with Child terracotta and a panel by Filippino Lippi portraying the Four Saints.
Surrounded by its rich tradition of art, music too reigned supreme in Lucca, and it was here that Giacomo Puccini was born in 1858. Second only to Verdi in Italian opera, Puccini composed La Bohème, Tosca and Madame Butterfly.
Surrounded by magnificence, Lucca became a magnet for the intelligentsia and those seeking beauty as well as those seeking upward mobility and that tradition of culture continues today. From March 31st until October 31st there is a nightly opera at the Oratorio di San Giuseppe Al Museo della Cattedrale di Lucca with admission at 17 Euros per person. In 2014 the open air Summer Music Festival drew massive crowds to see performances from rock icons including the Eagles, Stevie Wonder, Nile Rogers and Chic, the Prodigy and the BackStreet Boys.
Lucca’s cuisine is simply marvelous. Among our favourite restaurants is the marvelous Ristorante la Cecca, a landmark restaurant serving traditional Tuscan fare near the town of Coselli, just around the corner from perhaps our finest rental villa, Borgo Bernardini, a spectacular 12 bedroom air conditioned rental mansion, that defines luxury. This villa is so special that the owners of TuscanDream have chosen it for their own personal vacations three different times! Other notable restaurants are the fabulous “Skipper” a wonderful seafood bistro located on the Pisa Road, and for those who love gelato (and who doesn’t!) the amazing Santini Gelateria on the Piazza Cittadella next to Puccini’s birthplace.
TuscanDream is proud to specialize in Lucca vacations. We have the best air conditioned luxury villas for rent for your Tuscan holidays. Whether you are a group of 6 or a family of 40, TuscanDream can guarantee you the best vacation of your life in Lucca.