Italy  2011

June 10, 2011 Friday

This morning after breakfast, we board our coach to reach the walled town LUCCA – this is a very charming city very rich of art and history. It is a wonderful example of a Tuscan town, complete with winding narrow lanes and medieval buildings. Lucca was founded by the Etruscans (there are traces of a pre-existing Ligurian settlement) and became a Roman colony in 180 BC. The rectangular grid of its historical centre preserves the Roman street plan, and the Piazza San Michele occupies the site of the ancient forum. Traces of the amphitheatre can still be seen in the Piazza dell'Anfiteatro. Lucca was the site of a conference in 56 BC which reaffirmed the superiority of the Roman First Triumvirate.

Lucca was a product of power and war. The walled city is three miles around with the depth of the wall anywhere from 30-90 feet wide and 40 feet high. It was built to protect Lucca from Florence The wealthy lived inside the walls and there are about 300 villas. The Bertoli Olive oil family lived here as well as Puccini. The workers lived outside the walls. Lucca got rich because of the silk trade. Napoleons sister, Alesa who built Villa Realia, built the parks and gardens in Lucca. The sixteenth century city walls limit the amount of traffic inside the city, making the area a quiet place to navigate on foot and also by bike. There are many sights in Lucca, including a cathedral, museums, churches, -and also extremely good food!

With our English-speaking guide the group headed off to visit the main places of interest: at first a walk on the Renaissance city walls, afterwards some of the most important churches. Cathedrale San Martino, Church San Michele, the Amphitheatre Square, and the Fillungo Street with all its nice shops. Lucca is also well known for Antique Dealers.

Since I had seen all of the above on previous tours I used the time to wander around and see what I could discover that would be great to visit on our next tour. I think we will add the Botanical Garden as I was most impressed. The Cedar of Lebanon tree they have is the biggest I think I have ever seen. All the plants are labeled so it is also a good place to visit to see what grows in this area.

I then took some side streets where I caught more of Lucca life in the pottery, veg stands and floral shops. I was headed to Palazzo Pfanner. I had been before and it did not let me down again. Will add to next tour.

At the end of the tour lunch at La Buca di St. Antonio in Lucca. Tuscan specialties and a welcoming atmosphere in this old coaching inn; gleaming copper pans hang from the walls.

I had heard of a bridge not far from Lucca that I thought we should see. It was called the Devils Bridge. The local legend has it that the devil offered to build the bridge in return for the possession of the first soul to cross it. The villagers agreed and when it was finished, they sent a dog across. It was magical to see it, to walk on it and to imagine about it. Devil’s Bridge is a term applied to dozens of ancient bridges, found primarily in Europe. Most of these bridges are stone or masonry arch bridges and represent a significant technological achievement. Each of the Devil's Bridges has a corresponding Devil-related myth or folktale. Local lore often wrongly attributes these bridges to the Roman era, but in fact many of them are medieval, having been built between 1000 and 1600 AD.

Rest of the afternoon at leisure.



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