Tuscany  Treasures Italy 2012
June 4th - 12th - 2012  

Sunday June 10th

On our way to Lucca, we make a stop at Collodi to see Pinocchio and catch a glimpse of Villa Garzoni. Collodi is a small village with houses stacked up along the steep hills…beautiful.

LUCCA – this is a very charming city very rich in 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 center 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. We have a guided walking tour to visit the main places of interest including:

When we reached Lucca we all took a very nice stroll along the top of the wall surrounding Lucca to enjoy the trees – tulip, magnolia, cypress ..

Our first visit in Lucca was to the The Orto Botanico Comunale di Lucca Botanical Garden

The garden was established in 1820 by Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma, and contains a number of mature plantings of botanical interest. Its site is roughly triangular, set within a corner of Lucca's city wall, and organized into two main sections. One contains the gardens proper with an arboretum, pond, and smaller plantings; the other contains the greenhouse, botanical school, and laboratories. The Museo Botanico "Cesare Bicchi" contains a herbarium and archive. It contains a rich collection of medicinal plants from all over the world as well as a greenhouse full of cacti and succulents. And for further interest there is a collection of wild edible plants that the people of Lucca use in traditional cooking.

There was also a plant sale going on while we were there…wishful thinking on our part. A beautiful Cedrus libani is one of the focal points in this garden as well as a huge Ginkgo biloba tree that gives shade to a pond. It was Sunday morning so the streets were quiet. None of the shops were open except for the pastry shops, full of delicious looking tortes and other goodies. I passed by three local gardens that were open and took a few pictures of them on my way to

the magical Villa Pfanner Gardens.

‘The courtyard of Palazzo Pfanner seems built to host performances with its theatre-like staircase and the entrance hall with its vaulted ceiling that fades away in the distance with the pleasant view of a cool verdant garden.’

So wrote the French essayist and writer André Suarès (1868-1948) during his brief stay in Lucca in the early 20th century. It is impossible to say he was wrong. The architectural structure of Palazzo Pfanner is indeed surprising and unique in the urban context. The building and garden stand magnificently in a vast baroque scenario a few steps away from the 16th century city walls. With its lawns, its ornamental flowers, forest plants, and earthenware pots of lemons that accompany the monumental string of 18th century statues depicting the deities of Greek Olympus and the Four Seasons, the Palazzo Pfanner garden, ascribed to the genius of Filippo Juvarra, represents an excellent example of a baroque garden laid out in the heart of medieval Lucca. The octagonal fountain-basin set in the intersection of the two central paths and the elegant north facing lemon-house with on its top two lions and a basilisk, the emblem of the Controni family, decorate a green space where alternate box-wood and laurel hedges, two ancient bamboo cane thickets, yews, pines, magnolias, a long-standing camelia, bushes of peonies and hortensias, roses and pots of geraniums. and from the more austere aristocratic large houses that frame the damp, dark medieval alleys of Lucca's old town centre.


Then off for a very special treat into the country to a true Tuscan Villa for olive oil and wine tasting plus a different 3 course lunch at Fattoria Colle Verde.

‘The best fertilizer in all the world are the footsteps of the farmer’

Here we got to try a local lunch, not a tourist lunch. First we had fresh vegetables cut in long strips and a small bowl to put in olive oil and balsamic vinegar and a bit of salt. You dip each of your veggies into this and eat. We then had porcino cheese, followed by hot cannellini beans that were cooked in garlic and sage, followed by plates of salami, prosciutto and ham and ending with buccellato, a typical Lucca cake and coffee. Was it delicious because we were sitting on a balcony looking out onto the surrounding landscape or because the food was so fresh and different…it was both I think. The villa produces wines and we enjoyed two very good wines as well as their own olive oil.

Of course before leaving I think all of us got oil, wine and their own locally made lavender soap to take home with them.

‘The Colle Verde Estate was assembled in the 16th century by Tomas Guinigi, a scion of one of the leading families of Lucca during the medieval and renaissance periods. Vineyards and olive groves lie on a wide, south-facing valley dropping from 300 to 100 meters above sea level. This natural amphitheater of terraces creates an extremely well balanced and unique agricultural ecosystem. The special microclimate and the distinctive characteristics of our terrain combined with the almost obsessive care that has been lavished upon our grape vines and olive trees for centuries enables us to produce distinctive wines and olive oils that manifest intense varietal perfumes and full flavors. Sometimes rather austere and reserved at first, as you get to know them they display noble and generous characteristics qualities that are very much like those of the people who have lived and worked in these hills for generations.’

We got a short course on the making of olive oil here – the groves contain about 3,000 trees. The varieties cultivated are Frantoio, Leccino and Marailo. All stages are organic and pressing takes place here at the estates oil press.

and a short course on their wines – selection of hand picked grapes on the first sorting table, selection of the berries on the second sorting table, soft crushing and manual punching down of grapes.

Totally organic/biodynamic farming from beginning to end.

Our very last visit on our tour was to Villa Massei – the garden of Paul Gervais de Bedee and Gil Cohen. Paul is a thirteenth generation New Englander, descended from the family of Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand. Gil is the rose lover and philanthropist. Gil was there to greet us and we all agreed that he was a true ambassador of his new homeland. This garden is totally private and only open when they so choose. We felt very privileged to be taken around by him, a man who said ‘ that he had a finger in every part of this estate in its planting’ . This was an exquisite ending to our tour, sun shining, a borrowed landscape to complete the garden and with a man who was passionate about his piece of earth. They have orchards, vegetable garden and formal gardens. What I found interesting were the rounded bricks that they had used in the columns….very unusual.

Paul’s Blog on the garden

a gorgeous article on the garden that we will visit:

The edifice, dating back to the 17th century, was built in the southern hills of Lucca in a zone, agriculturally rich for its production of olives, vines and mulberries for silk worms.

For a long time, the villa was the country residence of the Senibaldi family, and after many changes of hands, was bought in 1981 by Gil Cohen and Paul Gervais, the present owners. The latest owners are responsible for the restoration of the portico on the façade facing uphill, which had been previously walled up in order to increase space inside the villa, and for the precise architectural and botanic composition of the garden. The portico has five arches on the façade facing uphill, forming an area linking the building to the garden. This is a very important and frequent characteristic of the Lucchese villas. The garden is very interesting for its variety. There is also a little nymphaeum in the garden. An Italian style garden, comprising 16 flower beds with low geometric hedge borders has been planted recently.


  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row