Tuscan Treasures in Italy Tour
June 2 – 10th, 2015


June 8th Monday Lucca – Orto Botanico and Villa Pfanner, Villa Maionchi & Villa Lazzareschi

Our visit today takes us to Lucca, 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.

We meet our Lucca guide for a 3 hour tour which will include 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.

And 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. Portrait of a Lady (1996) starring Nicole Kidman and John Malkovich was filmed here.

Then we enjoy a light lunch with wine and olive oil tasting at Fattoria Maionchi. With its splendid backdrop of the Lucca hills, its olive groves and vineyards, the “Fattoria Maionchi” (the Maionchi Estate) is situated in an oasis of peace. Extending beyond the 17th-century villa of the same name, the estate is unique because of its incredible position, and especially, because of the high quality of the products that are made there, such as wine, grappa and extra-virgin olive oil, which make it a destination of connoisseurs from all over the world. The garden fountain was produced and baked on site. The garden is a typical example of the classic Italian garden, beautifully landscaped with flowers and fruit trees.

Finally we end our day with a visit to the garden of Villa Lazzareschi, a privately owned estate in a most beautiful setting. Mrs. Alessandra, the owner will show us her charming garden in the famous Italian style. It hosts a covered English terrace with richly decorated floors. This noble estate, the garden and the original annexes date back to the 17th century. The front of the two-story villa is characterized by an arcade with a double staircase that leads to the garden, and by a balustraded half-landing beneath three huge arches made of sandstone. Beneath the half-landing, the walls are decorated with black and white mosaics representing two coats of arms, while the central pattern represents a nymphaeum.

While here we will enjoy a short flower design class given to us by the floral designer who does the arrangements at the Villa. For the ladies in our group – you will create a bouquet with the flowers and herbs which are typical for Tuscany in the summer time... and you will be able to take them with you. While the ladies will be busy with flowers, the men will deal with Tuscan wines in a unique way by creating a wine scented home fragrance under the professional guidance of Mrs Marcella

We finish off with a drink and snacks before heading back to our hotel where the rest of the evening is free.

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