What do Mick Jagger and Niccolò Paganini have in common, aside from a full head of hair and a “bad boy” rock star reputation? (“Paganini was kind of the first rock star […] he would take popular melodies and do variations on them, I’m a crossover artist,” says violinist David Garrett, in an interview for cinematografo.it. Garrett portrayed Paganini in the 2013 film, The Devil’s Violinist.)
So, what is it that they have in common?
For example, a city, Lucca. Paganini came to stay for a time when he was young and in love. Jagger…, not as young, came to give a memorable concert in which he excused himself for not performing any of Puccini’s music.
Despite being the birthplace of the great Puccini, Lucca, reserved as it is, does not like to showcase itself, not even with the music that resonates daily in the churches, theatres, classrooms of its Musical Institute, and other venues.
Would you believe that behind the mighty and austere Walls, music, and lots of it, has been played daily for centuries and centuries?
If you check the various online calendars of events for the city, for any given date, there is a concert scheduled in a church, a music festival happening in a cloister or square, an opera gala in a theatre, a musical evening at the Botanical Garden, or a musician playing on top of the Guinigi Tower at sunset.
If you would like to get to know all the music-related locations in Lucca, not just the official ones, this tour is designed for you.
A great deal of organizational effort and collaboration with various city institutions has given rise to a unique tour with a soundtrack that runs the gamut of musical genres through the centuries.
Your tour guide/deejay, at the right moment and with the aid of modern technology, will play various musical selections. The operas of the illustrious Giacomo Puccini, the main protagonist of the tour, Chet Baker’s jazz, the Rolling Stones’ rock music, Luigi Boccherini’s minuets, and the serenades of Niccolò Paganini will accompany the guide and you as he or she tells a story never told before.
Unsurprisingly, you will find that everything in Lucca “speaks” of music: every monument recalls episodes of the past and present, big and small, and summons up many anecdotes.
No two tours will ever be alike since there are many sites to visit, and these may occasionally vary, making, thereby, every tour original.
The tour begins at the Teatro del Giglio, where, since the 18th century, the greatest singers, such as Farinelli and Maria Malibran, have graced its stage. First, a visit to the stalls area, and then, for the first time during the tour, the figure of Maestro Puccini will be spoken of, since, in Lucca, he would personally supervise the staging of his operas.
In front of the theatre stands the Hotel Universo. Chet Baker spent many a night in Room 15 of the hotel and would sit at the window and play his trumpet at all hours much to the delight of the locals.
The nearby Piazza Napoleone is the setting for a contemporary and rock music festival, known as the Lucca Summer Festival, which has included a Rolling Stones concert and the surprise of hearing Mick Jagger sing in Italian.
Then a leap back in time is taken to when Palazzo Ducale, which flanks the piazza, had its own orchestra and hosted musical academies as did other palazzos in Lucca.
The Cathedral San Martino tells of music of times past and present and historic builders of melodious organs.
At the Musical Institute (Istituto Musicale Boccherini), music spills out from the classrooms into the streets and surrounding square. In front of the Institute, there is the statue of another great musician of the city, Luigi Boccherini. His melodies continue to resound in important films, the names of which will surprise you, as will his compositions when you hear them.
Next stop is the Roman Amphitheatre, heart of the Lucca Jazz Festival and other musical events.
By the side of the Basilica San Frediano is the home where Niccolò Paganini, the “Devil’s Violinist” resided while in Lucca. He fell deeply in love with a local girl and preferred serenading her with a guitar rather than the violin.
From atop the Walls, you have a view of the spectacular Palazzo Pfanner and the wall of the San Giorgio Prison where Chet Baker, incarcerated for many months, was allowed to occasionally play his trumpet.
In the neighborhood of the Church Santa Maria Nera and Palazzo Orsetti, Francesco Geminiani was born. He was devoted to the church because its priests would use music to attract the faithful. Alfredo Catalani was also born in this area.
The tour concludes with a visit to the Museum Puccini, birthplace of the Maestro.
What more can be said? By the end of the tour, you will look at Lucca…with another set of ears!