A daily act repeated innumerable times such as closing the door of your home behind you, in places like Europe, especially Italy, can be equivalent to leaving behind a piece of history or even a veritable work of art.
Lucca, a Tuscan city, enclosed by tree-lined 16th-century walls, has preserved its buildings through the centuries. Like multilayer and multi flavoured cakes, plaster, bricks, stones, roof tiles, doors and windows have been kept or changed seamlessly to create buildings of multiple layers and ‘flavours’.
In particular, many doors and doorways have acquired a certain allure through the ages.
It does not matter whether they conceal the entrance to a modest dwelling or to the loggia of an ancient palazzo. It does not matter if they are doors to shops or to secret gardens. They are beautiful and fascinating. Perhaps due to their shape, colour, and style, they furnish travellers a lot of ‘scope for the imagination’ even without crossing their thresholds.
This is the only possible explanation for the success of the many calendars printed with photographs of doors found in old Tuscan hamlets.
Lucca is no exception…
Here is a short and perhaps rather selective list of some very particular doors and doorways in Lucca, naturally based on my own personal taste. Behind the doorways I have selected are the relatively unknown but essential protagonists who maintain and keep ‘alive’ the antique and not-so-antique elements, including doors and doorways, of the town. I feel it is important that the public be acquainted with them because they are the last true craftsmen of Lucca.
First of all, and no disrespect is intended to those that follow, I must mention the wood-finishing shop at the corner of Via della Stufa and Via del Panificio, close to the prison of San Giorgio, in a fairly secluded area of town off the beaten track. This excellent craftsman has restored and brought back to life prestigious fixtures, benches, church furnishings, and antique doors. Again and again, he has taken wood that is decayed and worn and restored it to its former glow.
I also greatly admire the wood-carving and engraving craftsmen Galligani on Via Sant’Andrea, just a few steps from the tree-topped Guinigi Tower.
Tito Galligani and his son are masters of the rare art of gilding and not only. They can also create sumptuous hand-carved Baroque frames and restore the missing parts of sculptures that have deteriorated with age. They’ve taken the level of Geppetto’s craft of carpentry to true artistic heights. And like Geppetto,Tito has carved his own Pinocchio which he displays in the shop window along with many antique and cabinetry pieces.
Just round the corner from the tower, there is another wood-working shop, Francesconi. As you pass by, the different odours of the wood and shavings emanate into the street.
This workshop specializes in the construction of the typical Mediterranean shutters, often green-coloured, found at the windows of all the homes and palazzos of Lucca. The purpose of the shutters is to keep out the hot rays of the summer sun while allowing air and breezes to enter into the homes.
Inside the workshop, many skilled and attentive craftsmen cut, sand, and assemble these fixtures which are vital in making apartments functional and livable in addition to contributing to the aesthetic appearance of the city.
I invite everyone to pause a few moments to admire the work of these highly skilled craftsmen, the last of their kind in Lucca.