A view of Borgo a Mozzano

Borgo a Mozzano

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The town of Borgo a Mozzano is located on the right bank of the Serchio River with the Apuan Alps (Alpi Apuane) on the west and the Apennines on the east. It is the administrative center of an area rich in history, legends, and traditions. Borgo a Mozzano is known for one of the most mysterious and fascinating monuments in the entire province of Lucca: the Maddalena Bridge more commonly known as the Devil’s Bridge. The 90-meter long bridge is a remarkable piece of medieval engineering and associated with a rather particular legend. Borgo a Mozzano, however, is not only the Devil’s Bridge, its old historical center is worthy of a stroll to discover interesting buildings, churches, squares, and small gardens. In the gardens, azalea plants, which in the language of plants symbolize maternal love, can often be admired....

Deserted cities

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Please note: The original piece in Italian was written during lockdown.    Tap the screen, then tap the logo with the white ‘f’ in the blue square, look at the images. Stop and look at some of the posts that show Italian art cities, including Lucca, on Easter Monday. Video of Florence: Duomo, Baptistery, Piazza della Repubblica, Santa Maria Novella, Piazza della Signoria, the Arno River embankments. Video of Lucca: Via Fillungo, Amphitheatre, Piazza San Michele, the intersection at Via Fillungo and Via Roma. Deserted streets and squares everywhere. Only empty buses going round along their designated routes much like scale model electric toy trains moving along a track. Footage after footage, shot after shot, videos and photographs clearly show how everything seems suspended in time and underline that something important is missing: life. I look at the comments and am...

The stone known as the “Devil’s Stone” of Palazzo Bernardini

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Eleven Unusual Things to See in Lucca If you search the web for things you should see or do when visiting an area, you’ll probably find a list of the top ten things and usually they’re pretty typical. Well, I’m suggesting eleven because I’ve decided to go one better. Actually, if I were to think of all the particular places or things to see or do in Lucca, the list would be endless. But let’s begin. Palazzo Bernardini is on Via Santa Croce, one of the city’s main streets. To be precise, it stands along the route that all the pilgrims, who were passing through Lucca, would take to go to Rome. A very visible palazzo to passers-by. Rebuilt over the remains of an old medieval dwelling in the first half of the 16th century and in a decidedly...

The sculpture of the Holy Face in Lucca

The Keys to Lucca

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In these days of quarantine, our individual freedom has been significantly limited, but we have accepted this small sacrifice for the good of the community. In fact, if we look back in time, we will find that often the needs for protection and defense were put before the needs of the individual. I am referring to freedom of movement and controls in the days of the Republic of Lucca. The actual Walls were constructed to defend the Republic. It was a large-scale human and economic endeavor and a piece of innovative military engineering, well ahead of its time. The gates to the Walls were the weak points of this powerful defensive instrument and were considered a possible source of danger should they not be adequately protected. In the first half of the 17th century, when the walls we see today...

Black Cat

Animals and Monuments. In these times of Covid-19, animals unconsciously and heroically get their revenge on the human race.

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 Strange title. What do monuments have to do with animals? Well, they do, they certainly do. But first allow me to say this: Now more than ever, confined to our homes due to the pandemic, trying to satisfy our eyes and spirit with images thanks to our smart devices, we are seeing that Nature is reclaiming its space and animals are resuming their innate behavior within that space. Photos of ducks walking neatly in single file on crosswalks, safe and sound, deer crouching in the middle of freeways, wolves that venture near populated areas more than ever before. And the list goes on. And as if that weren’t enough, Spring comes along and decides to give us an abundance of days with clear blue skies. Bees, butterflies, and swallows, swoop, swirl, and do fanciful acrobatics in the sky. They...

Painting by Pompeo Batoni

Pompeo Batoni? A ‘homespun’ analysis of a Lucchese painting

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My last post was dedicated to the diary of the painter Georg Christoph Martini. In it, I stated that it was probable that Georg had been a teacher to the young painter Pompeo Girolamo Batoni of Lucca. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Batoni was the most celebrated and famous Italian painter of portraits and allegorical and mythological subjects of the 18th century. Batoni was born in Lucca on 25 January 1708 and died in Rome in February 1787. In Rome, the Eternal City, he mastered the art of painting and was bestowed with many honors and accolades, and most certainly great sums of money based on the numerous and pressing requests he received for his paintings by noblemen, princes, and wealthy international and national merchants. In his workshop, located in Via del Leone, the apprentices labored to follow...

Drawings Travel To Tuscany

A precious book by Georg Christoph Martini

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I started this series of brief articles by explaining why I chose to become a tourist guide. Leaving aside sentiment and rhetoric dictated by the moment, I’d like to present to you some of the sources of my modest, yet handy, knowledge. My library for example.  Two plain sets of shelves, purchased at IKEA, similar to what you find in households everywhere.  It is packed with books stacked double file, almost all of them regarding the history and territory of Lucca. There is one that is especially dear to me and I’d like to tell you about it.  It was written by Georg Christoph Martini, an 18th-century painter and chronicler, during a trip to Tuscany. My copy is a second edition published by Maria Pacini Fazzi and is a fount of information regarding life and society in 18th-century Lucca....


A Tourist Guide Trapped at Home

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When people become professional tourist guides in Italy, some do it out of necessity, some do it as a part-time job, some do it while waiting for their ‘dream’ job to materialize. I’ve been at this profession for over thirty years for pure vocation and because I’m passionate about it. Perhaps too passionate, seeing how my family is always nagging me because I put my work ahead of household duties or personal fun. Maybe they’re right but my job is part of my life. Whenever I run into a certain old friend of mine while I’m working, he yells out, “You’re always in the streets, talking, talking, talking!!! Don’t you ever work??” And possibly, he’s right. I love my job. It’s great fun. It’s not a burden at all. In these dramatic times, when not only Italy but the...

Cammellias in the garden

Camellias and their Surroundings

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Spring is in the air. The countryside of Lucca is characterized by the elegant, variegated and multicolored camellias in full bloom. In these days, the ancient villas of Lucca used to open their gates to their remarkable ‘secret’ gardens to welcome lovers of art, architecture, history, and beauty, including the spectacular Villa Reale of Marlia (recently restored) and the exquisite Villa Torrigiani of Camigliano, both of which have extraordinary camellia plant collections. Castelvecchio di Compito and Pieve di Compito are picturesque hamlets located just twenty minutes away from Lucca, immersed in olive groves with small babbling brooks of spring water, descending from the Monti Pisani (Pisan Hills). The residents of this area have transformed their private gardens, big and small, and communal areas into an authentic and unique park where the Camellia, in every shape, form, and color, is...