On the way back to Torino from Florence, Paolo had a detour in mind. A quick stop. There was a tower he wanted to show me. We were to stop in Lucca, the city of 100 churches! I assumed we were headed for a church tower. We weren’t. The tower he had in mind was far more whimsical.
Stepping out of the car at Parcheggio Carducci I spotted a flurry of flying troops. Blooming parachutes abruptly arresting their descent. They looked like little plastic soldiers floating gently down to a nearby military base. Fortuitous timing. We were about to enter one of the most well-preserved Renaissance walled cities in all of Tuscany.
Lucca is ringed by over 4 kilometers of old city walls. All of which are completely accessible on foot, making it unique among all Italian walled cities. As we crossed underneath into the city, locals leisurely strolled, road bikes, and jogged above. Once inside the old city walls, cobblestone streets weave between piazzas. Each of which seems to be anchored by a church.
Pausing in front of Chiesa di Santa Giulia, a small Catholic church from the 10th century, I began to hear music. An Opera. Tosca. Still looking through his viewfinder Paolo said “Lucca is the birthplace of Puccini you know.” I didn’t, but I fell just a little more in love with Paolo because he did. We followed the Aria “De Cavaradossi” down a side street till it crescendoed from the open windows of the Institute of Musical Studies Luigi Boccherini.
There was no thunderous applause when the music stopped. Just church bells chiming faintly in the distance. In Lucca, this was just a normal Tuesday. “I think it’s right down here!” Paolo once again led the way. Turn by turn to his favorite tower in all of Tuscany. A few blocks up and a few more over and there she stood. Guinigi Tower in Lucca.
Historically, wealthy families of Lucca displayed their fortune by building towers for the ultimate view. Torre Guinigi is a Romanesque-Gothic tower stretching 45 meters towards the sky. Dating back to the 1300s it immediately boasts of the status of the Guinigi family. The kitchen once sat a floor below the rooftop garden with it’s tall oak trees. The idea of a rooftop lunch listening to Opera suddenly sounded very appealing.
In that moment I could easily see why so many people recommend Lucca as the perfect day trip from Florence. The city’s history of wealth has imprinted a feeling of laid back ease in Lucca. If you have a few minutes, check out this video of Lucca (featuring the Guinigi Tower) and you’ll see what I mean.
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