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Archive for the ‘Uncrowded Italy’ Category

I came to Riomaggiore late in my Italian travel life. It was in 2001 during an extended residency in Florence to write my first book, Tuscan Echoes A Season in Italy, that I took a three day/night trip to the Cinque Terre.

When I stepped off the train from La Spezia and walked through the town to the sea, the beauty of this area of Italy completely overwhelmed me. Fishing boats rested on cobble stoned streets, narrow lanes enticed with their cooling shadows, and always there murmured the sound of the persistent sea as it encountered the breakwater of the harbor. From my room in a small, centrally located, B&B below for If You Go), I enjoyed easy access to the streets of the village as well as the trails that crisscross the hillsides above.

Inhabitants of Riomaggiore can be traced to the 8th Century AD. Those early settlers from a nearby valley discovered the rich volcanic soil in the hills along the coast and the abundant fishing. Vineyards were planted and families created lives from the sea’s bounty. Over the centuries, the political feuds that embroiled most of Italy also brought change to Riomaggiore and the coastal villages. Genoa, Milan and Pisa all vied for control of these easily defensible hills.

What brings visitors today is the ineffable beauty of the place. In 1999, the Italian Government designated the five lands, the Cinque Terre, a National Park (Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre). With the goal of protecting both the sea and land along this stretch of coastline. The parks’ designation also protects the area from further development.

What I most enjoy when visiting this area of Italy is the narrow lanes of the town. When strolling along the Via Antonio Gramsci as it precipitously descends to the sea, or along the Via San Giacomo on the harbor, I gain a sense of uncluttered and unchanged time. There is a special spirit and a special group of locals who make the Cinque Terre a place where unforgettable memories are created.

The Via Dell’Amore

The “Street of Love”. What more appropriate name could this stretch of the pathway between Riomaggiore and Monterosso have? Relatively flat and easy to walk, this is the most traveled section of the hiking trails that connect all five of the fishing villages along the Cinque Terre. From sculptures that portray vision of love to the padlocks of lovers who close their personalized lock on a fishing net then fling the key into the sea, this is a beautiful section of the coast.

Via Dell’Amore along the Cinque Terre

If you are on the coast during the summer months, expect this particular section of the hiking trail to be very crowded. Also, make sure you purchase a Cinque Terre Card, your paid access ticket to the hiking paths of the Cinque Terre. See “If You Go” below for most details.

IF YOU GO:

This area of Italy has become very crowded during the summer months. Standing room only on the trains, packed restaurants especially during lunch, full hotels and hoards of tourists are the norm, June – mid-September. If you plan to visit and wish to enjoy a more peaceful time, I recommend visiting from late April to late May and from early to late October. The weather during these ‘off-seasons’ can be a bit unpredictable, the lack of crowds make it worth the effort.

Trains:

You can purchase a Cinque Terre Train pass at numerous locations in each village as well as in the train station of La Spezia. The cost of the weekday card is Euro 5.00 and the weekend card is Euro 12.00. If you purchase the Cinque Terre Train pass you can use that ticket for access ONLY to the Blue Trail, #2.

Hiking:

The entire section of coastline in crisscrossed with many hiking trails, varying in difficulty from beginner to extreme. Maps of these various trails, and information regarding access to them, are available in train station and tourist information sites throughout the area.

For a great place to start exploring options related to hiking in the area, visit: Hiking Cinque Terre

You can purchase a Cinque Terre Basic Ticket at numerous locations in each village as well as at train station. While this card does not include use of the trains that travel along the coast, you still have access to the Blue Trail, #2 as well as other services along the coast.

For either of these tickets, begin at:

Cinqueterre.com

Hotels Riomaggiore

As is true with all of the villages along the coast, you are strongly encouraged to book your hotel rooms(s) well in advance of your travel dates. If you visiting during late October – late March, then you will find accommodations available for ‘last minute’ arrivals. Regardless, reserve in advance and you will have one less worry for your trip.

La Scogliera

Salita Castello, 174 Riomaggiore 19017 (SP) Italy

+39 3346194505

This hotel prefers that requests be sent via email to: la_scogliera@alice.it

Luna di Marzo

Via Montello 387, Volastra Riomaggiore  19017 Riomaggiore, Italy

+39 0187 920530

Affittacamere Edi 

Via Colombo, 111  19017 Riomaggiore Province of La Spezia, Italy

+39 0187 920325

Restaurants Riomaggiore

During high season, you should reserve for dinner in most places in Riomaggiore. The restaurants are, in general, very small and fill quickly for the evening meal.

Trattoria “Via dell’Amore” di Rosa Rafaella

19017 Riomaggiore (SP) – Piazza Rio Finale, 8

Tel: +39.0187.920.860

web: http://www.trovalaspezia.info/trattoriaviadellamore.htm

Il Grottino

Via Colombo  Riomaggiore, Province of La Spezia, Italy

Tel: +39.0187.920.938

Cappun Magru in Casa di Marin

Via Volastra 1, RIOMAGGIORE 19017

Tel: +39.0187.920.563

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Livorno Panorama, Piazza XX Settembre

Livorno. For most travelers, it is only the final destination for trains that connect Florence with Montecatini Terme, Lucca and Pisa. However, for those with a curiosity about renaissance history, those who wish to visit a less crowded city and those interested in seeing unique canals, add Livorno to your list of places you must visit while in Tuscany.

Bernardo Buontalenti, (Bernardo Delle Girandolea) a highly respected architect, military engineer and artist of the 16th Century, designed the fortifications that stand to this day at the port entrance. The port’s geographic proximity to Pisa and Florence (over land and by transport on the River Arno) created the need for the port’s protection.

Leggi Livornine 1587

It was the laws of trade, in the latter part of the 16th Century, that created Livorno’s nickname of “Venice of Tuscany”. Ferdinand I di Medici,

Grand Duke of Tuscany, created what was called the Leggi Livornine in 1587. The law created a ‘porto Franco’, or tax free port for goods that moved through the city. This law motivated merchants from across Europe, who sought the advantages of location and cost savings, to establish branches of their businesses in the city.

To help move goods to warehouses and to facilitate ease of transportation, these new companies supported the creation of canals which connected the places of business to the main port and sea. Thus was born “Veneiza Nuova” or “New Venice” as that area of the city came to be called.

The new trade  laws also created a city politic that became a welcome safe haven for those who sought refuge from both religious and political persecution. One of the little-known effects of the Thirty-Years War was that the economy of Livorno particularly, and Italy in General, experienced a serious and long-lasting downturn.

In early 1921, Livorno was the birthplace of the Italian Communist Party and to this day is known as a very left-leaning city. Politics and intrigue aside, this is a lovely city and absolutely worth your time to visit while in Tuscany.

Livorno “Venezia Nuova”

The city today is a major departure point for ferry services that connect Livorno to Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily and other Med ports. If you have the time, taking the ferry between locations during your trip can be both helpful and enjoyable.

Livorno is famous, as well, for its being home to the Italian Naval Academy.

Ferry Services from Livorno:

IF YOU GO:

Trains to Livorno run nearly every hour to Florence. You can also head north toward Genoa and the “Cinque Terre”, or direct to Rome. For schedules and costs, go to  http://www.trenitalia.it. If you are driving into the city, my recommendation is to park close to the port at the Parcheggio Custodito al Porto (the secure parking area near the port). If you have a choice of taking the train or driving, take the train!

Driving in Livorno is complicated by security systems which limit the access of cars to the city center – much like most cities in Tuscany.

If your schedule allows, you can take a ferry from Livorno to some major locations in the Mediterranean, including Sicily, from the port. For further information, here are some links to review:

Direct Ferries Schedules and Information

Moby Lines Ferry Service Information

Private Guides for city tours – Livorno

Private Guides, Livorno

Tourist Information, Livorno

Restaurants in Livorno

This list is focused on restaurants in the Venetian quarter of the city. There are certainly others. However this the neighborhood with the most picturesque places to enjoy a meal. There are many excellent restaurants in the city. The short list, below, are places I have enjoyed dinners and/or lunches over the years.

Al Fosso Reale

Rated very highly on several web sites, this lovely small restaurant is located near the Fortezza Nuova in the city center. Well worth going-I’ve only eaten here once for dinner, and highly recommend this place to all. Order the “Zuppa di Pesce di Livorno” – Local seafood soup. Outstanding!

Al Fosso Reale

Scali delle Cantine 52/54, Livorno

Tel: +39.0586.888.474

Trattoria L’Antica Venezia

I’ve had the privilege of eating in this small delightful place several times. The food is outstanding, fairly priced and the service reliable and friendly. GO!

Trattoria L’Antica Venezia

Piazza dei Domenicani,  15 Livorno

Tel: +39.0586.887.353

ttp://www.livornonow.com/lantica_venezia_trattoria_in_livorno_tuscany_italy

Chez Ugo Pizzeria

Don’t expect fancy in any way, yet this place serves exceptional pizza – of more kinds that you can count – in a clean and busy atmosphere. For lunch its great, for a light dinner even better.

Scali Monte Pio, 35, 57123 Livorno

Tel: +39.0586.219.230

Hotels in Livorno

Hotel Gennarino

This lovely hotel is located directly across the Via Italia, along the waterfront across from the Naval Academy. The rooms are clean and the rates are very good-between

Hotel Gennarino

Viale Italia, 301 – 57127 livorno (LI)

Hotel Teatro

Located in the heart of the city, this hotel was recently fully updated and modernized. Excellent location, great rooms and fair prices. A wonderful hotel base while in Livorno.

Hotel Teatro

Via Mayer, 42/57

Tel: +39.0586.89.8705

Hotel Stazione

Located an easy walk from the train station, this is a very nice property in the city center. If you are planning on an overnight for an early train or ferry, this would be a great place for an inexpensive evening. Lots of cafes and trattorias in the neighborhood. I do not recommend this hotel if you are hoping to be close to the canal neighborhood of the city, though.

Hotel Stazione

Viale Carducci, 301 – Livorno (LI)

Tel: +39.0586.429.504

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Arno River and City of Pisa

If you read the previous post about the Charterhouse of Pisa, you can follow the easy directions in this post to locate the parking area at the Campo dei Miracoli near the Leaning Tower.

On To Pisa!

For those of us who have driven the confusing streets of Pisa, finding a simple way to the parking area near the Campo dei Miracoli, the Field of Miracles where the Duomo, Baptistery and Campinele (Bell Tower – the “Leaning Tower”) are located, is often a mind-boggling challenge.

From the Charterhouse of Pisa, you simply retrace your drive back to the intersection of the main road you came on from Lucca. When you reach the intersection with the SS-12, turn left on Via Statale Abetone (SS-12) toward Pisa. Typical to roads and streets in Italy, the SS-12 changes names as you approach the center of Pisa. You will drive on the Via Statale Abetone, the Via Lucchese, the Via Brennero and the Via Contessa Matilda and all are the same road!

Parking Area, Campo dei Miracoli, Pisa

As you enter Pisa, proper, you will  drive along a tall brick wall on your left and, when you come to a traffic circle, look for signs pointing to a parking area (“P”) and the Campo dei Miracoli/ Torre Pendente (Leaning Tower). Follow those signs and you will find the parking area entrance about 100 meters from the traffic circle on your right.

Plan on leaving your car there for the day. This parking area does not permit overnight parking, so be sure to check the open/close times before leaving for the sights of the city. (NOTE: This parking area is open from 6:30AM to 11:30PM daily. Cost is Euro 2.00 per hour, or portion of an hour. Push the button on the entrance gate kiosk. You will receive a round green token. KEEP IT WITH YOU. Before leaving the parking are, you must present that token for payment.)

The Campo dei Miracoli

What more needs be said about the most famous engineering failure in the world? They got it wrong and the world comes to see the bell tower as it leans precipitously over the Museum of the Works of the Duomo. Tickets to enter and climb the Leaning Tower are only available on the day you visit and are strictly controlled. For those of you who suffer from vertigo, keep in mind that there are few handrails, particularly out on the various colonnaded levels of the structure…and its a long way down.

Duomo Pisa, Western Facade

If you have at least two hours to spare, especially during the summer months, you may be able to purchase tickets to visit the tower.

The Duomo of Pisa (1063 -1360) is a huge, gloriously carved, building. The western facade is covered with marble carved statues and busts, the interior an awe inspiring and cavernous space. With Giovanni Pisano’s restored pulpit (1302 – 1311) as a centerpiece of the nave, black and white stripped columns and huge altar, this is a place sure to impress.

My best recommendation while at the Campo is the enter the Bapistery, find a place to sit and wait. Every twenty minutes, or so, the guard of the Baptistery will call “Silenzio” (Silence), close the entrance door and will stand at the base of the Baptismal font. He will begin to sing various notes and the echoes of the Baptistery create their famous magic. I will say no more, other than to go and experience.

Marco’s Recommended Top Nine Things to See in Pisa

1. Museo delle Sinopie and the Camposanto

Museo della Sinopie, Pisa

During WWII, a bomb hit the Campo Santo, the cemetery located on the grounds of Campo dei Miracoli. As roof lead melted from the ensuing fire,  all but a few of the Renaissance frescoes that once covered the interior walls of the cemetery were destroyed. In a few rooms of the cloister are a few restored frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli, one of the most famous Renaissance fresco painters. Viewing them gives visitors an idea of what was lost as a result of the bombing.

Sinope, a red paint, was used to outline the design by the master or one of this apprentices before a fresco was

Frescoes, Camposanto, Pisa

painted. Much like a ‘cartoon,’ these designs were all that was left of most of the frescoes after the fire. The museum offers a unique and unusual opportunity to view these ‘remains’ of what was an incredible collection of invaluable Renaissance art. It is rarely crowded.

I’ve also included with this number One on the list, the Camposanto (“Holy Field” – Cemetery) of the Campo dei Miracoli. As mentioned, the Camposanto was badly damaged during the war. A few of the frescoes were salvaged after the fire, and these can be viewed in rooms of the Camposanto. Even a brief visit to these rooms will give you an idea of the beauty that once covered the walls of the cemetery.

2. Walk from the Campo dei Miracoli to the Orto Botanico

It is a surprising fact that of the hundreds of thousands of visitors to Pisa each year, few

Orto Botanico, Pisa

even know that a University even exists in the city. The walk from the leaning tower into the heart of the University and beyond is an easy and fascinating opportunity to learn more about this surprising and historic city.

The Via Santa Maria heads south away from the Duomo and Leaning Tower. You will find the start of the Via Santa Maria just past the store called Barsanti G et Fighli and almost across the street from the Museo del Opera del Duomo (Museum of the Works of the Duomo). Head down the Via Santa Maria and turn right in front of the church of San Giorgio ai Tedeschi. Follow the signs to the Botanical Gardens.

In 1544, Cosimo di Medici funded the first ever Botanical Garden in Europe for the University of Pisa. Though the garden has been moved twice since its founding, it now offers a much larger planted space and is a delightful alternative to the paved streets of the city. Entrance is free. See “If You Go” below for further details.

As you exit the Botanical Gardens, continue straight ahead on to the Via dei Mille. This short street ends at the Piazza dei Cavalieri, one of the most beautiful squares in Pisa.

3. Piazza Dei Cavalieri (with three more of the “Nine Top Things to see in Pisa”)

The piazza was once the hub of commercial and political activity in the city. Built on the remains of the ancient Roman Forum, it is a huge space – second in size to the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele on the south side of the Arno River-and offers stunning views of three incredible and historical structures.

Palazzo della Caranova, Pisa

4. Palazzo della Carovana

The large Palazzo (Palace) that fronts the square is famous for its etched exterior walls, referred to as ‘graffiti’. Designed by Georgio Vasari, a famous Renaissance architect, the building was established by Cosimo di Medici (Florence) as the home of the Knights of St Stephen, a religious and military order. The Palace is also called the “Palazzo della Carovana,” which translates to the Palace of the Convoy. Initiates into the order endured a three year training period that was called “The Convoy,” hence the name.

The palace is now home to the Scuola Normale Superiore, the school attended by the most academically gifted students preparing for university studies.

5. Palazzo dell’Orologio

Palazzo dell’Orologio, Pisa

Also facing the square is the Palazzo dell’Orologio. This beautiful building was constructed between 1605 and 1608 by combining two towers.

A clock (orologio) was built in the structure that connects the two towers. The combined buildings were used to house the aged members of the Knights of St. Stephen. There are stories, some included in Dante’s Inferno, about terrible events that befell Count Ugolino della Gherardesco during that family’s imprisonment in 1289. Absent those stories, it is a lovely building.

You can read of the Gherardesco history in the 33rd Canto of Dante’s Inferno.

6. Church of Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri

On yet another part of the Piazza is the Church of Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri. The church was constructed as the place of worship, the home church, of the Knights of St. Stephen. Construction took place between April of 1565 and December 21 of 1569, the date of the church’s consecration.

When you leave the piazza, follow the Via Frediano Curatone toward the Arno River.

You will pass directly in front of a main building of the University of Pisa.

7.University of Pisa

Ponte Solferino Pisa

Founded in the middle of the 14th Century (most scholars agree that 1343 was the founding date) the University is one of the oldest in both Italy and Europe. Despite turmoil during the Renaissance, the university has survived and thrived, now listed as the best university in Italy. The unique architectural style of the buildings, and the ease of taking time on the campus to explore, gives visitors a fascinating perspective on this historic and famous educational institution.

As you continue along the Via Frediano Curatone, you will come to the Arno River. This wide and muddy river cuts through the center of the city,

eventually emptying into the Mediterranean Sea at Marina di Pisa.

Turn right and walk along the river. The bridge you see up ahead is the one you use to cross the Arno-the Ponte Solferino. The bridge was damaged beyond repair during the floods of November 1966.  Construction started again in 1969 giving the bridge its present form.

8. Santa Maria della Spina – The Gothic Jewel

As you cross the Arno river, look to your left and you will one of the most beautiful Gothic churches in Europe, Santa Maria della Spina. It was constructed in 1230 and is named for a thorn (Spina) that is believed to have crowned the head of Christ at the crucifixion. To protect the building from further water damage, it was moved, stone by stone, in 1871 to its present location. The church’s exterior is far more ornate than the starkly beautiful interior. This church is often missed by visitors and I highly recommend a visit.

9. Arcades of Central Pisa:

Arched promenades in Italy are relatively rare. Much like those of Bologna, the covered

arcades and walkways of Pisa provide protection from both summer sun and winter rains. Along both sides of the Via Francesco Crispi, the street you will enter on the south side of the Arno, are numerous shops and galleries offering everything from housewares to fine art. This is the main shopping area of Pisa and is a delight to experience, regardless of the time of year. Cafes and restaurants abound as well so this is a great place to find an outdoor table and enjoy Pisan life.

Here are a few additional places I love to visit when in Pisa.

Piazza Vittorio Emanuele

As you approach the end of the Via Frediano Crispi, you arrive at the largest piazza in Pisa, named for King Victor Emmanuele II, first King of a united Italy. Very close to this piazza are three places worth visiting.

Church of Sant’Antonio

Founded in the early 13th Century, the building suffered major damage during World War II. In 1952, the church was reopened for services.

Church of San Domenico

This small and unassuming building was built in 1395 and was once the church for a convent of Domenican nuns. The structure was nearly destroyed during World War II bombings. Currently used by the Knights of Malta,  the restored building was finally reopened to visitors in 1998.

Domus Mazziniana

Domus Mazziniana

The Nathan-Roselli home houses the Center for Mazzinian Studies. Giuseppe Mazzini was a hero of the unification of Italy. There are several rooms that house memorabilia of his life and times. A huge library with over 25,000 volumes is available to those doing research on the Italian

Renaissance. Again, a little-known and often overlooked corner of Italy.

A recent restoration of the house included the Young Italy Oath, which Mazzini wrote, inscribed over the facade of the building. The oath was written as a means of uniting the youth of Italy at the time of unification. You can read the entire text at this link-

Oath of Young Italy

The photo shows the current appearance of the house.

Leaning Tower and Duomo, Pisa

IF YOU GO:

First, keep in mind that a number of the widest and loveliest streets in Pisa are now pedestrian only. This makes driving in the city nearly impossible, particularly in light of the many (MANY) cameras which photograph violators of the city’s control  vehicles entering the historic center. Residents, service and public vehicles are issued a reader – and rental cards do not have them.

It is a much better idea to park at either the Campo dei Miracoli, at the parking areas near the train station or at the airport, then take a taxi or bus into the city. You need not  risk the Euro 120.00 per violation ticket in Pisa. Rental car companies sometimes take up to eighteen months to track down violators, and they do catch up with you!

Walking Map of Central Pisa

MAP

1. Museo delle Sinopie

Museo del Sinopie, Campo dei Miracoli

Tickets:

Tickets for the structures and museums in the Campo Dei Miracloi are combined as follows – prices are indicated at the end of each grouping.
1 monument among Battistero, Camposanto Monumentale, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Museo delle Sinopie 5,00 euro
2 monuments among Battistero, Camposanto Monumentale, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Museo delle Sinopie 6,00 euro

4 monuments among Battistero, Camposanto Monumentale, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Museo delle Sinopie 8,50 euro

Walk on the walls: 1,50 euro

Opening hours
:
January, February, November, December: 9:00-16:30
March, October: 9:00-17:30
April, May, June, July, August, September: 8:00-19:30
Closed on January 1th and on Christmas Day

For further informations:
Ph: +39 050560547

2. Botanical Gardens of the University of Pisa

Open weekday mornings

Entrance free

3. Piazza dei Cavalieri

(no web resources needed)

4. Palazzo della Carovana

Sculoa Normale Superiore

5. Palazzo dell’Orologio

Palazzo dell’Orologio Information

6. Church of Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri

Chiesa di Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri Pisa

7. University of Pisa

Information about the University and its history

8. Santa Maria dell Spina

Lungarno Gambacorti, I-56100 Pisa, Italy

Hours:
March 1 to October 31: 10am-1:30pm, 2:30pm-6pm; Sun: 10am-1:30pm, 2:30pm-7pm; Sat: 10am-1:30pm, 2:30pm-7pm; Closed: Mon
November 1 to February 29: 10am-2pm; Closed: Mon
Domus Mazziniana

Campo dei Mircoli-Pisa

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Charterhouse of Pisa
Calci, Tuscany, Italy

Few tourists know of the road that connects Lucca with the small village of Calci. Nor do many visitors know of the monumental surprise that awaits them – the Charterhouse of Pisa.

My recommendation is to not take the A-11 autostrada from Lucca to Pisa. Rather, as you arrive at the Lucca Ovest (West) interchange follow signs to the SS-12 (Strada Statale-State Road) toward San Giuliano Terme.

As you drive toward San Giuliano Terme, you will pass through the village of Santa Maria del Giudici then enter a tunnel. After you leave the tunnel and drive into San Giuliano Terme, watch for a turn to the left ttoward the town of Calci. Once you are on the road to Calci, the signs directing you to the Certosa (Charterhouse) of Pisa make the rest of the trip very easy.

Why go?

Charterhouse of Pisa
(Monumentale Certosa di Calci)
Tuscany, Italy

This is an enormous complex of buildings, many of them restored after World War II. The remote and beautiful setting, once referred to as the “Valle Graziosa” or “Pretty Valley,” allows visitors the opportunity to enjoy a visit to a beautiful church without the crowds that are found below in the city of Pisa proper. Though the charterhouse is located only about six miles from Pisa, you may as well be a hundred miles from such a large population center.

History

It was in 1366 that Carthusian Monks established their hermitage near Calci. The Carthusian order derives its name from the location of the first heritage established by Saint Bruno. The Chartreuse Mountains, located east southeast of the French city of Lyon is where Bruno began his religious life.

Gorgona, a small island located about twenty miles off the port of Livorno, is part of the Tuscan Archipelago. (On very clear days,you can see the island from a few of the small seaside villages north of Livorno – Tirrenia and Marina di Pisa). In 1369, Pope Gregory XI expelled a group of Benedictine monks  from the island. Some of the monks from Calci were sent to repopulate the island, even as their population grew at the Charterhouse. In the mid-15th Century, due to threats of possible attack by Saracens, the monks on the island brought all of their valuable documents to the Charterhouse.

Cloister, Charterhouse of Pisa

The current architectural style of the buildings is owed to Baroque work of the 17th and 18th Centuries.

After Napoleon’s suppression of religious orders, in 1808, the Carthusian order at Calci was forced to disband. The majority of the monks moved to the Vallombrosian Monastery in Pisa. Most of the silver and gold pieces collected from the religious community were sent to Florence to be melted and used for other purposes. Contents of the library, records, archives and many valuable paintings were sold.

In 1814 when the Grand Dukes of Lorraine permitted the return of the order the Charterhouse, their financial support assisted in the purchase of items that had previously been sold.

A few years after the unification of Italy, in 1866, the government decreed that all works of art, the library and other important documents were to be removed. The buildings and land, then, were assigned to the new Ministry of Education.

From 1946 until 1963, a group of Carthusian monks from the Netherlands attempted to establish a group of monks at the Charterhouse, with the hope of reestablishing their order in their home country. Their efforts yielded no success. When the last of the two Carthusian monks were moved from the monastery in 1972, the state took over responsibility for the maintenance and care of the buildings.

In 1981  the Natural History Museum of the University of Pisa was moved into one wing of the Charterhouse. The collections, started in the mid-16th Century, primarily include paleontological and mineral specimens collected over the centuries.

Choir Stalls, Charterhouse of Pisa

Interior

The major construction work on the buildings occurred after the monks returned from the Island of Gorgona (1425) and during the 17th and 18th Century. Monk’s cells, the main chapel and other parts of the building, to include a natural pharmacy based upon the research of herbs grown in the Charterhouse’s “Giardino dei Semplici,” were completed in the early part of the 16th Century. The garden, similar in purpose to one established in 1545 by Grand Duck Cosimo di Medici in Florence, was intended to investigate and research plants that might be used for the cure of disease and infection.

The interior of the church contains some of the finest hand carved choir stalls in Italy. Giovan Francesco Bergamini began, and his son Alessandro (1665-1686) completed, work on a beautiful altar made from Carrara marble. One of the few remaining original works is one of San Bruno (founder of the Carthusean order)

Baldasarre Franceschini (Il Volterrano)

offering the Charterhouse to Our Lady (1681) by Baldassarre Franceschini, called Il Volterrano. An interesting note about the work is that San Bruno holds a model of the Monastery as it appeared before Baroque era changes.

This is an incredibly beautiful building, little known by the millions of tourists who flock to a certain tower in the city of Pisa. If you are in Lucca, or Pisa, and seek the opportunity to explore an historic and beautifully preserved site, visit the Charterhouse of Pisa.

IF YOU GO:

Here are some on-line resources for your information before a visit.

Charterhouse of Pisa

Opening Times
• Tuesday to Saturday: from 8.30am to 6.30pm
• Sundays and public holidays: from 8.30am to 12.30pm
• Closed Mondays and 1/1, 1/5 and 25/12.

Admission
• Full Euro 5.00
• For 18 to 25 year old visitors Euro 2.50

Natural history Museum of the University of Pisa

NOTE: This is a very popular place for school visits, so you may be a bit surprised to see so many children crowded at the entrance to the Charterhouse. Those groups usually only visit the Museum and do not enter the main religious structures for a tour.

Information about the collections

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Rooftops of Lucca

Let’s see . . . it was in 2004 that I was walking in front of Sant’Alessandro Maggiore in central Lucca with Alessandro Tombelli, a friend from Florence. He saw one of his acquaintances, Wanda Martinelli, standing with a group of tourists. She was able to wave and speak briefly before moving on with her group.

For the past eight years, our small group tours with Private Italy Tours have visited Lucca and Wanda has always been our constant companion during those visits. A Lucchese by birth, she is passionate about her city and shares an incredible level of knowledge during the day that we spend with her. She has become a dear friend.

It has been in the course of those years, visiting Lucca with and without clients, that I have come to deeply love and respect the history of this incredible walled city. There are so many places to visit and sights to see. This post shares some history as well as impressions of my favorite places within a beautiful, and rightly famous, Tuscan city.

From Roman occupation to Silk-A Brief Overview

It is relatively easy to imagine the most important moments in Lucca’s long history by walking inside the city walls. In 177 B.C. a Roman colony was established along the banks of the Auserculus (Orzieri) river. As with all Roman colonies, there were four gates that permitted access to the city along the two main roads.

It was during the 2nd Century A.D. that a large amphitheater was built just outside the northeast gate of the city. By the end of the 2nd Century, there were over 10,000 inhabitants in the area. The main commerce routes of the city were connected to the Via Cassia (linking Rome and Florence) as well as other roads that lead to the sea (west) or to Bologna (north).

Lucca Street View

It was when the silk trade was established with the Far East that Lucca became enormously wealthy. Numerous families used their fortunes to create incredible country estates in the hills outside the city. (see A Day Near Lucca for further details and information about the villas and gardens.)

From the time of the Romans, through the Dark Ages and into the Renaissance, Lucca has retained the words that represent the spirit of the city: Libertas (Liberty).  The city has never been militarily nor politically subdued until the unification of Italy in the latter part of the 19th Century.

Inside the walls – The Conservative Lucchesi

Ostentatious displays of wealth, with the exception of Lucca’s churches, were forbidden at the time that the growth of the silk trade made the city extremely wealthy.  When you visit the city you will notice that the exterior of the largest family palaces is, architecturally, conservative while still showing, by size alone, the importance of the owners.

The list of these incredible city villas reflects the names of the wealthiest families: Mansi, Pfanner, Micheletti, Bernardini, Diodati-Orsetti to name but a few. The Palazzo Ducale, now the seat of the Lucca Provincial government, was once the private home of Elisa Baiocchi. Who was Elisa? She was Napoleon’s younger sister. In 1805, and already titled the Princess of Piombino, she was given the Republic of Lucca to govern.

Enormously unpopular among the residents of the city, she tore down blocks of buildings in what is now the Piazza Napoleone so that she could enjoy ‘views’ from her palace.

As you stroll the streets of the city, the sheer number of these huge villas cannot fail to impress upon you the incredible power, and financial resources, of Lucca.

Churches, Churches, Churches

Lucca was once referred to as the “City of One Hundred Churches”. Today, the number has dwindled, yet the style, grace and beauty still impress.

Sunset, San Michele in Foro, Lucca

San Michele in Foro

One of the most beautiful churches in the city is San Michele in Foro, built on the ruins of the ancient Roman Forum that once stood at the intersection of the two main streets of the colony. A façade of four levels, with forty-eight individually designed and carved columns surmount the main entrance of the church. High atop the façade, two angles flank a nearly fourteen foot high statue of Saint Michael.

San Frediano

Opening to a relatively large piazza, the façade of San Frediano never fails to impress visitors with its glass, gold and precious stone inlaid mosaic.  The Basilica was built during the 6thCentury and the current appearance of the

Facade Mosaic
Basilica of San Frediano, Lucca

church, very Romanesque in style, was completed in the 12th Century.  Named  for an Irish Bishop of Lucca (Fridianus), the interior of the church is striking in its austere simplicity.

Duomo (Cathedral) of San Martino

This is one of the most visually stunning churches in all of Italy. When the Bishop of Lucca, Anselm, began construction of the building in 1063, little could he have known (even after becoming Pope Alexander II) that the church would appear as it does today.

There are, much like San Michele in Foro, three levels of colonnaded façade. Thrity-seven individually unique columns support the levels above the portico entrance of the cathedral. A copy of San Martino, Saint Martin, adorns the façade. The original sculpture was moved inside the cathedral several years ago.

Volto Santo di Lucca. Within the vast interior of the cathedral is a gold clad “temple”. The contents of this temple were what brought thousands of religious pilgrims as they made their way along the Via Francigena, the main pilgrim route between Canterbury and Rome.

Duomo of San Martino, Lucca

Nicodemus, who helped bring Christ’s body from the cross and tomb, wanted to carve a likeness of Christ while it was still fresh in his mind. He began working on a large piece of Lebanon Cedar, but fell asleep when he prepared to carve the face. As he slept, an angel came and completed the carving for him.  The wooden carving made its way by boat from the Middle East, eventually arriving on the shore of the Mediterranean near Pisa. From thence, it was brought initially to the Church of San Frediano, and then to its current location in the Duomo.

In the 15th Century, Matteo Civitali designed and had built the chapel in which the Volto Santo today rests. Civitali, a well-known Renaissance architect built the structure from Carrara marble and specially forged, gold covered, iron.

On September 13th each year, the entire walled city is lit only by candles as a procession honors the Volto Santo. The sculpture, heavily adorned with priceless jewels, was carried through the city. To protect the aging wood, the sculpture now remains in the chapel. The jeweled decoration remains throughout the period of the festival.

This is truly an astounding piece of art and further underscores the religious importance of Lucca.

There are many more churches to visit in Lucca. For a complete list, see

Churches of Lucca

The Walls of Lucca

Walls of Lucca

There have been three main walls constructed to protect the city of Lucca. The first, during the Roman era, the second in the early Middle Ages and the final – the ones we see today – were completed in 1644. Though designed to protect the city from armies, the structures were never bombarded or scaled.

Today, the wide promenade atop the walls affords visitors and locals alike to stroll in the shade of countless Chestnut trees while taking in views of both the private gardens of villas and palazzi inside the walls as well as the city and hills outside the fortifications.

There are seven gates into the city: Porta dei Santi Gervasio e Protasio, Porta dei Borghi, Porta San Pietro, Porta Santa Maria, and Porta San Donato, Porta Vittorio Emanuele and Porta San Jacopo. If you arrive in Lucca by train, the Porta Santa Maria will be the gate you most likely will use to enter the city.

Piazza Amfiteatro

In the course of Rome’s demise, the amphitheater that once accommodated 10,000 spectators fell into disrepair. The marble façade was taken

Piazza Amfiteatro, Lucca

down, its slabs of marble used for the construction of churches and other buildings in the city. Homes were built around the now empty oval space. What remains today is truly the most unique ‘square’ (piazza) in Italy, the Piazza Amfiteatro.

The area, once notorious for prostitutes and crime, was cleaned up and became the location of the Lucca farmer’s markets. That activity was moved out the city after World War II and the piazza now offers lovely cafes and shops.  It is a wonderful place to just sit, enjoy a pizza and glass of wine for lunch and people watch.

Torre Guinigi View, Lucca

Torre Guinigi (Guinigi Tower)

As the wealth and prestige of the Guinigi family grew, they built a number of city villas along the Via Sant’Andrea and the Via Guinigi. During the latter part of the 13th Century, they built a high tower to represent their status in the town. Typical to that era in Italy, towers were being built for churches and by private families as symbols of economic and political power.

Holm Oaks, symbols of rebirth, were planted at the very top of the tower and remain to this day. The climb is well worth the effort and the view is unforgettable.

The town of Lucca now owns the tower and you can visit. See “If You Go” for details about open times and entrance fees.

At Long Last, Puccini!

Puccini, Statue with Family Home
(Left Background)

A visit to Lucca would be incomplete without paying homage to the city’s most famous ‘son’, Giacomo Puccini. He was born in 1858 into a famous musical family. His famly home, in the center of Lucca, has  recently reopened after a lengthy and complicated restoration.While Domenico Puccini, his grandfather, was the most famous of the family’s musicians, it was Giacomo enormous talent (and ego!) that Italian’s love.

Creator of such favoirte operas as La Boheme, Madama Butterfly, La Fanciulla del West and Turandot, Puccini’s fame brought him great wealth during his lifetime. In 1891, to find some quiet away from the city and his demanding schedule, he built a lovely home at Torre del Lago, about fifteen miles from Lucca and closer to the sea. From 1900 – 1921 he lived there with his family. He died in 1924 and is buried in a chapel at Torre del Lago.

Even if you are not interested in Opera, a visit to Pucini’s home – and the bronze statue of him that sits in front of his home – is a rewarding and informative experience.  See “If You Go” below for further details about the Puccini home in Lucca and visits to Torre del Lago.

A Stroll Through Lucca

There are many afternoons when, while the shops of the city center are closed for a long lunch, I have walked the shadowed lanes of the city. While church facades and famous family towers loom overhead, the ancient cobbled streets harken to a peaceful past, of successful merchants and of political stability.

Whether in the spring of each year, when Camellia blossoms burst from gardens in the area or in the fall when a golden shower of leaves accompany an evening stroll around the top of the tree-lined city walls, the ‘feel’ of Lucca is one of ease. Unlike Florence, Rome and the numerous other large cities of Italy, Lucca affords visitors both peace and time; gifts indeed from a city built on the premise of liberty and wealth.

IF YOU GO:

Lucca is easily reached directly off of the A12 Autostrada between Florence and Pisa. If you are visiting Florence, and do not have use of a car, trains run nearly every hour from both Pisa’s and Florence’s train stations. Round trip fare in second class averages Euro 10.40 per person.

Information and schedules can be found at: www.trenitalia.it

From the train station, exit the main doors, and turn LEFT when you arrive at the main circuit road that surrounds the city walls. You can cross the street at a traffic light at the Porta San Pietro (Gate of Saint Peter), the first large city gate you will see within the city wall.

Once inside the city gate, veer to your left along the street and turn right at the second street – the Via Vittorio Veneto.  This street will bring you into the Piazza Napoleone and the Palazzo Ducale. From there, you can easily navigate the city.

Guided Tours of Lucca and surrounding country villas and estates

Wanda Martinelli is the best guide in the region. She can be reached directly through her web site,

Lucca Tours

Whether you seek an escorted walking tour of Lucca, or a full day or more exploring the city and countryside, Wanda and her team offer the finest services available. I cannot recommend them highly enough!

Church Entry times:

San Michele in Foro

Summer (May – end of October):  9:00-12:00/15:00-18:00
Winter (November – end of April):  9:00-12:00/15:00-17:00

Tel: +39 0583 419689

Basilica of San Frediano

Summer (May – end of October):  9:00-12:00/15:00-17:00
Winter (November – end of April):  9:00-12.00/15:00:18:00

Tel: +39 0583493627

Duomo of San Martino

Summer (May – end of October):  8:30-18:00
Winter (November – end of April):  9:00-12:00/15:00-17:00

Tel: +39.0583.494.726

Torre Guinigi

Web Site: Torre Guinigi

Entrance tickets: Euro 3.50 per person

Opening hours:
March: 9:00-19:00
April-May: 9:00-21:00
June-September: 9:00-24:00
16 September-31 October: 9:00-21:00
November-February: 9:30-18:00

Tel: +39.0583.316.846

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Hillside near Lucca

Wealth, born of the silk trade between merchants in Lucca and the Far East, provided the means for a fortunate few families to build spectacular country estates in the foothills of the Apennine Mountains. Lucca is a city famous for its incredible wide wall, the understated elegance of its palazzi, city villas and churches.

The city was founded by Roman settlers in the first century B.C. From that time onward, the town grew in importance.  In a future post, I will provide more detailed information about the city, its history and culture.

I first met Wanda Martinelli, now a dear friend and guide from Lucca, during a visit with another friend from Florence. She is a true Lucchese, born and raised in the area of these lovely villas. She is a passionate and appropriately proud guide whose level of knowledge about the city and the country villas near Lucca is unmatched. Wanda is available for private tours of both the city of Lucca as well as any of the country estates in the area.

See “If You Go” below for information about how to contact Wanda directly.

Head to the countryside

When you leave the walled city, through one six gates, you can easily visit any number of incredibly beautiful, well maintained, villa estates. There is an exquisite balance of nature and architectural beauty in the villas near Lucca.

The area has been enormously popular with European tourists and property seekers for decades. It has only been in the last thirty years that Americans began to ‘discover’ a lovely city, its country homes and gardens.

My post includes my four favorite country villas, though there are many more.

Villa Oliva, Facade

Villa Oliva:

Of the four villas included in this article, Villa Oliva presents the smallest scale in terms of the home. It was commissioned by the Buonvisi family toward the end of the 15th Century based on a design by Matteo Civitali. Civitali, who studied at the Accademia in Florence, also designed numerous other properties across Tuscany.  Civitali included the use of a loggia, an arch supported covered porch, on the northern facing (private) wall of the villa.

The grounds of Villa Oliva, referred to as ‘the park’, were created to make use of abundant water supplies from nearby mountain aquifers. To underscore the use of water in the garden the “Fontana della Sirena,” which clings to a high wall on the northern edge of the garden, was built.

As was true of many villas in this area of Italy, the villa was damaged during World War II. The restorations have been completed so that you would never know that such was the case.

Villa Grabau

Villa Grabau, Facade

The origins of the Villa Grabau are unique among the country villas near Lucca. Evidence indicates that, unlike other villas, this property was built on the foundations of an early 15th Century building. At the start of the 16th Century, the property came into the hands of the Diodati family from Lucca. The family’s enormous fortune, built on the design and sale of silk cloth, provided the family with ample resources for a country home.

The Cittadella family purchased the villa from the Diodati in the latter part of the 16th Century. It remained in their hands until the latter part of the 19th Century when a family from Hamburg, the Grabau’s, purchased it. That family still own and manage the property.

The 18th Century Limonaia is famous for both its architectural style as well as its size. (Photo below)

This is an extraordinarily beautiful home and well worth a leisurely visit.

Villa Reale di Marlia

In 1805, when Napoleon’s sister, Elisa Baciocchi became sovereign over Lucca, she began a project to combine a number of smaller properties into one large estate. Not surprising as she had large blocks of central Lucca destroyed so that she would have ‘a view’ from her enormous home in the center of the city.

Villa Orsetti and other smaller estates were combined to create the Villa Reale di Marlia.

Several of the Orsetti property’s unique garden highlights, the open air theater and grotto to name just two, were retained in Baciocchi’s design.

Villa Reale di Marlia View

The villa’s history reflects that of its owners.

After Italy was united under King Vittorio Emmanuele II, the property was given to the brother of the last king of the Two Sicilies, Prince Charles of Capua. He and his wife died at the villa and are buried on the grounds.

Financial troubles followed their death, generated by the reckless behavior of the prince’s son. Trees on the property were sold for timber, the villa sold.  It was only due to the care of the current owners, and their heirs, that the park has been saved and restored.

Jacques Greber, a well-known French architect, was commissioned to complete the restoration of the grounds. The property is still privately held and is often the location of major events in support of the arts and music of Italy.

Villa Torrigiani

This is, by far, my favorite of all the villas near Lucca. When spring Camellias bloom or the colors of fall blaze in the hills above Lucca, my thoughts most often return to this villa. This was the first villa I ever visited with Wanda Martinelli and the impressions both she and the property made on me have never receded. Sabrina, who has for years guided small groups through the villa, adds a unique and passionate perspective to a place she clearly loves.

Villa Torrigiani Facade

The villa dates back to the Buonvisi family, from Lucca, in 1593.  The property was purchased by another wealthy family, the Santini. Santini became the ambassador to the Republic of Lucca from the Court of France. In deference to the Palace of Versailles, he rebuilt the façade and added two wings to the villa.

One of the things that differentiates this villa from all of the others in the area is the ornate and very Baroque façade and statues. He had the original front gardens replaced by a simple parterre with pools and he added a large pool to the grounds on the opposite side of the villa.

In 1816 Victoria Santini, granddaughter of the original owners, married into a wealthy and famous Italian family – the Torrigiani. That family still owns and maintains the property.

A gorgeous Limonaia, ‘Secret Garden’ designed by the Santini family in the mid -17th Century, ponds and lovely shaded garden walk await visitors. One of the uses of water in the grotto of the ‘Secret Garden’ are the use of “giochi d’acqua” or water games that were designed to entertain renaissance guests. Inside the villa, mementoes of a family’s long history are evident from photos of the recent marriage of the present prince to the wedding dress of his grandmother.

I have spent many pleasant moments talking with the owners over the years. Their love for, and care of, the villa and grounds is evident in every way.

If you have time to visit Lucca, be sure to add a day to explore the villas in the nearby hills above the city. The gracious beauty and style of the villas and gardens provide another surprising perspective on a stunning area of Tuscany.

IF YOU GO:

Note: You can reach Lucca by train from Florence in about an hour and ten minutes or from Pisa in about twenty minutes. You can walk into the walled city of Lucca very easily from the train station. However, visits to the country villas, if you do not have a car, should be prearranged with a private car service. Train schedules and details can be found on the Trenitalia web site.

Italian Rail System

For private car and driver services in Lucca, contact:

Lucca Limo

If you wish to enjoy the professional guide services of Wanda Martinelli while in Lucca, or while visiting the many country estates in the area, you can contact Wanda directly through her web site at:

 Wanda Martinelli

Click on map to enlarge

Villa Oliva:

Web Site: Villa Olivia

Villa Oliva

Via di Villa Oliva

55010 San Pancrazio, Italy

Tel: +39.0583.406.462

Entrance tickets are Euro 12.00 per person.

Villa Grabau:

Web Site: Villa Grabau

Villa Grabau Limonaia

Villa Grabau

Via di Matraia 269
55010 S.Pancrazio, Lucca, IT

Tel:  +39.0583.406.098

The opening hours and days vary according to seasons:

April 1 – June 30

10:00AM to 1:00PM and 2:00PM until 6:00PM

July 1 – August 31

10:00AM to 1:00PM and (note the long early afternoon closure) 3:00PM until 7:00PM

September 1 – November 1

10:00AM to 1:00PM and 2:00PM until 6:00PM

November 2 – March 31 (SUNDAY ONLY)

11:00AM to 1:00PM and 2:30PM until 5:30PM

Entrance tickets: Euro 15.00 per person

Villa Reale di Marlia:

Web Site:  Villa Reale di Marlia

Click on map to enlarge

Villa Reale di Marlia

Via Fraga Alta, 2

55014, Marlia, Lucca, IT

Tel: +39.0583.301.08

Visiting Hours:

1st of March to the 30th of November
Mornings from 10:00AM until 1:00PM and from 2:00PM until 6:00PM
Closed on Mondays, with the exception of holidays that fall on a Monday. Double check directly with the villa if you have any questions
All visits are scheduled and are led by a guide
In winter, guided visits are available only by pre-arranged appointment
Timetable of guided visits are on the hour from 10:00 until 12:00PM and again from 3:00PM until 6:00PM

Entrance tickets are Euro 7.00 per person

Villa Torrigiani:

Web Site: Villa Torrigiani

Villa Torrigiani

Via del Gomberaio, 3

55010 Camigliano, Santa Gemma, IT

Tel: +.39.0583.928.041

Visiting Hours:

March 5 – November 5

10:00AM to 1:00PM and 3:00PM to 7:00PM

NOTE:

Between February 1 and March 4 as well as 16 November and 7 January, the villa is only open to groups in excess of 10 people and by prearranged reservation only.

Entrance Tickets: Euro 10.00 per person

 

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My introduction to the Villa Garzoni and its gardens was during my childhood.  Our family lived in Tirrenia, a seaside village about midway between Pisa and the port city of Livorno. Those early impressions have been solidified over many years of subsequent visits to the village and the park named for its most famous son, author Carlo Lorenzini. There will be more on his impact on this tiny town later in this post.

Where, exactly, is Collodi?

Villa Garzoni and Collodi

Between Florence and Lucca, along the foothills of the Apennine mountains, is the city of Pescia. A bit north and west of that city, strung along a small ridge, is the village. The village’s main walkway is far too steep for cars or even the infamous “Vapi”, that noisy impossibly small three wheeled transport used by so many Italians. To walk along the cobbled steps and street through town is to encounter an increasingly rare Tuscany. It is a place, above the roads that approach the old city gate, that harkens to black and white photos, to grieving widows dressed in black, to less complicated eras.

In 1652, the Garzoni family began construction on a country villa. The site for this home was along a steep hillside near a 10th Century fortress. From the villa’s location, the family enjoyed a view over the valley below. The gardens were designed to complement the villa, while taking into consideration the very steep land upon which it would be built. The results of the design , completed in 1752, were gorgeous. In 1786, members of the family selected a local landscape architect, Ottavio Diodati, to design a water cascade that would run from the highest point of the garden to a grotto constructed at the point where the steep hills met the parterre.

When you enter the garden, the first impression is one of grandeur and beauty. Now known as one of only a few high Baroque gardens in Italy,

Garden View, Villa Garzoni

the centuries have proven the worth of both the Grazoni family’s and Diodati’s efforts.

Three flights of balustrade stairs lead to a Grotto. At each terrace, as visitors ascend the garden, there are long flat planting areas, almost like ribs, that splay out and away from the central axis of the garden. Yews, Eucalypti, palms and other local plants and trees provide welcome shade from the piercing Tuscan light.

At the top of the garden, and it is a steep climb, visitors arrive at a statue of Fame, Jove’s messenger. From the large sea shell that Fame holds to her mouth is a long arch of water that ends in a small pond at her feet. On the descent from this high point, visitors can walk to the Villa for a tour, descend through the lush Bamboo forest and return to the entrance gate of the property.

Pinocchio Park

Less than a five minute walk from the entrance to the Villa Garzoni and gardens is the entrance to the Pinocchio Park.

Parco Pinnochio
Statue by Emilio Greco, 1956

The park was named after a character created by author Carlo Collodi. Born Carlo Lorenzini in Florence (1826), he became a well-known political author. In the course of his journalistic career, he began to write political allegory. After many years of work, he took his mother’s home town as his pen name (Collodi) and wrote Pinocchio. The now famous marionette was used by Lorenzini as an allegorical figure who represented the liberating metamorphosis from strict forms of his creation, wood, to the freedom of being a truly human boy.

Lorenzini died in Florence in 1890, a mere seven years after Pinocchio was published. He did not live long enough to enjoy the spectacular success that his book created. Now translated in over 100 languages, it is one of the world’s best-selling books of all time.

You can read the entire book, on line, or download an e-book copy at this site. Special thanks to the Guttenberg project and the phenomenal work they do.

Adventures of Pinnochio by Carlo Collodi

The “Parco Pinocchio” was opened in 1956, the result of country-wide artistic collaboration. Artists from across Italy participated in the creation of sculptures and mosaics that appeal to child and adult alike. Scenes from Carlo’s fable are represented within the small confines of the park. A visit gives you the unique opportunity to enjoy yet another treasured corner of Tuscany.

It has been decades since my first visit to this tiny, magical, place. Every time I am in Tuscany, I return. Take time to enjoy this extraordinary and little-known village perched on a hill between Florence and Lucca.

IF YOU GO:

If you do not have the use of a car, you can take an inexpensive regional train from Florence’s Santa Maria Novella station and, for Euro 10.40 per person, arrive in Pescia.Trains between Florence and Pisa leave nearly every hour between 6:00AM and 10:ooPM. The trip to Pescia takes about one hour.

Schedules and more information about train schedules can be found at: www.trenitalia.it

From the Pescia train station you can take either a local bus (VaiBus) or taxi. Their complete schedules for the Pistoia region, which includes both Pescia and Collodi, can be found at: VaiBus

Taxi fare between the Pescia station and the town of Collodi averages Euro 30 per taxi (not per person!)

Entrance tickets:

You have a choice of purchasing three different tickets, depending on your interests:

Pinocchio Park, Euro 11.00

Garzoni Gardens and Butterfly House, Euro 13.00

Pinocchio Park, Garzoni Gardens and Butterfly House, Euro 20.00

Official Web site of the Villa and Gardens

Villa Garzoni and Gardens

Official Web site of the Parco Pinocchio (Pinocchio Park)

Parco Pinocchio

Information for the Park.

Tel: Parco di Pinocchio TeL: +39.0572.429.342

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