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Posts Tagged ‘Wanda Martinelli’

L’isola Que Non C’era

Not many months ago, I had the opportunity to enjoy lunch at a new restaurant, L’Isola Che Non C’era. Located in the heart of Lucca, it is just steps off of the most famous street in the city, Via Filungo.

I have returned many times since!

For over fifty-three years, Roberto Isola and his wife Lory owned and operated a very successful delicatessen in Lucca.

Riccardo, their son, now managers this  lovely two level restaurant on the Via degli Angeli.

During a recent visit I went for lunch with a dear friend, Wanda Martinelli – who also happens to be the best guide in Lucca and the surrounding hills!

Roberto and Lory

Roberto greeted us with a great smile and easy manner. He gave us a brief tour of the restaurant. Downstairs offers ten tables inside as well as a few tables, weather permitting, on the front terrace. The deli counter displays tavola calda specialties along with shelves packed full of exceptional products; Olive Oil, Pasta and a selection of local Lucca region wines. Upstairs are a large, brightly lit, dining room and kitchen.

While not fancy, this is a very good trattoria in the city.

Lunch was a selection of cold cut meats and antipasti, the perfect light fare for a warm summer’s day in the city. The food was exceptional and the price for two of us was very reasonable.

 

Lory and Riccardo

Their full menu offers various pastas(all fatta in casa, home made), lasagna, eggplant parmesan, salt cod with leeks, roast beef, roast potatoes, farro salad and seafood salad, to name but a few of their exceptional dishes. Dinner menu items range from Euro 10.00 up to Euro 22.00.

When you are in Lucca, be sure to stroll down the cool and inviting Via degli Angeli for a flavorful meal at L’isola Che Non C’era!

 

The “Deli” showcase – Makes you salivate!

Photography Credits: Foto Fiorenzo Sernacchioli, Lucca

IF YOU GO:

L’Isola Che Non C’era

Via degli Angeli, 7LuccaItalia

Tel: +39.0583.49.26.33

Hours: Monday – Saturday 102:00 Noon to 22:00 (10:00PM)

Sunday – Closed

 

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So…you are staying in Lucca, have arrived in the city by train, or you have parked at the train station. Would you like to enjoy a unique break just outside the city walls-perhaps some exceptional pastries and fabulous coffee?

 

I recommend the perfect place: The LuccaLibri Coffee house and Bookshop.

Located less than a two minute walk from the train station piazza in Lucca (Piazzale Bettino Ricasoli) and only five minutes from the southern-most city gate of Lucca, Porta San Pietro, this place offers it all: great coffee, exceptional baked goods and a clean, safe environment in which to relax.

Wanda Martinelli, a dear friend and guide, introduced me to this special place in the spring of 2015. Every time since, when I visit Lucca with our small group tours or on my own, I stop in for a welcomed break. I have worked with Wanda for over fifteen years and she is, without question, the best guide in the area!

Next time you are in Lucca, regardless of circumstance, please give this wonderful place your business. You will not be disappointed!

Details:

LuccaLibri

Vialle Regina Margherita, 113

55100 Lucca

Tel: +39.0583.46.96.27

Hours: 06:00AM – 20:30PM (8:30PM) DAILY

Directions:

From the train station, walk across the graveled piazza in front of the station. Turn LEFT on the sidewalk along the main ‘ring road’. LuccaLibri is on your left about 100 meters from the station piazza.

If you park at the train station in Lucca, exit the parking area toward, and across, the piazza, and you will find LuccaLibri on your left about 100 meters from the station piazza.

If you are inside the city walls, you can exit the Porta San Pietro, walk to your left to the pedestrian walkway at the traffic light and cross the main road. Turn LEFT and walk about 200 meters to LuccaLibri.

FB Page – LuccaLibri

The baked goods case and coffee prep area, on the right

Reading room at the Cafe

View from the cafe on a beautiful spring day

 

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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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