Day 2 of Our Lucca Tour
Our second day (Day 1 Tour) will start where we left off on day one, Porta S. Donato. Turn left at the gate and find the via S. Paolino. Turn and take the street to the west. It ends at the walls on the east so it should not be difficult to determine the correct way. In several blocks, the via S. Paolino is intersected by the Piazza Cittadella Turn left (north) and walk one block to the birthplace of the famous composer Puccini with its museum.
Neither my wife or I am interested in opera so we skipped this site. After your visit to the museum turn left (west) on via di Poggio. In one block you will enter the large Piazza San Michele with the Chiesa San Michele in Foro. This church is dedicated to the archangel Michael.
The huge church dominates the piazza. The facade is decorated by sculptures, topped by a winged Saint Michael. As with many churches in Lucca, San Michele is open for visiting. However, before we explore it we can look at a few sites on the piazza.
As you face the church on the street leading from the Puccini museum, walk left to the north side of the piazza. If you look down the side of San Michele you will see an arch or bridge between the church and the building on the other side of the street. Turn around and face the building at your back.
Currently, it is a bank building. However, one of the most famous Italian food companies, Bertolli, (and here)was founded in the building. Originally a shipping company, Bertolli became famous as a world leader in selling olive oil. Currently part of the Unilever conglomerate, it still is a seller of oil and other Italian food items across the globe.
Turn left and walk down the street to the southwest corner of the piazza. Here is the first loggia in Lucca. A loggia is a covered area attached to rich merchants houses. Here they could formally greet their guest out of the hot sun or rain. They could also hold parties in their loggia.
If you want you can explore the piazza looking at the church from different angles. When you’re done return to the facade and enter the church. There is a charge to visit, but as with many of the older huge churches, it is well worth the price of admission. the original church at this location was built in 785CE, the church you see today dates from the 11th century,
While we felt St Michele’s was not as ornate(gaudy) as other churches we visited in Lucca, the interior was still magnificent. With it’s setting in the piazza, this is may be the prettiest church we saw in Lucca. After viewing the interior, circling the piazza and maybe buying a gelato, it is time to move on with our tour.
On the east side of the piazza turn left (north and walk north a few blocks. Along the way check out the shops, building, and people of Lucca. When you get to via Buia, turn right (east) You will walk several blocks when at the intersection with via Filluingi the street changes names to via Sant’ Andrea. Continue several more blocks. When via Sant’ Andrea intersects via delle Chavi Oro, the Torre Guinigi is on the northeast corner.
The Torre Guinigi, one of the most famous towers in Lucca. During the height of the tower houses, many of the towers had gardens located on the top. Torre Guinigi had(has) an oak tree grove. If you are willing to climb up (and then back down) the steps to reach the top you will be rewarded with a stunning view of Lucca. You can purchase a combination ticket for both this tower and the Torre delle Ore and get twice the views or twice the exercise..
After your climb continues on via Sant’ Andera less than a block to via Gunigi. Turn left (north) and walk until the street ends in a “Tee” with via Antonio Mordini. Turn right. Shortly the street will bend left (north), continue to the first street on your right, via delle Fratta. Follow this street to the Piazza San Francisco. Just before you enter the piazza will be the statue on top of a column, Madona dello Stellario.
At the far end of the piazza is Chiesa di San Francisco, another old, historic church. By this time we were tired of visiting churches and gave it a pass. As you walk by the south side of the church the will has some unusual projecting stones. We were told that was for the addition of marble cladding that was never installed. Less than a block pas the church is the entrance to the Museo Nazionale di Villa Guinigi, the National Museum dedicated to the archaeology of the Lucca area.
The museum is housed in a historic villa. On the day we visited there were only a few other visitors. I’m conflicted about the museum. While I understand the importance of the collection and there were several interesting pieces, all of the interpretive information was in Italian. Depending on your time and interest this might be a site you skip.
The walls of Lucca are a short walk past the Villa and we will end today’s tour here. However a word about what you walked past while wandering around Lucca. There are many, many historical sites, artwork and museums you could visit. As with the Villa Guinigi, it is a matter of time and interest. For example, on the way to Piazza San Francisco, we passed by the museum of contemporary art. There are other museums that might catch your eye. there are also shops and eateries all around. if you have the time, slow down and take a look, it might be exactly what you want to see.