We left Cinque Terre and again we traveled by train. We were lucky that Trainitalia was not on strike anymore as it had been the previous day. We had booked a B & B to spend 3 nights in Lucca.
The first afternoon, we went to explore the fortified city surrounded by well-preserved ramparts. The 2.5 miles path is ideal for an overview of the city by foot ( or bike). Lucca’s wall effectively keeps out both traffic and it seems the stress of modern world. Locals are very protective of their wall, which they enjoy like a community garden. This city is simply a uniquely human and undamaged, never-bombed city. Romanesque churches seem to be around every corner as do fun-loving and shady piazzas.
We bought the combo ticket that allowed us to see the Museum of the Cathedral, the Cathedral, the campanile (bell tower) and also see San Giovanni Church.
The construction of San Martino Cathedral started in the 11th century. It is a mix of architectural and artistic styles. Its elaborate Pisan-Romanesque façade- featuring Christian teaching scenes, animals, and candy-cane-stripped columns- dominate the piazza. The façade’s central figure is St.Martin. This façade is asymmetrical. The inside was beautiful.
After visiting the Cathedral, we went up the bell tower. I asked the young man how many steps we had to climb. The answer was 217. The view on the city was good. Mountains, red roofs, clock tower, Guinigi Tower with its garden on top (to the right on the photo below).
In its heyday, Lucca packed 160 towers-one on nearly every corner- and 70 churches within its wall. No wonder I am always amazed to see so many churches when I travel to Europe. Each tower was the home of a wealthy merchant family.
In San Giovanni Church is where there is concert with Puccini music every night. He was born in Lucca. We climbed the bell tower of that church. From above, we could see the Cathedral, the bell tower of the Cathedral and the piazza San Martino.
Lots of bicycles in Lucca. Many are leaning on a wall waiting for a ride. On nice days (even in the rain) people ride their bikes. It is a great city to walk and enjoy the architecture.
Pisa’s bell tower is nearly 200 feet tall and 55 feet wide. The first stones were laid in 1173. It started to lean almost immediately after construction began. The heavy Tower-resting on a very shallow 13-foot foundation- was obviously sinking on the south side into the marshy, multilayered unstable soil. The tower was built over two centuries by at least three different architects. In 1990, the Tower was closed for repairs and $30 million (US) was spent trying to stabilize it. It was reopened to the public in December 2001. Every 30 minutes, 30 people can go up the 294 tilting stairs to the top. We did not go up.
We visiting the Cathedral. The 320 foot-nave was the longest in Christendom when it was built. The stripped marble and arches-on-columns give it an exotic, almost mosque–like feel. There was so much to admire again. The large paintings, the 15 foot tall octagonal pulpit sculpted by Giovanni Pisano, the dome, the stain glass, the ceiling, the floor .
Then, we walked away for Campo dei Miracoli to have a feel of the city. It was interesting as not many people go to other areas of the town. More than 45,000 students keep this city alive. The weather was excellent. It was a good day to explore. We found a good gelateria. We indulged (again)!
Back in Lucca for the rest of the day and one night before going to Florence by train.
It will be the story of my next post.