Dwight Peck's personal website

Two weeks in Piemonte and Tuscany

in northwest Italy's worst weather in yonks

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

Lucca 3: the city walls, the pinacoteca

The Passeggiata delle Mura

We've been in Lucca for two days already, and we still haven't done the famous Passeggiata delle Mura, 4km of Renaissance city walls all kitted out these days for walkers and cyclists. This is the Porta Santa Maria, the city gate along the northern walls, nearly adjacent to our flat.

A case could be made that this isn't the best day for a walk around the city walls or anywhere, but as tourists we like to stick to our plan for the day.

So we're starting our Wall Walk at the Piazza Santa Maria, and passing the San Frediano belltower as we continue anti-clockwise to the west.

The gardens of the 17th century Palazzo Pfanner, from the city ramparts

The city walls in the rain. These broad ramparts, a very rare set of complete fortifications around an entire city, were gentrified as a kind of public park in the 19th century -- they were built over the 16th and early 17th centuries (beginning in 1513), presumably (as elsewhere) in order to adapt to the post-medieval military realities of powerful cannons and to include new neighborhoods that had grown up outside the older walls.

There's still ample room for debate about whether this is the best day for a Wall Walk.

The innards of one of the eleven protruding artillery bastions. Whole suburbs of the then-city and two churchs had to be demolished to provide space for the walls and a free field of fire outside them, but any small city just down the road from Florence would have leapt to make the same sacrifice at the time.

One of the bastions, probably the Baluardo Santa Croce; the artillery platforms could cover both the incoming hostiles and any who'd got up to the curtain walls between this and the next bastion along the line.

A city view from the northwestern walls

A decorative lion, probably symbolic of something or somebody. We're required by our tourist traditions to . . .

. . . talk Kristin into sticking her hand into the lion's mouth. It was a good try, but alas Kristin just couldn't get it done.

King Vittorio Emanuele II, who else, with his preposterous moustache, in front of the 19th-century Café of the Walls, as we're plodding briskly around to the southern length of walls.

The belltower of the Duomo

Another view of the same

The view from the Baluardo San Colombano over the pedestrian walkway to the main rail station on the southern side of the city


The Liberty Bastion, with trees instead of cannon

The tower Guinigi with the trees on top

No kids keen to play in the rain

A very good use of the city fortifications, with alleys of trees and room for walkers, joggers, cyclists, picnickers (on sunnier days), and for some years, racing cars.

The custodian of the photographer's umbrella

A fixer-upper. That's it for today -- a dash now to the SPAR market, for aperitif materials, before they close.

San Pietro Somaldi

The next day, 18 November, we're starting off at the late 12th century Romanesque church of San Pietro Somaldi, in the next block over from our flat.

The carving over the lintel is said to show Jesus handing over the keys to heaven (or to this church) to St Peter, dated to 1248. And there are lions, but plainly out of Kristin's reach.

A very beautiful three-aisle nave. There was a Lombard church on this spot since the 760s, but the present structure, begun in the late 12th century, was completed in the 14th with the belltower and final brickwork.

A panel of professional magicians still can't figure out how that little guy escaped from his sarcophagus, and he isn't going to explain the trick for them. (Where's the Amazing Randi when we need him?)

Looking from the altar to the front doors

The altar

'You're in a place of worship and prayer; use your common sense and Shut Up.'

A last look at San Pietro Somaldi


The Via dell'Angelo Custodio in the rain

And over to the Via Fillungo

Southward on the Via Fillungo towards the Via Roma and Via Santa Croce

The Torre Civica delle Ore, or Torre dell'Orologio, the 13th century city clocktower

The Civic Clocktower

Kristin's stepping in for breakfast, across the street from the church of San Cristoforo near the end of the Via Fillungo

The Via Roma and a lone umbrella salesman

The Piazza San Michele in Foro in a downpour

The façade with St Michael on top

The stairway, the trick to keeping St Michael and his little angels cleaned up from time to time

The Palazzo Pretorio with its statue of Matteo Civitali (1436-1502), Lucca's leading artistic presence in the late 15th century

Conveys an air of self-confidence

Speaking of statues, who's that?

Oh, it's just Giacomo Puccini (his birthplace/museum is just behind on the right). Puccini was a native son, and Lucca doesn't let you forget it. But what about the great composer Boccherini (1743-1805), who was also born here (though he spent his adult life working in Spain) -- all he gets is a music school named after him in the Piazza del Suffragio? And what about my favorite, Geminiani (1687-1762), also born here (though he spent most of his career in England) -- as far as I can see, no statues here! It's all about Mister "Madame Butterfly"!

Just ahead, the Museo Nazionale di Palazzo Mansi on the western side of town

The Palazzo Mansi museum and pinacoteca

The Palazzo Mansi, built in the late 16th century and purchased by the wealthy Mansi family of merchants in 1616, came to the state in 1965 and was made a National Museum in 1977. It houses the luxurious layout and furnishings of a very rich family, chiefly representing the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as the National Picture Gallery and some other odds and ends like an extensive historical collection of textiles and temporary exhibitions.

How to travel in style, with footmen trotting alongside, and feel like a perfect fool

The vestibule. The family's summer apartments and a separate "Weaving Workshop" are on the ground floor, with the old kitchens and storerooms; the first floor (one floor up), the piano nobile, includes the most ostentatious rooms for receiving noble guests and getting them all to dance, listen to music, gossip sarcastically, and admire the family's wealth, as well as the private apartments for daily use; the second floor, probably for the servants back in the day, now includes specialized collections like "Neoclassicism in Lucca", Italian reunification art, and 20th century art in Lucca.

Truckloads of interesting bits and bobs

Entering the pinacoteca, with its own amusing story: C. L. Bourbon, the Duke of Lucca, was a dedicated gambler and reliable loser, and in 1836 he took many of the best works accumulated in the Ducal Palace to London and sold them off to placate his creditors. When in 1847 Lucca was annexed into the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, the citizens begged the Grand Duke Leopoldo II to compensate them for this terrible loss, His politically savvy Lordship sent over 82 important paintings from the Medici collections, and here they are.

Mr Bourbon then showed up as Duke of Parma in 1847 but was ousted during the European difficulties of 1848; eventually he called himself the Count of Villafranca and lived in Saxony until his death in 1883.

Determination. "I said, Let's play!"

The 'Penitent Magdalene' (Andrea Meldolla, aka "Schiavone") doesn't look all that penitent [we collect both penitent and non-penitent Magdalenes].

Art Lovers prowling

The Mansi courtyard. In the rain.

The Mansi collection has good pieces by Bronzino, Luca Giordano of Naples, Tintoretto, and Veronese, but much of the collection comprises less well known artists and a fair number of portraits of pretty unpleasant people.

This playful Madonna and Child with lilies and cherries in the Small Chapel is by Mabuse (the Flemish Jan Gossaert), ca.1530.

Here's a very attractive bone, gift-wrapped.

In one of the festive reception rooms: 'Let the Party Begin'

Room after room overloaded with ponderous 17th century Flemish tapestries

Imagine gathering here with your buddies for a game of Scrabble or Risk under these earnest decorations.

The "conjugal chamber", or the "Alcove", from 1688, with a fresco of Cupid and Psyche, oh my.

The ceiling in one of the hallways. The Mansis spared no expense.

Now, back out in the rain.

The red dot shows our little flat near the Anfiteatro.

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 17 December 2014.

Piemonte and
Nov. 2014