A hidden treasure to be disclosed in Lucca

Why Lucca?  The main reason that makes Lucca stand out is the extraordinary slow pace of life, far from the madding crowd. It is one of the most compelling towns in Tuscany,  which has kept all its charm intact , still authentic because its town walls have accurately and tenderly looked after its past, taking care of its heart, the so-called “ Cerchio arborato”.  I dare anyone not to love it. Spend a short vacation here, profiting of the many accommodations in Lucca offered by Tuscany Holiday Rent

Get inside the walls,  arrive in the center,  grab a map and walk along its streets,  keeping your eyes upwards  in order to welcome the aristocratic palaces or its breathtaking  churches.  You will feel the vibrant  presence of its history which has survived since the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, so close, in a way,  to the nearby Florence.  Its past richness,  heaped by  bankers and rich merchants,  is still witnessed by  the apparently severe palaces, ready  to unexpectedly disclose  an inside gorgeous world.  Imagine the lifestyle beyond the entrance gates.

Just an example: Palazzo Mansi.  Get inside and you immediately  perceive a wider perspective.  A good  example of  “Domus Lucchese”,  this  luxurious palace takes its name from the family which  lived inside up to 1957,  The Mansis,  rich merchants who used to  trade silk with North Europe. Purchased by the state and opened after an accurate restoration to the public, the building is,  now,  the seat  of  the Pinacoteca  Nazionale,  rich in collections of both the Mansis and  the Medicis.  Originally the palace, dating back to the 15th century, was bought  in the 17th century by Raffaello Mansi,  who commisioned its renovation from a Florentine architect Mazzanti, well known by the Medicis as well.

He had a greatly impressive music built, still nowadays equipped with a carved wood orchestra stage. An artist from Bologna, Dal Sole,  frescoed its walls with mythological subjects, while Marcantonio Chiarini completed the ceiling with painted architectural  elements.  A series of 4 gorgeous ”Camere di Parata” that is, formal chambers follow with frescoed allegorical scenes,  representing the four elements,  Earth,  Air,  Water and Fire,  one for each room. Their walls are enriched by 17th century Flemish tapestries,  historical witness of the owners’  trade with Northern Europe. They  represent the stories of the Roman Emperor Aurelianus and the queen of Palmyra. This sequence of rooms are  linked together  by “ dezze”  that are cloth panels replacing  doors. They are works  by local craftmen on the pattern of the Bruxelles  tapestries, on the drawings of  Ruben’s workshop. The end of such a succession is the stunning Alcove room,  a baroque masterwork,  introduced by a  carved -guilded  arch called “serliana”.  Its ceiling fresco  is impressive, it represents Cupid and Psyche, which,  as  mythological  love allegories,  overlook the gorgeously sumptuous bed with silk embroideries. A really regal bedroom,  able to challenge Versailles and similar prestigious sites. On  the first floor west wing of the palace the visitor can admire the private apartments of the family,  rich in 17th and 18th furniture and the only surviving paintings of the Mansis’ collection.

Still on the first floor,  the Picture gallery houses the paintings offered to Lucca by Pietro Leopoldo II of Lorrain,  after the annexation of the town to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, including  Italian and Flemish paintings from the 16th to the 18th century among which Pontormo,  Bronzino,  Beccafumi,  Veronese,  Tintoretto,  Salvatore Rosa e Luca Giordano. On the second floor, the Princes’Hall and the Savoy Room can be a pictorial walk into the history of the town,  from 1805,  the year when Elisa Baciocchi was appointed princess of Lucca and Piombino  up to the first kings of Italy.

The palace is also tied to ghosts stories, so  often dear to popular imagination.

The most famous one deals with Lucida Mansi,  a very attractive libertine,  we would  today call sex addicted. She used to kill her several lovers after passionate meetings.  A turned upside-down gender  myth of Bluebeard.  When Lucida’s beauty  starts fading away she promptly makes an agreement  with the devil for 30 years’s prolonged charm,  in exchanged of her soul.  At the fixed deadline she tried unsuccessfully to hide away but the inexorable deal urged the devil to drive, in a fire coach, the lady off to the hell whose gates are placed, according to popular imagination in  the lake of  Lucca Botanical Garden.  Many folk tales enrich this ghost story with amusing details:  the sleeping face of Lucida can sometimes be seen on the surface of the lake or, more dramatically, on full moon nights  the darting coach,  heading to hell,   can be glimpsed, accompanied on Lucca Walls. Why not stroll there, trying to catch, with your imagination, the image of this beautiful  seventeenth century lady?

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