Puccini, Son of Lucca…

Italy, Lucca, Tuscany

A bronze statue sits in front of his childhood home at Corte San Lorenzo, Fragments of his life are scattered throughout the province of Lucca. His music is known all around the world and he is arguably the greatest Italian composer of all time. He is Giacomo Puccini, (not to be confused with the opera singer Pavarotti!)… Famous for his late-19th century romantic Italian operas such as La Bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, Turandot and one of the most famous arias ever written, Nessun Dorma. (You might have heard it being sung at football matches.)

 

The home he grew up in has been restored in the style of the mid-nineteenth century and made into a small museum with a pretty little garden, You can walk through the rooms of the house, where there are displays of manuscripts and music scores from his operas, as wells as photos and paintings. Each room has a small description of what the room was used for (written in both Italian and English), The highlight for us was seeing the very same piano on which he composed Turandot, There is also some interesting costumes from his operas, and various other memorabilia.

His lake side home where he lived and worked on his major operas is in nearby Torre del Lago, what was once an old watch tower and his beloved home is now his final resting place and a museum. Every year during the summer months the Museo Villa Puccini holds a Puccini Opera Festival, held in the outdoor theatre overlooking the lake, Puccini fans can hear some of his famous operas performed by the very lake where he composed them.

The city of Lucca embraces him as a favourite native son, and its a wonderful joy for any opera fan and if you wish to visit the area there is the aptly named piccolo hotel Puccini just around the corner from his childhood home!

Ponte della Maddalena

Daydrips, Lucca, Travel, Tuscany

 

This beautiful medieval bridge crosses the Serchio river near the small town of Borgo a Mozzano. Known Locally as  “Ponte del Diavolo” (Devil’s Bridge) the Ponte della Maddalena “Bridge of Mary Magdalene” is just a short train/bus ride from Lucca, originally thought to be commissioned by the Countess Matilda of Tuscany somewhere between 1080 – 1100, the majestic bridge has become a symbol of the Garfagnana region and attracts many tourist to this sleepy corner of Tuscany every year.


The vital river crossing was once an important link for pilgrimages to Rome and is incredibly easy to find, there is a car park beside the bridge and regular trains an buses from Lucca.


Arriving by train brings you into the main town of Borgo a Mozzano, where its only a short walk through the quite streets until, with a glorious backdrop of the Garfagnana mountains the top of the stone bridge comes into view.

The “climb” to the highest arch brings spectacular panoramic views over the river and up towards the little houses which dot the surrounding mountains. Once across its elegant arches you will find a bilingual narrative next giving the history of the bridge, there is also a small cafe where you can enjoy an espresso and admire the stone work before heading back across to check out the delights of Borgo a Mozzzano. Being only a 25 minute train ride from Lucca this made a great day trip for us and we have since been back to the bridge a few times when in the area.

 

Tuscany’s World Heritage Sites

Italy, Italy For Dummies, Tops 5/10, Travel, Tuscany

The list is almost 1000 strong, from ancient temples and shrines to forests and mountains. Sites include world wonders such as Yellowstone national park, Ayes Rock, Taj Mahal and the Sydney Opera house! The World wide list comprises of places that must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria. Criteria includes, somewhere with special cultural or physical significance, any outstanding examples of earth’s history and creative masterpiece’s of human genius.

Italy boasts 47 UNESCO World Heritage sites which scatter the country like pepperoni on a pizza. From the natural beauty of the Dolomite’s to royal houses and religious monuments…Italy really does have it all!

Tuscany is proud owner or 6 of them, Heres the list………..


The historic centre of Florence – The symbol of the renaissances is surly the most deserving ticking 5 out of ten of the criteria boxes, Added to list in 1982 for extraordinary artistic activity and its lengthy history.

 

The historic center of Siena – The whole city of Siena is built around the Piazza del Campo, and was devised as a work of art to blends into the surrounding landscape. The committee added this little gem in 1995.

 

 

Piazza del Duomo, Pisa – The large green expanse of Piazza del Duomo was added in 1987 and is home to a group of monuments including the learning tower.

 

 

The historic center of San Gimignano – The smallest of the sites sits on a hill and is dominated by its 14 medieval towers. Added in 1990 it once served as an important relay point for pilgrims travelling to or from Rome.

 

 

Val d’Orcia – Located in central Italy this entire valley region is by far the largest in the area and was added in 2004, the rolling landscape runs through picturesque towns and has been celebrated by painters for centuries.


The historic center of Pienza – One of the small towns in the Vald’Orcia, The historic center was added in 1996 for its Renaissance town-plan which has played a significant part of the urban development in Italy and beyond.

 

How many of the sites have you ticked off?

*The full list can be seen here http://whc.unesco.org/en/criteria/

My First Fling with Florence

Florence, Travel, Tuscany

Florence is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, with an abundance of history, architecture, and galleries filled with some of the world’s most important works of art, its magnificent center attracts millions of tourists each year. I have been lucky enough to visit this beautiful city many times now but this post is taken from my notes of my very first trip.


‘As the train rolled through the mountains from Pisa for our day trip to Florence, I referred to my guide-book one last time. The city is an open air museum with so many masterpieces packed into a small area, I had planned a walking route to take us past some of the city’s most famous sites.

Our first stop was the heart of Florence the Piazza del Doumo, which is one of the most visited sites in Europe, and the reason….Santa Maria del Fiore, Brunelleschi dome structure has a beautifully detailed facade dedicated to the Mother of Christ and huge bronze doors leading into a vast Gothic interior, the bareness of the church highlights the sheer scale of the building. Made with marble from the surrounding areas and notable for its 44 stained glass windows, you can climb up into the dome to get a close up view of the fresco painted by and then onto the roof for amazing views over the city. The piazza itself is filled with street artists waiting to draw the many tourist, which just like us are out to explore the beautiful city.

 

Not having the time to make over to The Accademia Gallery we glimpsed at the copy of David which proudly stands in Piazza
della Signoria, The square is dominated by the Palazzo Vecchio and the Loggia dei Lanzi, which serves as an outdoor sculpture gallery. Stopping to enjoy a gelato whilst admiring Neptune’s fountain is a must before passing the world-renowned ques outside the Uffizi. A slow stroll took us past the street performers and artist waiting to draw sketches of every passing tourist and down to the river.

The river Arno cuts through the city and flows all the way through the Tuscan countryside to Pisa and is crossed by many bridges, the oldest of which is the Ponte Vecchio. The bridge is lined with shops built upon its edges only held up by stilts. Crossing the elegant bridge you pass goldsmiths and jewelers before finding yourselves in the Oltrano and right by the Palazzo Pitti. The enormous palace which was once the royal house of the Medici’s and a base for Napoleon now contains a museum, art collections and opens out into the spectacular Boboli Gardens.

 

As the sun became lower in the sky we made our way up the steep winding paths to Piazza Michelangelo, The square is dedicated to the great Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo and is dominated by a large replica of the artists most famous statue. The bronze David copy looks out over the mass of tourist on the balcony and onto the famous cityscape.

As we joined the many Florentine’s enjoying their vino while watching the sunset over one of the most beautiful cities in the world I couldn’t believe how lucky I was, and as the orange glow of the city grew more intense with the decreasing sunlight, I had decided Florence was amazing and knew I would return soon……’ 

 

 

© TuscanDreamsPhotography
Images in this post are owned and distributed by me.

Top 5 Italian Piazza’s

Florence, Italy, Lists, Tops 5/10, Travel Tips, Tuscany

The Italian piazza has been the center of public life for centuries, with ancient battles once being held in the very same place the locals now gather to gossip and tourists flock to take photographs.

The main squares in Italy form a crossroads, where historic streets and narrow alleyways meet. With every town and city in Italy having at least one they can range from majestic squares decorated with famous landmarks to smaller gathering spots with a simple fountain and the occasional market. Either way they embody the past and present Italian way of life and are a perfect place to relax, enjoy an espresso and people watch. 

Here’s a quick rundown of my top 5 Piazza’s in Italy……….

 

1. Piazza Michelangelo, Florence – The piazza its self might not be anything special but its the views people come here for. Sitting high up on a hill the square is dedicated to the Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo and offers fantastic panoramic views over Florence.

 

 

2. Piazza di Spagna, Rome – Hugely popular with tourist visiting the Spanish Steps, at the foot of the stairs, sits the famous Barcaccia Fountain. The glamorous streets which surround the piazza are home to prestigious boutique and luxury hotels.

 

 

3. Piazza della Signora, Florence –  The L-shaped square is an open air museum of sculptures and life, A regular meeting place of Florentine’s as well as tourists. The square is located in front of the Palazzo Vecchio and close to the Uffizi, Ponte Vecchio and Piazza del Doumo.

 

 

4. Piazza del Campo, Siena – This medieval square was once a small market but its unusual shell shape is lined with impressive buildings, the centrepiece being the town hall and its imposing tower.

 

 

 

5. Piazza Anfiteatro , Lucca – What was once a roman amphitheatre is now the stage for modern life in Lucca. The piazza has retained is unique oval shape and is now is encased with private homes above little shops, cafe’s and bars. Entering the Piazza you walk through the original Roman arches and columns which are embedded into the facade.

 

 

I know….I know..St Marks Square…. Piazza di Trevi… there are so many I have missed off the list……..

Which Italian Piazza do you think I’ve missed out and what would you add to the list?

Tuscany Explained……

Italy, Travel, Tuscany

Tempting us with the tastes of their simple culinary cuisine, mouth watering wines and Tuscan truffles. Then offering up beautiful beaches, lush green countryside and historic citys filled with art. Its no wonder this region is attracting millions of tourists each year.

Located on the west coast of Italy just above the knee, Tuscany (Toscana) has a rich history which dates back before the Romans and some of the Italy’s most iconic buildings. The regions capital, Florence is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, and full of stunning monuments, detailed churches and glorious museums filled with world famous art.

Northern Tuscany is where hikers and the mountains climb up into Lunigiana and Garfagnana region. The mountainous area north of Lucca, is famous for its stunning natural beauty and porcini mushrooms. The Apuan Alps are well known for the marble that Michelangelo used for his masterpieces. The cities of Massa and Carra form the backdrop to a line of blue flag beaches running down the Versilia coast. Further inland the river Arno Runs under the famous bridges of Florence, through Empolli and Pisa before flowing into the Tyrrhenian sea.

Central Tuscany reaches down from Florence to Siena, This area is is covered with gentle hills, fields of vineyards and olive groves, small stone villages and the famous wines of the Chianti regian. Between Chianti and the hills of Umbria are the truly enchanting hilltop towns of Cortona, Montepulciano, Chianciano Terme and Chiusi.

The Golden wheat fields and avenues of cypresses join the isolated towns in Southern Tuscany, The less crowded area of the Val d’Orcia is he most photographed part of Tuscany. Taking its name from the river which runs through the region, the winding roads run through the landscape to and meet up with the unspoilt coast line of the Maremma Regian. South of the the industrial city of Livorno, Off the coast is the Island of Elba.

Which part of Tuscany is your favourite or which area are you planning to visit?