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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Florence - Day 7

ticket to lucca

It wasn't until the actual alarm went off at 6.45am that I realised that what woke me at 5.50am was a text message from 3 Italy welcoming me to Italy! No wonder I felt so tired and the sight of the moon shining in through the sky light confused me.

I headed off to the station well and truly early enough to catch my train. I bought both tickets to Lucca and even one part of my ticket to Modena for Friday. I'm not quite sure how long I'll be and because I have to catch Eurostar I can't really make it an open ticket because of the seat booking. Anyway, I'll work it out on the day.

As the train pulls into Prato Centrale I can see a few interesting buildings in the distance - I'm going to have to check them out and see what they are.

Between Prato and Pistoia it's basically tree farms and then onto Montacatini - on one side of the train you'd think you're in Broadmeadows but the other side leaves you in no doubt, you can't be anywhere else but Italy.

The station at Lucca is quite lovely and once you leave the building you're confronted with the walls of Lucca standing just beyond the main road. Luckily, cars seem to stop here when you are on the pedestrian crossing.

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In case you don't know Lucca has maintained all of its medieval walls - they were turned into a walking track back in the 1800's.

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It's hard to get an idea of scale but believe me they are quite tall and solid.

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Just follow the path

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and it will lead you to this hole in the wall

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which you'll need to climb to take you through the wall and onto the next level

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you come out upon an enclosed square and another flight of stairs to reach the top

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and there you are - the city that developed on one side of the wall

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and the old city encased within.

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The first rather imposing structure you meet while still standing on top of the wall is this

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the Duomo di San Martino (Duomo of St Martin).

The 12th-13th century Romanesque church was remodelled in the 14th-15th centuries.

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The facade is a mix of white and grey marbles.

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Photos are not allowed inside the church - it's main attractions are the Tomb of Illaria del Carretto, the wife of the medieval lord of Lucca Paolo Guinigi (you'll see that name again later), Ghirlandaio's painting of the Madonna and Saints and the Volto Santo Tempietto - presented in an octagonal shrine is a holy relic, a cedar wood crucifix with the image of Christ carved by His contemporary, Nicodemus. This relic was brought to Lucca in 782.


Just off the piazza is another church (and piazza) - Basilica di San Giovanni

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This is the church where that famous son of Lucca, Puccini was baptised.

From this piazza it's a hop away to another - the Piazza del Giglio, where you find the Teatro del Giglio

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It's here when I'm taking a photo that I hear those dulcid tones of an occker accent calling out to me "Do you know where we are?" She certainly looks totally lost even with the map flapping in her hands. I resist the tempation to say "Italia!" instead in my best Italian I tell her, "Piazza del Giglio", as I point helpfully to the sign just behind her.

"Can you show me on the map?" she nasally intones. " Ma, si" as I stroll over and point at the spot on her map "Qua". Happy, I leave her and her large bag to wheel on with her never actually tweaking that I never spoke in english to her.

I certainly am discovering Lucca is full of piazzas as I come upon another, the rather large Piazza Napoleone

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It's home to the Palazzo Ducale - which is now used as the headquarters for the Provincial Government in Lucca.

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In the shadows of the Chiesa di S. Gusto there are book sellers

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There's something I've noticed as I've walked the streets, the shops are more high end and the streets are fairly free of hawkers

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Chiesa di San Cristoforo - the original church dates from at least 1053, the current church showing the Pisian influence in its design.

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This is the Torre delle Ore (Tower of Hours) - the oldest tower in town, surviving in part because it contains a clock. You can climb this tower - 207 steps to the top where you'll get a close up look at its swiss movement.

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There's something odd in the distance

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It's getting clearer now

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Hmm

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There are trees on top of that tower!

Yes indeed, they are oak trees and they sit atop the Torre Guinigi (Guinigi Tower)

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I think it's about 230 steps to reach the top of this 44 meter tower - no I didn't do it but I had a nice chat with a lovely old local women as I was taking photos of the tower. It's those types of moments that are the ones I'll remember the most.

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Meowing at the door is the adorable Pepe

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Yes, I am indeed a softie when it comes to cats, I just wanted to pick him up and cuddle him.

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Chiesa di Santa Maria Forisportam is also known as Santa Maria Bianca. Built in the 13th century on the foundations of an 8th century church, it's unfinished facade is in Pisian Romanesque style.

It's located near this gateway

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The Porta Santi Geravsio e Portasio. Just outside this structure is a canal

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on the Via del Fosso - very amsterdam like except for the distinct lack of dopeheads.

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I have a break here and sit by the canal with the locals and nibble on this deliciously soft fritter of potato and asparagus.

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This is the Chiesa di San Francesco and from what I could work out, it's closed for safety reasons while work takes place.

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The Madonna dello Stellario was erected in 1867 and at the base of the column, a view of the city at that time.

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Nearby you'll find the Chiesa di San Pietro Somaldi and its matching piazza. It was built at the end of the 12th century though the apse is from the 14th century.

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The Market building - inside the rather large space is a rather small section of veg sellers, though you'll find butchers and the like in shops located under the arches.

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I give equal time to cute dogs sitting in bikes


I had thought that the water was really cheap in Lucca when I bought a bottle for 60 cents but then I saw this

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The locals were out in force at all these communal fountains - the water comes from the mountains between Lucca and Pisa.

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Finally I've come to the Chiesa di San Michele in Foro - building commenced in 1070 and finished in the 14th century. Built in a Pisan-Luccan style, four tiers of open galleries top the main facade.

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A large statue of archangel St Michael stands at the apex.

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It's also worth while admiring the renaissance building that look onto the Piazza San Michele.

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Before you knew it I was back to the Palazzo Ducale and time to head back to Florence.

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A few last looks from the top of the fortifications

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followed by a short walk to the station where I soon caught the train to take me back.

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I arrived back, weary but very happy indeed.

You can find more photos on my flickr set: Lucca

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