I decided to prepare for our readers an itinerary, ideal for a tour around the impressive Lucca villas, which are scattered in the countryside and the hilly area around Lucca. These villas were being built from the fifteenth century until the nineteenth century and were the summer residences for the most famous families of Lucca. In fact, at the beginning of the 1500s, the families of the silk merchants began to invest in land, and so there was a proliferation of villas throughout Tuscany. The villas in Lucca are small works of art, each with its own identity and character: large manicured gardens, arcades, party rooms, frescoes, statues, monumental pools, and ponds, all impress the visitor.
Arriving at Villa Torrigiani, we are greeted by two majestic rows of cypresses almost a kilometer long: a very common feature of Tuscan villas. The facade of Villa Torrigiani is imposing, and it is one of the most beautiful examples of Baroque architecture in Tuscany. The villa and park date back to the early 1500s. In the second half of the 17th century, the villa underwent the first renovation and was transformed into a sumptuous and scenic residence, with a beautiful flower garden and large pools inspired by the Palace of Versailles. In the same period, the Garden - Theater of Flora was created, with caves and water features that are still working. The garden inside the Villa is entirely decorated with floral and mythological motifs. The park is another characteristic element of the villa, with a romantic aspect and with the inclusion of tree species from all over the world, such as the splendid Camelie garden.
Villa Mansi is a baroque villa. It is one of the most representative villas of the culture and society of the ancient Aristocratic Republic. It was built in the 16th century, and in 1675 it was purchased by the Marquis Raffaello Mansi, member of a well-known silk merchants family. The villa is particular for the elegance of its architecture and for the beauty of its gardens. Both the facade and the garden underwent a major transformation, by famous landscape architects. The garden leads to the villa through a loggia decorated with marble statues. Inside, the villa is completely frescoed with floral and mythological motifs, and the central hall is the work of the neoclassical painter, Stefano Tofanelli. The stables and the gardener's house complete the property. Today in the botanical garden, there are more than 40 tree species from all over the world.
The original structure of Villa Reale was formed by a fortress inhabited by the Duke of Tuscia. Subsequently, the property was transferred to some noble families of Lucca, merchants, and bankers, who transformed the fortress into a stately building. In 1651 the property passed to the Orsetti family, which made changes to the villa and gave the park a new arrangement in Baroque style, with the creation of avenues and gardens. The Teatro dell'Acqua and the Giardino dei Limoni, for example, are still visible today. Subsequently, the elegant Palazzina dell' Orologio was built, with its colonnaded porch.
Villa Grabau is located just 7 km away from Lucca and offers its visitor a step back in time. The villa was built on an existing building and was purchased by the Diodati family, merchants of Lucca, whose coat of arms is still positioned at the north entrance of the villa. Subsequent transformation works, such as the three-arched loggia in the front hall, gave the villa a Renaissance imprint. When the property of the villa was transferred to the Grabau family, subsequent works gave it a neoclassical look.
Villa Grabau is still fully furnished with period furniture and paintings and is surrounded by a 9-hectare park. The park, full of old trees and arboreal rarities, is divided into various gardens, such as the Lemon House or the Verzura Theater, where it is possible to celebrate weddings.
The first documents of Villa Oliva Buonvisi date back to the end of the 1500s. Still, from the architectural characteristics, it is believed that it was designed between the end of the 1400s and the beginning of the 1500s, by Matteo Civitali. He was a famous sculptor, carver, architect, who was trained at the Medici court and worked in Lucca and other Tuscan cities, adding a Renaissance touch in all his works. The villa has a rectangular plan; the facade has a porch formed by five arches and includes two floors. The stables are also of great artistic and architectural value. The park of the villa covers about 5 hectares and is divided into different areas, belvedere, terraces, fountains with water features, stone and terracotta statues.
Unlike the other Lucca villas that are located on the hills around Lucca, Palazzo Pfanner is located in the city. Its construction dates back to 1660, and the property changed ownership several times over the centuries until it was purchased by the Pfanner family, a family of Bavarian brewers. Here, in 1846, a brewery was installed, one of the first in Italy; then, the Pfanner Brewery, located between the garden and the cellars of the palace, was the place of production and sale until it closed in 1929. The palace still belongs to the Pfanner family, which took care of a meticulous restoration and subsequent opening to the public. The garden of Palazzo Pfanner is attributed to the famous landscape architect Filippo Juvarra, and its construction dates back to the early eighteenth century. It extends from the monumental staircase to the lemon grove and is framed by two bamboo groves and a space of dense and varied vegetation: from magnolias to camellias, from roses to hydrangeas. There are also marble statues alternating around the monumental basin, depicting the gods of Olympus.
Villa Bernardini is a jewel of late Renaissance architecture, located on the hills of the Lucca plain. It is one of the most prestigious historical residences in Tuscany, and it is one of the few that preserves all the original furnishings unchanged: furniture, paintings, stuccos, silverware. At Villa Bernardini, everything has remained exactly as it was in the previous period. The villa looks like a cubic block, typical of seventeenth-century architecture. It stands on an 8-hectare park divided into several gardens: the Romantic Garden, the Lemon House, the Secret Garden, and the Outdoor Theatre. In the park, there are over 350 species of plants, including old trees, plants, and flowers.
Of course, in the Lucca Plain, there are hundreds of villas: I decided to prepare an itinerary around the most impressive Lucca villas, choosing the best known, best preserved, and those that can be visited on the same route. Since the villas I mentioned are all within a radius of a few kilometers, you can decide to visit them all according to the suggested route, or choose only one or two and dedicate the rest of the time to discover the city of Lucca, which really deserves to be admired for its beauty. As an ancient Tuscan proverb tells: "Blind Florentines, mad Sienese, traitorous Pisans, gentlemen Lucchesi."
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