Gardens and villas of Lucca
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Exploring the enchanting villas and gardens of Lucca

The villas of Lucca, nestled among the rolling hills of the Lucca plain, represent an essential essence of this landscape. It is the combination of these historic homes, the surrounding olive groves and vineyards, the winding streets lined with majestic dry stone walls, and the tree-lined avenues that wind like theatrical scenes, that makes this route a fascinating and unforgettable experience.

Villa Reale di Marlia

The first stop of this guide is the sumptuous residence of the Villa Reale of Marlia. This elegant palace was the residence of Elisa Baciocchi, Napoleon’s sister, who reigned first over Lucca and then over all of Tuscany. Here there is a garden that seems to have come out of a dream, with its Camellia Avenue, the Lemon Garden and a Water Theater that dances around a majestic semicircular pool, adorned with sculpted rocks, dancing water jets and statuettes of mythological deities.

Immersed in this oasis of elegance and history, your eyes are lost among the sinuous hedges of the Teatro di Verzura, a jewel from 1652. Between carefully shaped yew hedges, there are stone seats arranged in a semicircle, separating the stage from the stalls. It is in this enchanted place that the great virtuoso Niccolò Paganini gave his melodies, transforming the garden into a symphony of emotions and art.

Thus, among the historic walls and centuries-old trees of this earthly paradise, we find ourselves enveloped in the magic of a bygone era, where beauty and music dance together, whispering stories of a distant time.

Villa Reale di Marlia
Villa Reale di Marlia (Photo by / CC BY)

Villa Mansi

Located in Segromigno in Monte, in the municipal area of Capannori, Villa Mansi is an extraordinary testimony of architectural elegance and refinement. The villa stands out majestically against the backdrop of the English garden, surrounded by imposing trees whose fronds dance in the wind, creating a setting of pure natural beauty.

The main floor of this period residence is an authentic jewel of design and taste. Here, a series of communicating rooms follow one another harmoniously, each telling a unique story through the walls frescoed by the Lucca master Stefano Tofanelli. These frescoes, true masterpieces of art, transport those who observe them on a journey through time, bringing to life the sophisticated atmospheres and refined tastes of the era in which they were created.

Every step inside Villa Mansi is like an immersion in a bygone era, where elegance reigned supreme and beauty was manifested in every detail. The central hall, the beating heart of the home, welcomes sunlight through the majestic windows, illuminating the frescoes and creating a magical and timeless atmosphere.

Villa Mansi
Villa Mansi (Photo by El francoh / CC BY)

Villa Oliva

Villa Oliva, built around 1500, is a Renaissance architectural jewel that enchants visitors with its halls and its splendid 5-hectare park. Over the centuries, the villa has hosted various noble families, each leaving their mark on the timeless beauty of the surrounding garden.

The park is characterized by a series of fascinating water features and picturesque waterfalls that create a relaxing and evocative atmosphere. The finely carved bas-reliefs and statues scattered throughout the park tell ancient stories, adding a touch of history and culture to the environment.

Villa Oliva Buonvisi is a place that transports you back in time and allows you to immerse yourself in a unique atmosphere. It is an oasis of serenity where you can walk among the centuries-old trees, admire the beauty of nature and be fascinated by the history that permeates this enchanting place.

Villa Oliva
Villa Oliva (Photo by Sailko / CC BY)

Villa Grabau

The sixteenth-century Villa Grabau in San Pancrazio is a fascinating fusion of architectural styles that tell the stories of many powerful families of Lucca. Surrounded by groves and gardens of rare tree varieties, this villa is a riot of nature and human creativity.

Built on the ruins of a medieval village, over the centuries the villa has been owned by several noble families. Each owner made changes, so the villa lost its original Gothic characteristics to acquire Renaissance forms first and the neoclassical guise that we can still admire today.

The surrounding park, spread over nine hectares, is one of the most beautiful in Lucca, and is characterized by English and Italian gardens, as well as water features and statues. Inside there are rare plant species, some of which are unique in their kind. The villa also includes a charming lemon house and a Teatro di Verzura, which hosts concerts and summer performances, creating a magical atmosphere for spectators.

Villa Grabau
Villa Grabau (Photo by Sailko / CC BY)

Villa Torrigiani

The imposing façade of Villa Torrigiani, preceded by two wings of cypress trees that extend for kilometers, introduces visitors to one of the best examples of Baroque architecture in Tuscany. Built in the 16th century by the Buonvisi family and subsequently enriched by the Marquis Nicolao Santini in the 17th century, the villa is a perfect balance between grandeur and grace.

The gardens of Villa Torrigiani are an authentic marvel. The Garden-Theatre of Flora, with intricate caves and water features, is a perfect example of harmony between man and nature. The Cave of the Winds, with its circular mosaics and statues of the winds, offers an enchanting view. Pietro Scorzini’s impeccably preserved frescoes inside the villa capture the essence of this magical garden, transforming the interiors into a masterpiece of beauty.

During the 19th century, the park was enriched with plants from all over the world, adding an exotic dimension to the already extraordinary beauty of the place. Trees such as the Liriodendrom Tulipifera and the Atlas Cedar, together with a variety of Camellias, create a unique atmosphere, making the park an oasis of botanical wonder.

Villa Torrigiani
Villa Torrigiani (Photo by Marco.scarpellonCC BY)

Villa Mazzarosa

Villa Mazzarosa in Segromigno in Monte, a historical jewel that has its roots in the early 17th century, is a fascinating example of the architecture of the time. The villa is located in the heart of the Lucca hills in the municipality of Capannori, surrounded by lush nature, but is also a short distance from the ancient walls of Lucca.

The Villa Mazzarosa Park is an extraordinary experience for nature lovers. With its vastness and variety of plants, some of which are very rare, the park enchants anyone who enters through the gate. Among majestic centuries-old trees and splendid camellia plants, the park reveals suggestive corners and unexpected views, giving an atmosphere of magic and wonder at every step. A place where history and nature dance in perfect harmony, offering an unforgettable experience to visitors.

Villa Bernardini

Villa Bernardini, a masterpiece of late Renaissance architecture, built by Bernardino Bernardini in 1615, is an enchanting residence in the heart of a suggestive park. This cubic block with a three-arch portico, on two floors, is an example of elegance intact over time. Unlike other villas, Villa Bernardini has undergone very few changes over time, most of which concern the interiors which were modified in the eighteenth century.

The heart-shaped lawn in front is home to two centuries-old sequoias, creating a magical atmosphere. Around the villa, in the front garden and nearby, there are rare plants and shrubs. The secret garden, originally a vegetable garden, houses a charming lemon house with Ficus repens plants and a Carrara marble basin. The most extraordinary part of the park is the greenery theater in Buxus sempervirens, built in the 18th century, with a sinuous auditorium that can accommodate over 650 spectators.

Villa Garzoni in Collodi

In Collodi, in the heart of the magical land of Pinocchio, there is Villa Garzoni, an authentic historical wonder that fits elegantly into the list of Lucca villas even though it is officially part of the province of Pistoia. This enchanting place represents a refined example of 18th century Tuscan architecture and culture and stands on an ancient road, once called Cassia or Clodia, dating back to Roman times.

The Garzoni, a powerful family originally from Pescia, were exiled after the death of Castruccio and, having fled to Lucca, decided to build this villa as a challenge to the ancient border between the Grand Duchy and the Republic of Lucca. The villa, attested since 1633, is a masterpiece created with passion and commitment by three generations of the Garzonis. Its Garden, designed by the Marquis Romano di Alessandro Garzoni in 1652, is an extraordinary spectacle that aroused the envy of princes and kings. This garden opens like an enchanted theatre, with water features and basins, representing a post-Renaissance ideal with geometric structures combined with the grace of flowers and the comic, epic and fantastic elements of statues, masks and fountains.

In 2007, on the edge of this historic garden, a magnificent crystal structure was inaugurated: the Butterfly House. Here, as in a tropical forest, hundreds of butterflies from all over the world fly free, creating a unique spectacle.

Villa Garzoni in Collodi
Villa Garzoni in Collodi (Photo by Sailko / CC BY)

Villa La Badiola

Villa La Badiola, originally known as Villa Arnolfini, represents a fascinating combination of history, nobility and cinema. Built in the 16th century by Girolamo Arnolfini, the villa has gone through centuries of changes in ownership and intended use. In the 18th century, it became part of the heritage of the Sirti family and subsequently of the Contz family, who left their mark with the addition of the arch and the open gallery in front of the villa. However, it is in the 20th century that Villa Arnolfini found its notoriety, thanks to cinema.

In 1976, the villa was renamed Villa La Badiola, thanks to the unforgettable scenes filmed inside for the film The Innocent by Luchino Visconti. This cinematic masterpiece portrayed its protagonists inside this residence, giving the villa an aura of elegance and mystery. Every corner of Villa La Badiola tells a story, channeling the atmosphere of its illustrious past owners and the fascinating scenes of a film that marked the history of Italian cinema.

Palazzo Pfanner

Palazzo Pfanner, an architectural gem dating back to 1660, enchants visitors with its magnificence in the heart of Lucca‘s historic center. Initially by the Moriconi family and subsequently expanded by the Controni family, the palace boasts a monumental staircase designed by Domenico Martinelli and an Italian garden attributed to Filippo Juvarra. This noble residence is a true cultural treasure, with frescoes created by local 18th century artists.

The history of Palazzo Pfanner is intertwined with that of the Pfanner family, brewers of Austrian origin who transformed the building into their brewery in the 19th century. The opening of one of the first breweries in Italy helped give new life to this historic home. The closure of the brewery in 1929 did not mark the end of the history of the Palace, which remained the property of the Pfanner family. Thanks to their commitment to heritage enhancement, the Palace has been restored and opened to the public, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in its historical and cultural magnificence.

In addition to its architectural charm, Palazzo Pfanner houses a precious collection of ancient medical-surgical instruments that belonged to Pietro Pfanner, a surgeon who was mayor of Lucca in the 20th century. This exhibition offers a unique opportunity for visitors to explore the history of medicine and surgery in a fascinating and evocative context.

Palazzo Pfanner in Lucca
Palazzo Pfanner in Lucca (Photo by Sailko / CC BY)
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