Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Lucca: inside the city

The cathedral of San Martino

Having walked round the walls of Lucca this morning, we obviously had to explore the town itself this afternoon. We first had lunch with brother- and sister-in-law Ric and Gabriella, who had come with us from Pisa, but were doing their explorations by bike, and then began our walk at the Duomo. The oldest bits, the apse and the campanile, date from 1063, but the facade dates from 1204 and the nave and transepts from the 14th century. The facade is curiously asymmetrical, with the right side being much smaller. The pre-existing campanile was obviously a constraint, and perhaps there was something on the other side too, but why not make a symmetrical facade to fit the available space?

The atrium, the area between the arches and the doors, has fine bas relief sculpture and the main door is particularly impressive.

Inside, there is an extraordinary tempieto by the 15th century sculptor Matteo Civitali. We now walked past the church of San Giovanni to Piazza Napoleone, whose forthcoming attractions included Neil Young, no less. Our next main stop was Piazza San Michele, where there was a fine loggia in one corner of the square. This seems to be the Palazzo Pretorio which dates back to 1492 and the statue under the loggia is none other than the sculptor Matteo Civitali.

The square is of course dominated by the church of San Michele in Foro, a magnificent example of the Pisan Romanesque style. The columns of the four levels of the arcade are all different. On the top there is the imposing 13th century statue (4 meters high) of St Michael the Archangel slaying the dragon.

We now headed towards the main shopping street via Fililungo and caught a glimpse of the Torre delle Ore - the Clock Tower - which dates from 1471.

In via Fililungo we noticed the wonderful terracotta windows of the 13th century Casa Barletti-Baroni, with little terracotta heads on either side of the arches.

We were pleased to find the hotel La Luna where we had stayed before and just beyond it we entered the oval Piazza del Anfiteatro, whose shape clearly bears the footprint of the Roman amphiteatre of which there is otherwise no trace. It seemed a lot busier that it had in 1997.

Nearby by is Lucca's third great church, San Frediano (Pisa also has church dedicated to this Irish monk). This time, instead of the marble arcades we have become used to, there is a 13th century mosaic of Christ in Majesty.

Now we headed for our final sight: the Torre Guinigi. We climbed it in 1997 and were pleased to see it again from the walls as we walked around them this morning. It is difficult to photograph, being surrounded by other buildings, so I bought and scanned this postcard, with its improbably blue sky.

When we got home we looked through our 1997 photo album and hilariously I had bought the identical postcard then. You could just detect minor changes in how it had been printed.

The views from the top are wonderful. In this picture, Sand Frediano is on the left and the line of trees immediately behind it marks the line of the walls. The Piazza del Anfiteatro is visible in the centre.

Conditions: warm and sunny.

Distance: probably much the same as this morning's 4 km.

Rating: five stars.

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