Tourism in Lucca
Lucca: fortified town
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The villa of Camigliano is one of the most interesting examples of 17th century architecture in the Lucchesia and can be considered one of the rare examples of baroque architecture found in villas given its elaborate and original forms. You reach the villa by a long avenue of cypress trees which very scenically frame the gate and villa.
The main façade, facing downhill, triumphant, is characterized by a strong movement given the use of different materials be it in consistency (smoothness or roughness) or in colour. The polychrome appearance of the façade is accentuated by the shadows made by the niches and recesses which contrast with the whiteness of the statues and the light colour of the plaster.
The main divisions of the façade are marked by balusters with statues. The central part of the building has a serliana on the ground floor, which is repeated on the top floor with some variation. The serliana on the ground floor is made of smooth stone, while the pillars of the one on the other floor alternates between ashlars in tufo and stone, which are similar to the ones decorating the lateral parts on the ground floor. The majestic vertical soaring due to the two overlapping serlianas, continues in the central part with an attic surmounted by an aedicule and a cupola.
The house´s interior is richly decorated in stucco, which among other things, frames paintings by the Florentine, Vincenzo Dandini. The trompe l´oeil by the Lucchese quadraturist painter Pietro Scorzini are also interesting.
The downhill part of the park was modified during the romantic period, but still mantains the bassin fountains reflecting the façades, that date back to the layout of 17th century French influence. The right hand side of the park gives access to the "secret garden", a garden of parterres which concludes with a nymphaeum. This garden is one of the most beautiful of its kind in the Lucchesia, and is famous for its "waterworks" which are equipped with suitable hydraulic mechanisms, allowing the water to spring out to create an overall scenic effect. On the Sunday immediately following Corpus Domini (2nd June) there is the tradition of making a carpet of flower petals running 700 metres long.
Villa Oliva in San Pancrazio is one of the great mannerist realisations in Lucchese architecture, and displays characteristics that distinguish it from the others. With a rectangular base, the villa has two floors plus an attic. The rear façade presents a wide and magnificent portico onto which look the windows of the hall on the first floor. The particular visible effect created by the grandiose arches of the portico, and the use of alternative ashlar in the corners of the edifice, make it obvious that the influence of Florentine architecture, and especially that of Ammannati, the architect who projected the reconstruction of the Palazzo degli Anziani in Lucca (1578-1581) is involved.
The two gates should be pointed out. On the main gate facing downhill, imposing and massive, there is an alternation of rough and smooth surfaces on the fascias of the columns and in the rays of ashlars in the arches. On the inside façade of the gate, there are two noteworthy grotesque masks. The gate facing uphill, more sober and less impressive in form, is interesting for its elegant lines and its high relief mannerist decoration.
The park in the south zone is arranged with three terraces which sit perpendicularly to the façade. A tree lined avenue situated in the middle terrace leads to the ground in front of the villa. In the uphill facing zone, the space behind the edifice circumscribed by a semi-circle of holm oak hedges, has in the centre, a tufa grotto where there are waterworks. The park´s fountains are very interesting, some of which are of mannerist stamp.
Villa Reale of Marlia
The monumental complex of the villa Reale of Marlia is of extreme interest because it has in itself stratified the testaments of two important periods of architectural construction in the Lucchese villas.
In an area of the park, the original layout from the 1600´s has been conserved i.e. its geometrically lined evergreens and the verdure theatre which was established in 1652, the hedges of which having now reached a noteworthy height. The "water theatre" (Teatro d´acqua), situated behind the palace, also belongs to this period. According to Isa Belli Barsali, this work belongs to the same architect who projected the fishing pond and the exedra in the background. The latter is noteworthy for the plan´s dynamism and the architectonic lines, as well as for the wise use of building materials. The effect achieved from the use of rough material such as tufo , alongside smooth materials, creates a sort of fusion between the brickwork architecture and the natural one of the hedges. While the evergreen hedges simulate the walls, the man´s brickwork simulates the rocks.
Instead, the palace in its present neoclassic form, dates back to the Napoleonic princedom of the Baciocchi. It presents itself as an impressive, sober, three-floored construction. The main entrance on the downhill facing façade, is realised with three arches surmounted by a baluster with little columns. There is a portico on the rear façade. The interior decoration is of special interest and is particularly well looked after, according to the dictates of the Napoleonic school and architects Fontaine and Percier, which stipulates that the coherence between architectural structure and decoration is of utmost importance.
The great fresco "le Danze delle Ore" by the Lucchese painter Stefano Tofanelli decorating the ceilings in the dance hall, must be remembered. The structure belonging to the Villa del Vescovo which is found inside the garden, can also be visited.
Villa Cenami, then Mansi, in Segromigno in Monte, is one of the greatest expressions of 17th century architecture in Lucca. The main façade, the plans for which being the work of Muzio Oddi, gives a visual effect of non-static solidity. Infact the building is quite high and the difference in length and width is not very great. However, the façade is vivid given that the central body, is higher, and stands slightly behind the two lateral parts.
The airy portico on the raised floor, the two flights of stairs, the chromatic contrast between architectural and decorative elements and the plaster help give movement and lightness to the construction. The highest part repeats, in the matching columns and in the arched centre, the motive of the serliana which characterises the portico.
The very noteworthy canvas paintings and frescos found inside the villa are of the Lucchese painter Stefano Tofanelli and characteristic of the 18th century. They portray mythological themes according to the tastes of the times (stories of the God Apollo).
In the garden you can find fountains and fishing ponds with statues by the architect Juvarra, author of a 1700´s park layout, which was later changed.
Despite 19th century interventions, the Villa Grabau, conserves harmony in its structure and a simplicity of form, which is very characteristic of renaissance architecture amongst the Luchese Villas. There are three floors to this square plan, the third being the attics. The light colours of the plaster unobtrusively show up the greyness of the stones which frame the windows and arches of the porticos on the façade facing downhill(which was converted into a.hall in the 19 century).
The villa is built in the position that Sanminiati, the author of an essay on 16th century villas, and owner of a villa, described as ideal: being built on the confines between the plains and hills with the main façade facing downhill.
The layout of the garden facing uphill, an external architectural jewel, is realised by dividing the park´s area with terracing. The walls of the terracing, decorated in black and white mosaics, contrasts with the curved shape of the hedges of the Italian style garden. In the italian garden there are 100 centenarian citrus trees in cotto vases with the coats of arms of the family.
An effect of gradual fusion of the artificial work of man in nature and the Lucchese hills in the background is realised in the garden. This characteristic in the relationship with surrounding nature is also emblematic of the Lucchese architecture of the period, that keeps always in mind the insertion of the buildings in the distant panorama.
The two bronze mascerons on the fountains fixed to the terracing wall are noteworthy as well as the grotesque fountain (at present moved to the wood), attributed to the school of the mannerist sculptor Pietro Tacca (1577-1640) from Belli Barsali.
The lemon house in the garden is one of the most noteworthy in the Lucchesia, with its 7 doors and oval windows framed by Matraia stone ashlars. In the big park of the villa, rich of rare essences, an interesting verdure theatre is also found
Villa Bernardi in Vicopelago, is an example of the permanence of severe renaissance form in Lucchese architecture during the 1600´s. The villa is presented as an impressive and balanced cubic block and the façade has a strongly symmetrical composition. There are five openings on each of the three floors i.e. three central ones which are close together and two lateral ones which are further apart. They are all in line with those on the other floors. They are all underlined with cornices made from stone from Marlia.
The three central openings on the first floor are formed by the arches of the portico, and is accessed by a stairway. The openings on the first floor are larger than the ones on the second floor which are consequently larger than those square ones on the top floor. This arrangement gives the villa an appearance of solemn solidity. The central window on the second floor, the main focal point of the façade, has a balcony and is surmounted by a divided tympanum.
The villa´s interior conserves the original 15th century furnishings along with other commissioned over the course of time by the family, who have always been the owners of the building.
The uphill facing part of the garden is very noteworthy for its verdure theatre made out of Buxus semperviens. The hedges, shaped in low parallelepipedons and surmounted with spheric forms, divide the amphitheatre space into more floors. This geometric layout creates a great thatrical effect. This theatre is found at the back of the edifice.