Today is the first day of the summer, at list the temperature is ,perfect time to visit Lucca that has a bit of the see breeze being so close to the see . As the season of renewal approaches, we invite you to help us stay connected with you, our readers, by posting any comments or ideas .
I would love to hear from you, and are especially interested to know if you have tried our local recipes and enjoyed them. We welcome feedback on my blog, and look forward to your suggestions and questions.
I would like to explore the walled city of Lucca ,the pearl of Tuscany . This City still remain untouched , the Reinassance walls are still intact and so the life inside , it seem like ,despite some souvenir shops to go back in time.
One date to remember , The first of July 2015, Bob Dylan will open the Lucca Summer Festival. In this first of the two parts post, I will discuss the history and architecture of Lucca, concentrating on those places that are most popular with visitors to the city. In my next post, I invite you to join me in exploring a bit more of the town. I will then discuss some of the products of Lucca, its wonderful markets, and a few of the hand picked shops and restaurants .
Spring Lamb, or Agnello Arrosto
As often I begin with a recipe. As the trees and plants across our beautiful regione take bud, I begin to think of traditional Spring dishes. My mother always served this roasted Spring Lamb for Easter dinner, and I am absolutely sure that you will enjoy it as much as my family always did.
A 3 to 4 pound leg of lamb, with top portion boned, down to about the shin. Your butcher can do this, or you can give it a try.
6 or 7 medium cloves of garlic, chopped
The chopped leaves of 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/4 cup virgin olive oil
1 cup white Italian wine
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Mix together the garlic, rosemary, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and a generous amount of salt and freshly ground pepper. Reserving 1 Tablespoon of this mixture, spread the rest over the open, boned portion of the leg of lamb. Roll up the lamb and tie it with string.
Reduce the oven temperature to 450 degrees, and place the meat in a heavy roasting pan with the remaining olive oil. Spread the reserved garlic/rosemary mixture over the exterior of the leg of lamb, and pour the wine into the roasting pan. Roast at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.
Turn the temperature down again to 400 degrees, and roast for 1 hour, basting regularly with the pan drippings. Check with an instant read thermometer. If your leg of lamb is large (closer to 4 pounds than 3), or if you like your meat well done, it may take another 15 minutes or so to get the meat just the way you like it.
Let the roast rest out of the oven for 10 minutes, then carve into thick slices and serve with the pan juices. Delicious!
The Walls of Lucca
The beautifully well-preserved walls that surround the city of Lucca were meant to protect her inhabitants, but were never used to defend the city in serious battle. Begun in the 1500s, the walls that surround the city of Lucca were, at the time, the very latest in defensive architecture. In fact, they were so revolutionary that they changed the face of military architecture in Europe.
Despite the fact that the builders of Lucca’s fortifications were the designers of a new style of military technology, the names of these innovative architects and builders remain unknown. We do know that they were true sons of the Italian Renaissance, because the walls themselves are elegant beyond necessity. Although the city was never attacked severely enough to make these extensive protective measure necessary, the walls continue to lend a distinctive charm to Lucca, and they are among the best preserved fortifications in Italy.
Nowadays, the walls of Lucca are purely decorative and they provide a wonderful place for visitors and inhabitants to exercise, visit, and take the air. The Duchess Marie Louise planted the broad tops of the walls with a double row of plane trees, and thus created one of the world’s most attractive and purely pedestrian boulevards. Bicycles are a particularly popular form of transportation throughout Lucca, and visitors will delight in renting a bike in order to take a few turns around the tops of the walls.
There are entrance ramps and steps leading up to the walls throughout the city and a cycler is sure to be joined by the many residents of Lucca who stroll, visit and pass around the walls in their daily lives. We urge you to rent a bike and go for a ride atop the walls. We found this to be one of the highlights of our visit to Lucca. And if you don’t bike, be sure to take a stroll atop the walls; this is a unique experience and no visitor to Lucca should pass it by. The views of the town from atop the walls are striking and memorable.
When one first approaches Lucca, the sprawl outside the walls can be a bit disappointing. We urge you to pass through one of the city gates and immerse yourself in the old town that lies inside the walls. So many of Tuscany’s fortified towns sit upon hilltops; in many cases these perches provide protection from nearby urban sprawl. But since Lucca lies on a plain, one must enter through the walls to fully appreciate this beautifully preserved old town. The ancient, the mediaeval, and the Renaissance are all present within the walls of Lucca, making this town a delight to explore.
The Botanical Gardens
The Botanical Gardens of Lucca are inside of the old city, in the area between the Porta Elisa and Porta San Pietro, situated snugly in a corner next to the town walls. The gardens belong to the Commune di Lucca, and as such they share a long and mutually beneficial relationship with the city and it’s surrounding territory. A spectacular view of the entire Botanical Gardens, which extend for approximately two hectares, is available to those who are walking or cycling atop the walls.
Visitors to the Botanical Garden enter through a wide wrought iron gate and proceed along a central tree-lined avenue that beckons strollers further into the confines of the gardens. This peaceful and lovely avenue ends at a small lake; opposite the lake, in the northern part of the gardens, visitors will find greenhouses and the Botanical Garden’s library, containing rare and ancient horticultural manuscripts.
The Botanical Garden was established in the first years of the 19th century (1820), in collaboration with the University of Lucca, and therefore it assumed from the beginning a scientific importance, quickly becoming a home for research and advanced botanical instruction.
Because of a lively exchange of information and plants with other European botanical gardens, the Lucchese Garden soon amassed an impressive collection of exotic flora. As the owners of the great villas surrounding Lucca became acquainted with the many new species of plants collected by the Garden, they came to rely on the botanists there to fill their villa grounds with the strange and beautiful new specimens. In return, the local aristocracy supported the Botanical Garden with their largess, and thus the garden became even richer, filling rapidly with formerly unknown species such as Cedars of Lebanon, magnolia, and sequoia.
The collections of the Botanical Garden have continued to grow remarkably, and several endangered species of plants are now in the collection. The Lucchese botanists are committed to preserving the endangered plants of the territory, working in conjunction with conservationists, farmers, and gardeners in order to save the rich botanical heritage of the area. A visit to the Botanical Gardens of Lucca will help to support their efforts, as well as provide the visitor with a delightful experience.
The Cathedral of Saint Martin
Lucca’s Duomo is the heart of this ancient community. This past September, we were privileged to witness the Volto Santo processional, and civic pride was as evident as religious commitment. The Cathedral, it’s works of art, the adjacent Museo della Cattedrale are each gorgeously maintained and well-supported by the city.
The cathedral was begun in the eleventh century, and was completely rebuilt between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries. In 1261 it was joined to the bell-tower, creating the unusual symmetry that visitors see today. This asymmetrical facade is adorned by three tiers of colonnades, representative of Pisan-style architecture.
Many architectural scholars believe that the Duomo of Lucca is the finest example of Pisan architecture outside of Pisa itself.
The Duomo’s outstanding works of art are highlighted by the gorgeous tomb of Ilaria del Carretto, the work of Lucca’s most famous artist son, Matteo Civitali. The tomb is set in the sacristy, and dates from the fifteenth century. It is both beautiful and touching: the late Ilaria’s youthful beauty, and the poignancy of her little dog sitting at her feet, are quite moving.
To the left of the Cathedral’s nave, a strange cage-like structure holds the Volto Santo. The Volto Santo (Holy Face) is a wooden effigy that is said to be a true image of Christ, carved by Nicodemus at the crucifixion. Once a year the revered effigy was removed to head a procession through the streets of Lucca. Nowadays the procession still takes place, but the valuable and ancient statue is left inside the Cathedral, where the procession through the candle lit streets of Lucca ends.