The Tuscany, just like the other Italian regions, is an agglomeration of breathtaking landscapes, extraordinary monuments, places to visit and traditions to discover!
The cities it hosts all deserve great attention but, in this case, there are two places that fall from those to visit at least once in your life: Lucca and Pisa!
A journey through art, culture and history
They are about 20 kilometers away, just 20 minutes, so that you can also visit on the same day: Lucca and Pisa are two wonderful Tuscan cities, wrapped in a historical setting capable of embracing visitors and leading them to the discovery of centuries-old architectural works.
The first, Lucca, is located in the north of the region and hosts 89,114 inhabitants. It is among the very few capitals that have managed to preserve and preserve the historic center, full of monuments dating back to various eras and surrounded by a wall of the sixteenth century remained almost unchanged despite the passage of time.
Officially of Roman origin (although some testimonies would trace its foundation to previous settlements), Lucca is known as a former city of merchants and weavers , which maintained its independence until 1799, year of the arrival of the Napoleonic troops.
The second, Pisa, is also located in the north of Tuscany; together with the neighboring municipalities it reaches an urban system of 195 thousand inhabitants and is the city with the highest number of visitors due to the presence of the most important airport in the region, The Galileo Galilei.
Thanks to a series of archaeological finds found between the eighties and nineties it was possible to confirm its Etruscan origin, still visible today in some places remained intact over the centuries.
What to see in Lucca
Lucca is a hospitable city, which can also be visited on foot and by bike; just go around its streets to realize how varied its style is but, at the same time, perfectly amalgamated: The Renaissance walls accompany the palaces of the eighteenth century, as well as the imperial structures typical of the nineteenth century do not clash at all in front of the extremely modern urban context.
The Renaissance walls
A panoramic walk on the Renaissance walls overlooking the city is a must, as soon as you arrive in Lucca; they extend for 4 kilometers and are totally walkable both on foot and by car (but cycling is recommended for an even more exciting experience). Moreover, they have been preserved so well since their construction in the sixteenth century that they have become first a public urban park and, later, a real symbol of the town!
Piazza Anfiteatro and Piazza Napoleone
In Lucca you can visit one of the most beautiful squares in Italy, that is Piazza Anfiteatro , which, thanks to its elliptical shape, is like welcoming visitors with a warm embrace. It can only be accessed through 4 small doors and, once inside, you are surrounded by shops, restaurants and crowds.
Piazza Napoleone, on the other hand, has a classic plan but turns out to be the largest square (as well as the largest) of the whole city; it is right here, in fact, that the concerts of the Lucca Summer Festival are held and, on the occasion of the Christmas holidays, an ice rink is installed.
Cathedral of Lucca or Cathedral of San Martino
The Cathedral of Lucca (also known as the Cathedral of San Martino) is the oldest basilica in Tuscany, since its construction dates back to the sixth century.
On the outside it presents colored marbles and columns decorated with inlays and reliefs, while inside it is characterized by gothic arches and stained glass windows that generate evocative plays of light.
Guinigi Tower and Clock Tower
Entirely made with stones and bricks, the Torre dei Guinigi is 45 meters high and is the only one built at the behest of the private families of Lucca not to be destroyed. Seven holm oaks grow on its top, creating a small garden that stands out towards the sky.
Another very interesting monument is the Torre delle Ore e degli Orologi, built in 1754 by the watchmakers of Lucca and still operating by manual winding. Along “only” 207 wooden steps you can climb the tower to admire it up close.
Church of San Michele in Foro and Basilica of San Frediano
Lucca is undoubtedly among the Italian cities with the highest number of churches in its territory; among the most important are the Church of San Michele and the Basilica of San Frediano together with the Duomo, are real icons for the local inhabitants.
The Church of San Michele in Foro takes its name from its location, as it rises where in the past the Roman Forum was located; 4 meters high, it is surmounted by an imposing statue of the Archangel Michael defeating the dragon.
The Basilica of San Frediano, however, is among the oldest places of worship in Lucca and is located on the square of the same name. Its highlight (and distinctive) is the baptismal font, dating from the twelfth century, decorated with reliefs depicting the stories of Moses and some Apostles.
Mansi Palace and the Pinacoteca
The museums, squares and monuments to see in Lucca are really numerous, to the point that it is difficult to decide where to start! Whatever the choice, you can not help but make a jump both at Palazzo Mansi, and at Pinacoteca (located inside), two attractive poles really irresistible!
The first, belonging to the noble family Mansi, dates back to the late sixteenth century and houses the National Art Gallery which, in turn, houses 83 works donated by Grand Duke Peter Leopold. The richly frescoed rooms of the palace surround the building, creating a breathtaking princely atmosphere.
What to see in Pisa
Among the most fascinating cities, loved and visited in Tuscany there is Pisa, known worldwide for its leaning tower. Yet, the city offers many other reasons to attract attention: just draw from its treasure chest full of artistic and historical treasures to be discovered!
Tower of Pisa
We start from the Leaning Tower which, thanks to its legendary inclination, has become part of the most famous and visited monuments in the world. Over 56 meters high, its construction dates back to 1173 and, apparently, its inclination began to become evident even before the third floor was completed because of the excessively sandy and loose soil. To date, the tower is a candidate to join the Seven Wonders of the World.
The most fun aspect of a visit to the Tower of Pisa is that you can climb to the top, but only after facing well 251 steps!
Piazza dei Miracoli: Cathedral, Baptistery and Camposanto
The beautiful Piazza del Duomo is also known as Piazza dei Miracoli and houses inside, besides the Leaning Tower, also other beautiful buildings: the Duomo, the Battistero and the Camposanto. The Duomo, that is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, is built in the Pisan Romanesque style that draws inspiration from classical, Norman, Byzantine, Islamic and early Christian elements, especially because of the commercial ties that, During the seventeenth century, Pisa had established with Arab merchants.
In front of the Duomo stands the Baptistery dedicated to San Giovanni, a monument with a circumference of over 107 meters that makes it the largest baptistery not only in Italy, but in the whole world! Every year, a hundred days before the state exam, high school students go to Piazza dei Miracoli to perform the “rite of the hundred days”: in practice, they turn a hundred times around the Baptistery, implementing a real superstitious rite that should guarantee them the passing of the test of maturity!
To conclude, the Monumental Cemetery is an open-air masterpiece: built in 1277 with the aim of accommodating burials and sarcophagi, It takes its name from the tradition according to which it was filled with land from Palestine and brought to the site by the Pisan ships.
Piazza dei Cavalieri
Born as the center of the political power of the city, Piazza dei Cavalieri is among the most important of the whole city: inside it houses the Palazzo dei Cavalieri, also known as the Palace of the Caravan , and now home to the Scuola Normale di Pisa, one of the most prestigious academic institutions internationally.
Two other very important buildings overlook the square, namely the Chiesa di Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri and the Palazzo dell’Orologio, the latter became famous because, in one of its two towers, Count Ugolino della Gherardesca was held prisoner, protagonist of one of the famous songs of the Divine Comedy.
Borgo Stretto and Borgo Largo
Walking through the historic center of Pisa is impossible not to pass through Borgo Stretto, one of the historic districts of the city that offers long walks through shops, wine bars and small bars with outdoor tables.
Once you finish the arcades of Borgo Stretto you arrive in Piazza del Pozzetto, that is Borgo Largo, but only after crossing the Casino dei Nobili, dating back to the eighteenth century and the t strong.
As everyone knows, Pisa is crossed by the river Arno; if you visit the city on a sunny day, which allows you to walk for a long time and freely, the advice is to do it on Lungarni, the streets that line the river.
The most famous is the Medici, which houses historic buildings such as the Palazzo dei Medici, the Palazzo Toscanelli and the Church of San Matteo in Soarta.
What to eat in Lucca
Every Italian city boasts an enviable gastronomic tradition, and Lucca is no less, indeed: from generation to generation are handed down customs and recipes that, even today, give life to tasty dishes that can fill the tables (and the bellies) of inhabitants and visitors!
Here are the most important:
- tordelli lucchesi: a type of pasta filled with a meat stuffing, with a semicircle shape of important dimensions and usually accompanied by the classic meat sauce;
- frantoiana soup: made from beans, zucchini, potatoes, chard, celery, cabbage, leek, kale, pumpkin, fennel and borage, finds its raison d’être if accompanied by a slice of toasted bread;
- garmugia: always in the field of soups, garmugia is a seasonal dish linked to typical spring products such as peas, artichokes, asparagus and broad beans that are accompanied by meat and bacon;
What to eat in Pisa
The Tuscan gastronomic tradition is perfectly respected by the Pisan cuisine, as healthy as it is good; most of the typical dishes have a peasant origin and therefore uses simple ingredients from the garden and the countryside.
Here are some delights not to be missed:
- bordatino alla pisana: typical example of poor cuisine, is a soup made with fresh or dried beans, kale and yellow flour and, if desired, with the addition of pork rind, lard or ham;
- pallette: consists of a cream almost liquid based on ground corn flour, then served in layers alternating with meat sauce of beef and pork, rabbit rigaglie and mushroom sauce, to finish with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese;
- cut to the Pisan cow: the Pisan cow is a cross between the local podolica cow, the chianina and the alpine brown, then its meat is particularly tender and strong flavor;
- cantuccini with vin santo: vin santo is a dessert drink that is often served together with Tuscan cantucci, Dry cookies prepared with flour, sugar, eggs, almonds and pine nuts;
- castagnaccio: a chestnut flour cake with the addition of raisins, walnuts, pine nuts and chopped rosemary, known throughout Italy already in the sixteenth century.
Events not to be missed in Lucca
Lucca has always been a very lively city, characterized by places constantly crowded by people of any age and at any time of the year and day. This comes not only from the consistent presence of premises that allow you to sip a drink or make an aperitif, but also from the numerous events that the city administration hosts and organizes annually Among other things, they attract tourists from all over the world.
Lucca Comics & Games
The Lucca Comics & Games, which has been held in the city for several years, usually takes place on the last weekend of October and is one of the most important events in Europe entirely
The event usually consists of two distinct areas: one dedicated to the setting up of stands that expose hundreds of objects, the other in charge of role-playing games, the staging of medieval games and live performances. But the highlight is the presence of cosplayers, that is passionate (if not fanatics) dressed just like characters from comics and cartoons!
Lucca Summer Festival, Winter Festival and Lucca Blues Festival
In July, the Lucca Summer Festival, a series of musical events of the highest level involving the participation of internationally renowned musicians and singers. Usually, concerts are held in Piazza Napoleone, inside the city walls, but some artists also perform in Piazza Anfiteatro.
Fixed stage of the city calendar of annual events, here is the Winter Festival: from October to December, a series of wonderful concerts welcome thousands of spectators inside the extraordinary Teatro del Giglio in Lucca
And to finish with the music, here is another event to report: the Lucca Blues Festival, held in April in the Foro Boario that, despite being still very “young”already manifests all those potentials that will give a hard time to the music festival that, in July, is held in Pistoia.
The religious tradition embraces the fun giving to citizens and tourists events and events to mark the agenda for the month of September, starting from the Feast of the Holy Cross, that is a procession that starts from the Basilica of San Frediano and reaches the Cathedral of San Martino.
The religious event is part of a much wider event, the so-called Settembre Lucchese, It includes a series of events scattered throughout the city based on agricultural markets and antiques and a wonderful amusement park set up for the joy of young and old!
Marcia delle Ville e Mercatini in Cortile
Da ben 39 anni si svolge a Lucca e provincia la Marcia delle Ville, una corsa organizzata dalle parti di Marlia e che prevede un percorso che si snoda tra le ville più belle del territorio. Ci sono itinerari dedicati ai corridori esperti e altri predisposti per gli amatoriali, lunghi dai 3,5 ai 28 chilometri, che ospitano anche punti di ristoro per ripagare gli atleti dalla fatica della corsa.
And for those who love nature and love the environment, here is the event Mercatini in Cortile, which takes place three times a year inside the Foro Boario. It was born as a tool to raise awareness of recycling and respect for the environment, but it is a very important opportunity to sell, exchange or buy vintage and used items, avoiding throwing them away and giving them a second life.
Events not to be missed in Pisa
Pisa is a university city, which leads it to be always very crowded, both day and night, at any time of the year; and the calendar of events in the city is rich and dense enough to meet the needs of adults and children!
The Luminara and the Regatta of San Ranieri
June 16 is the day dedicated to San Ranieri, patron saint of the city; the night before, in his honor, citizens adorn doors and windows with more than 70 thousand lights (also called “lamps”) that illuminate the Lungarni almost daily.
The result is simply amazing: thousands of people cross bridges as if they were inside a fairy tale, which ends with an extraordinary fireworks display as soon as it gets dark.
For the feast of San Ranieri, instead, every year the regatta on the Arno, in which participants compete for the Palio of medieval origin. There are four boats and each represents a certain historical district between Santa Maria, San Francesco, San Martino and Sant’Antonio, each characterized by typical colors: white and red for San Martino, white and green for Sant’Antonio, White and blue for Santa Maria and white and yellow for San Francesco.
Historical regatta of the Maritime Republics
Another historical regatta involves the four ancient Maritime Republics, namely Amalfi, Genoa, Venice and Pisa. Since every year it takes place in a different city, in Pisa you can admire it every four years.
Before the Regatta, you can witness a parade made up of historical and legendary figures linked to the tradition of each city; as for Pisa, Among the most important characters is Kinzica de’ Sismondi, a Pisan heroine who, according to legend, saved the city from Saracen pirates.
Every summer, on the Ponte di Mezzo, you can participate in the Gioco del Ponte, a traditional medieval festival that stages the battle between the Pisan neighborhoods grouped in the Parts of Mezzogiorno and Tramontana.
How do you play? Each Party must push the cart towards the Opposing Party and wins who manages to drop the flag of the other team.
Copertina : chiantivillas