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LUCCA The Glorious Northern Tuscany: Lucca, Pistoia, Prato and Pisa

“A CHARMING MIXTURE OF ANTIQUE ‘CHARACTER’ and modern inconsequence; and not only the town, but the country — the blooming romantic country which you admire from the famous promenade on the city-wall.” Henry James’s musings in his Italian Hours still hold true: Lucca, at the foot of the Apennine Alps, beautifully combines historical self-awareness with contemporary life, and its magnificent circuit of defensive walls and bastions is now the domain of local cyclists and leisurely strollers. This part of Tuscany proudly upheld its status of an independent republic against the Grand Duchy of Tuscany dominated by Medicean Florence. Lucca’s beauty is unassuming but never boring: its marble clad churches and palaces contain artistic treasures ranging from the iconic tomb of Ilaria del Carretto to masterpieces by Fra Bartolomeo and Filippino Lippi. As for the surrounding countryside, Henry James justifiably reckoned that “nothing could be more charming than the country between Pisa and Lucca — unless possibly the country between Lucca and Pistoia”: fertile soil covering south-facing slopes, an abundance of water and a mild climate have made it one of Italy’s richest agricultural regions, at times resembling a gigantic nursery, which supplies cut flowers and ornamental plants worldwide. Here, prosperous patrons — from silk merchants in the Cinquecento to Napoleon’s sister Elisa in the early 19th century and beyond — built exquisite villas whose gardens reflect the luxuriousness of Lucchese silks which came to rival those imported from the East.

Your Tour Includes

  • Transfers and excursions from the hotel by private coach
  • Five nights B&B in charming 4-star Hotel Palazzo Dipinto in Lucca.
  • Three dinners and one lunch
  • Guided visits to monuments and museums listed in the programme
  • Services of the lecturer and a tour manager
  • Detailed programme and Study Notes
  • All entrance fees, taxes, and gratuities for coach drivers and waiters
  • Lucca, with its marble clad churches and places contain artistic treasures, join our walking tour of the city
  • Pisa, the traditional enemy of Lucca to visit Campo Santo with its great series of frescoes
  • Explore Apuan Alps near Carrara, quarrying marble here dates back to the 2nd century BC
  • Experience the hidden gems of Lucca, its many churches, palaces and piazzas
  • Scheduled return flights with British Airways (economy class) from to Pisa and returning from Bologna
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Itinerary

Overview

Morning flight from London Heathrow to Pisa. After lunch in a local trattoria, we will visit San Pietro a Grado, said to be where St Peter celebrated the first mass on Italian soil and preserving a fascinating Romanesque church. From there we will continue to Lucca and our four-star hotel. After some time to settle in the rooms we will go for an orientation walk to the Piazza San Michele al Foro – the centre of the city since its foundation 2,200 years ago.

Overview

Start the day with a climb up the tree-shaded Torre Guinigi, offering the best view of the city. The tower and adjacent palace were the home of Paolo Guinigi, prodigious ruler of Lucca in the early 15th century. After a coffee break in the Mercato, built in the ruins of the old Carmelite church of San Piero Cigoli, we will visit the Archivio di Stato in the nearby Palazzo Guidiccioni where we will have the opportunity to look at some documents and illuminated manuscripts associated with Lucca and its silk merchants, and have a tour of one of the most important archives in Italy. In the afternoon we will visit the church of San Michele in Foro, focusing on its role in the history of Lucca, discussing Filippino Lippi’s Magrini Altarpiece, and the church’s connections with England. Our walk will then take us past the nearby church of San Salvatore in Mustolio and the Ospedale della Misericordia, before reaching the Palazzo Mansi, the best-preserved Palace in Lucca and one of the sites of the National Gallery of Lucca, which still displays rooms furnished with Lucchese silk. On the way back to the hotel we will stop at the church of SS. Paolino e Donato, the only Renaissance church in Lucca.

Overview

We continue our exploration of Lucca with a morning visit to the great church of San Frediano, the mother church of the order of the Augustinian Canons and the site of the first cathedral in Lucca. In the church we will focus on its evolution from early Christian times to the 16th century, including works by Jacopo della Quercia and Amico Aspertini.  In the afternoon we will travel by coach to Pisa, the traditional enemy of Lucca, their histories intimately entwined. We will reach the Campo dei Miracoli and visit the Campo Santo – the monumental cemetery built in the thirteenth century – with its great series of frescoes, including Buffalmacco’s Triumph of Death in which the ruler of Lucca Castruccio Castrocani degli Antelminelli has been immortalised. We will then admire the interior of the baptistry and the cathedral before returning to Lucca.

Overview

Morning visit to the Cathedral to admire the Volto Santo: according to legend this mediaeval crucifix was carved by Nicodemus and miraculously brought to Lucca in 782. Artistically, the marble tomb of Ilaria del Carretto, wife of Paolo Guinigi, by the Sienese sculptor Jacopo della Quercia, takes pride of place for the touching portrayal of Lucca’s first lady at the beginning of the Quattrocento. We will also visit the nearby Museo del Opera del Duomo, and amongst other things look at the fascinating Anteminelli Casket – a very rare survival of tooled leather work that still remains an art-history puzzle. In the afternoon we travel by coach to the Apuan Alps near Carrara. Quarrying of marble here dates back to the 2nd century BC. Michelangelo frequently came here to select the blocks of the rare white variety named after him. Returning towards Lucca, we will stop for a stroll around the beautiful main square of Pietrasanta, looking up at the Rocca, once the summer palace of Paolo Guinigi.

Overview

Morning excursion by coach to Pistoia. Once coveted by both Lucca and Florence, Pistoia nowadays is often overlooked by visitors to Tuscany. We will spend the morning visiting the Franciscan church of Sant’Andrea and the pulpit by Giovanni Pisano – one of the most remarkable sculptures of the 14th century. In the afternoon, we will travel on to Prato, to see the Cathedral, with its frescos by Filippo Lippi, the cathedral museum and the pulpit by Donatello, and then end the day at the house of the Merchant of Prato, Francesco Datini.

Overview

In the morning we will walk to visit the church of San Francesco and the adjacent Museo Nazionale Villa Guinigi, originally the luxurious suburban palace of Paolo Guinigi built between 1417 and 1419. The highlight of the museum is the great altarpiece by Fra Bartolomeo, The Ecstasy of Saint Catherine, as well as many other treasures spanning the artistic history of Lucca, including the famous thirteenth-century crucifix by Berlinghiero di Melanese. We continue on to Pisa airport for our late afternoon flight to London Heathrow.

  • Scheduled return flights with British Airways (economy class) from to Pisa and returning from Bologna 
  • Transfers and excursions from the hotel by private coach
  • Five nights B&B in charming 4-star Hotel Palazzo Dipinto in Lucca.
  • Three dinners and one lunch
  • Guided visits to monuments and museums listed in the programme
  • Services of the lecturer and a tour manager
  • Detailed programme and Study Notes
  • All entrance fees, taxes, and gratuities for coach drivers and waiters

Accommodation

Overlooking the picturesque Piazza del Palazzo Dipinto, in the heart of the historic center of Lucca, this ancient Palazzo was converted in 2017 into a charming 4-star Superior Boutique Hotel, fitted with a contemporary and unique style. A skilful renovation has transformed the historic 13th century building into a refined design hotel, creating a modern and comfortable environment that offers its guests advanced smart-home appliances and impeccable, accurate services. In the historic center of Lucca, Palazzo Dipinto is a place where you can locate a unique combination of tradition, technology and design. The Hotel offers a perfect location to visit the city on foot with its monuments and shopping streets; it is easily accessible and is located a short distance from the most important tourist attractions of the city.