Lucca day five
31.10.2018 - 31.10.2018
Street art in Lucca
The clouds returned for our last morning in Lucca and there were a few spots of rain in the air. We had breakfast at our usual spot on the Piazza San Michele before going back to the apartment to pack. We had arranged with the owner to leave our bags at the B&B where we had checked in (just around the corner) when dropping off the key, so we did that and were then free to make the most of our last few hours in the city.
The Comics and Games festival
Comics and Games
From the day of our arrival we had watched as numerous marquees sprung up in the various squares around Lucca, and smaller tents up on the walls. We had cursed them from time to time for getting in the way of photographs and spoiling the cityscape, especially in the Piazza Anfiteatro. You can see them in the background of my photo taken in the Piazza Napoleone two days ago, and some of those in the gardens of the Palazzo Pfanner on the same day.
But now we got the pay-off. The marquees were the dispersed venues for a major comics and games festival which opened today, and the city was full of (mostly) young people, many of them in fancy dress. We started by grabbing candid shots on the streets, but soon realised that they were not only happy to pose but pleased to be asked and to have the chance to show off their costumes. Taking these photos occupied us very happily for the next hour as we strolled around, and later as we sat over a hot chocolate back in the Piazza San Michele - it was not only damp, but chilly!
Please indulge me while I share just a small selection of the many photos I took of these colourful young (mostly) and friendly (all) people.
Comics and Games festival attendees
When the rain got a little worse we sought shelter in the Puccini House, which we had skipped when we passed it earlier in our stay. This is in the house where the composer was born, on 22 December 1858, and lived during his early years along with his six siblings and parents. His was a musical family – his great great grandfather, great grandfather, grandfather and father were all musicians, and a Puccini held the position of Maestro di Cappella in Lucca for 124 years. The line was only broken on the death of his father when he was just six years old and too young to take up the position.
Reproduction of Cio-Cio-San’s 2nd act costume,
original production of Madame Butterfly
Giacomo Puccini left the family home to study in Milan, and it was later sold when the family ran into financial problems. He was able to repurchase it after the success of Manon Lescaut, and it has remained in the family ever since, who set up a foundation to manage it. Today it conserves furniture, documents, music scores, costumes and various artefacts belonging to the composer, including the Steinway piano on which he composed many of his works, including Turandot. Although not especially an opera fan, and knowing relatively little of his music, I found it interesting nevertheless to see inside the house. A keen opera fan, such as my friend Don, would no doubt spend hours here!
Tickets to visit the museum are sold in a nearby gift shop, so we bought these and then had to use an entry phone to get into the house. Although called a ‘house’, you are in fact visiting an apartment on the second floor, where the family lived, not the whole building – hence (I assume) the need for the entry phone. Even though the morning was wet we were for most of our visit the only people there, which surprised me a little.
Tours are self-guided, using a leaflet that comes with the tickets and following a set route through the rooms. These contain some original furniture but are largely devoted to display cases of significant documents (letters, photos, some music manuscripts). These I found less interesting (not knowing as much as I perhaps should about opera in general and Puccini in particular) but I liked seeing the décor of the rooms, in particular the tempera decoration on many of the walls, and the opera costumes on display, as well as the old photographs. Talking of photos, you are permitted to take your own provided you don’t use flash and they aren’t for commercial purposes.
The rooms include:
The music room, with the Steinway piano bought by Puccini in 1901, on which he composed much of his music, including his last opera, Turandot.
Puccini family tree, displayed in the music room
Tempera wall decoration in the music room, dated c 1910
The dining room, which is furnished as it would have been in Puccini’s time, including some original family furniture.
The kitchen, largely unfurnished, with old family photos.
In the kitchen
The attic, which has been decorated using a stage set for La Bohème, made by the Teatro del Giglio in Lucca. You can't go into this room but have to view it from the door, for obvious reasons!
Stage set design for La Bohème in the attic
The room where Puccini was born (his parents’ bedroom), with tempera wall decoration simulating a tapestry – this dates back to the second quarter of the 19th century (around the time when the Puccini family came to live here). The painted chest is a late 15th century wedding chest, but the bed is a copy, as the original is in the Puccini House Museum in Camaiore.
A corner of the bedroom
The Hall of Triumphs, where various medals, prizes and other items awarded to Puccini are displayed – I confess I found the mid 19th century tempera wall decorations more interesting, with their stylised birds and twisted blue and red ribbons.
Tempera decoration in the Hall of Triumphs
The one-time study and family library, which is now known as the Turandot Room and used to display the costume for Act II of Turandot, donated by Maria Jeritza, in memory of the first production of the opera at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York (1926). This is displayed behind glass, understandably, so is a little hard to photograph, but is gorgeous and worth the effort!
The costume for Act II of Turandot from the first production of the opera
Back on the city wall
When we left the Puccini house, the weather had brightened so we took a short walk on another section of the wall, this time on the west side of the city. This too was lively with the comics and games activities and the many fans attending them, so we took more photos of the most colourful.
Festival goers on the city wall
We descended from the wall at the Baluardo Santa Croce in the north west corner of the wall. This is one of the best preserved of all the bastions, with cannon emplacements and soldiers’ barracks under the battlements.
The Baluardo Santa Croce
Here we found some interesting sculptures, which like the piece we had seen yesterday in the Mercato del Carmine turned out to be left-overs from the Biennial. The figure of the gorilla and baby seemed to me at the time to be the work of the same artist, but again a bit of subsequent research has revealed the artist to be Laurence Vallières, and the work’s title ‘Mother’. The other figures are apparently ostriches with their heads in the sand, but I haven’t been able to identify the artist.
Art installations at the Baluardo Santa Croce
We walked back towards the centre, still passing, and photographing, all the festival goers.
More festival goers
Osteria del Neni
For a final meal in Lucca we had lunch in the same trattoria where we had eaten on our second evening, the Osteria del Neni. The service was friendly, to the extent that one waitress recognised us from that earlier visit and welcomed us back! The tortellini were freshly made, the sauces tasty and it made a pleasant ending to our stay.
In the Osteria del Neni
Time to go home
We collected our bags from the B&B and walked to the station, crossing the wall again. The train to Pisa was on time, the transfer there to the shuttle, Pismover, easy, and we were at the airport with more than enough time to have a drink while waiting to board.
The flight took off and landed more or less on time, but as we were at Gatwick’s North Terminal we still had to catch the shuttle to the South Terminal, the train to London Victoria, and the Tube, before we could consider ourselves properly home again. We'd had a super time, despite the rain. We loved Lucca, enjoyed being in Italy as always, and no doubt will be visiting our favourite European country again soon!
A final farewell from the Comics and Games Festival