The best thing about small group tours is being able to focus on whatever our clients are interested in, then tailoring an itinerary so they get to see exactly what they want to. One of my personal favourite places in Tuscany is the gorgeous walled city of Lucca and the surrounding province of the same name. Lucca is the birthplace of one of the world’s most revered and prolific composers (responsible for such classics as La Bohème and Madame Butterfly): Giacomo Puccini. So, for anyone with an interest in music or history, the city is a true cultural gem.
Puccini the Man
For those who take the time to get to know him through his magnificent musical masterpieces, Puccini is “facile da amare” – easy to love. And so, too, is his beautiful home; in fact, the two are inextricably entwined. Lucca is Puccini and Puccini is Lucca.
Puccini was born in Lucca, in 1858, and from an early age his musical intentions were clear. While he ventured to Milan to study, he found fame with his early operas (Le Villi and Manon Lescaut), returned to his beloved home and settled about 20kms from the city of Lucca, in Torre del Lago. Although he toured the world he always returned here, and it was here he died, in 1924.
For those wanting to get the measure of the man, there are a number of important sites that preserve the memory of his exceptional operatic talent.
Celle dei Puccini: As a boy, Puccini and his family spent their summers in a nearby hilltop village now known as Celle dei Puccini. Their original home now serves as a museum, with personalised guided tours for anyone who is interested. For those looking for inspiration, the piano on which Puccini composed Madame Butterfly holds pride of place.
Chiatri: Following the success of La Bohème, the composer bought an old villa in the hamlet of Chiatri, overlooking Lake Massaciuccoli. He painstakingly restored the villa and enjoyed a deep affinity with the site, but was unable to spend as much time as he wished there, as his wife believed it was haunted. You can’t go inside, but it is well worth the visit to appreciate its tranquil setting.
Bagni di Lucca: This lovely town has been renowned since Roman and Etruscan times for the healing properties of its natural thermal springs. It was also the place where the composer worked as a humble pianist in his youth, playing music for guests who had no inkling of the acclaim he would go on to achieve. Even after he became famous, Puccini found this a place of great peace and often returned to partake of the waters.
While I love Lucca for so many reasons – the walk around the walls, the history, the architecture, the shopping, the restaurants, the warm welcome (you get the picture, I’m sure) – I never tire of introducing people to the wonderful heritage of its most inspirational resident, the magnificent Giacomo Puccini.