The city of Lucca has a vintage charm and, without the presence of some modern shops, it would be impossible to understand in what era we’re living while walking in the town centre. In addiction, Lucca is a very elegant town, with perfectly conserved pedestrian city walls and a few villas belonging to aristocratic families.
These extraordinary villas, with illusionistic frescoes, beautiful staircases and magnificent furnishings can also be found around Lucca in the middle of superb parks and vineyards and olive groves. Today we talk about these fantastic villas in Lucca’s surroundings: have you ever visited them?
Some of these villas are available for private parties, events and weddings; while other are open to the public in some special occasion. For more information check out Associazione delle Ville e dei Palazzi Lucchesi website.
1. Villa Bernardini
Villa Bernardini is located in Vicopelago (few kilometres from Lucca) since 1615, the year of the conclusion of the construction. It is one of the best preserved villas of Lucca, built according to the principles of elegance and sobriety as Bernardino Bernardini, Ambassador of the Republic of Lucca, requested. When he was not traveling, Bernardino Bernardini stayed there with his family and friends during summer. The villa lies in the shadow of a hill and is surrounded by an 8-hectare park with more than 350 different and rare plant species and a lemon-house. The treasure of Villa Bernardini is certainly the shrubbery amphitheatre, dating back to the XVIII century.
Website (in Italian)
2. Villa Grabau
Located in San Pancrazio, at the foot of the Colline Lucchesi, Villa Grabau belonged to the powerful family Diodati, merchants from Lucca, and was built during the first half of the 16th century, on a pre-existent medieval building. At first it assumed a Renaissance style, but in the various changes of ownership it took on the Neoclassical look with frescoes and trompe l'oeil. Then the German Grabau family bought the villa and they are still the owners of the property. There is a nine hectare park made up of a box hedge theatre, a large English Garden with rare species of tall trees, a great Italian garden decorated with over one hundred terracotta vases of 100-year-old lemon plants and fountains decorated with masks and white marble statues.
3. Villa Mansi
Villa Mansi is a magnificent palace with gardens located in Segromigno in Monte, near Capannori, about 12 kilometres northeast of Lucca. The villa features a beautiful façade in the Mannerist style, highlighted by the big lawn in front of the villa and a remarkable colour effect between the grey stone in the structural parts and the white-ochre plaster, all decorated with numerous statues. The Benedetti were the first owners of the villa in the sixteenth century, then it was sold to Cenami and finally to the Mansi family, who entrusted the architect Filippo Juvarra with the task of renovating the garden. The whole park was transformed by his genius into perfect scenery with a water system, water games and many scenic effects.
4. Villa Oliva
The building of Villa Oliva was commissioned by the Buonvisi family at the end of the 15th century and built by Matteo Civitali, a famous Renaissance architect formed at the school of Lorenzo de Medici in Florence. The villa has an unusually large and harmonious ‘Loggia’ with single block columns covering two floors on the northern front of the Palace. Also worth noting are the prestigious stables on the western side of the Villa and the five-hectare park that stretches over three levels and includes several ponds and fountains.
5. Villa Reale
Villa Reale of Marlia is a very old building formed from a fortress where the Duke of Tuscia lived during the early Middle Ages. The property subsequently passed to the most important families of Lucca, who transformed the fortress into a magnificent building. Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi, Napoleon’s sister and Princess of Lucca, bought the property in 1806 and from this point on, the Villa took the name “Reale” (Royal). The Princess proceeded with major works which transformed the structure of the building and the gardens. The Park was also partially redesigned in line with the 18th century taste for English gardens adorned with statues and vases created with precious white marble from Carrara. After the fall of Napoleon the Villa Reale had periods of splendour and of decadence, until the purchase by the present owners, who undertook its complete renovation.
6. Villa Torrigiani
Villa Torrigiani is located in Camigliano (Capannori, Lucca) and is one of the most luxurious and scenic villas of Lucca. In the second half of the sixteenth century, the Marquis Nicolao Santini, Ambassador of the Republic of Lucca at the court of the Sun King (Louis XIV of France), bought it from the family Buonvisi family and transformed it in a small palace inspired by Versailles. A long avenue of cypresses is the theatrical entrance to the villa, which differs from the others by the polychrome of the main façade, obtained using different materials. Inside there is one elliptical staircase, stuccos and other exuberant decorations and trompe l'oeil. The garden deserves a visit too: it's called “garden of Flora” or “secret garden” and features surprising ensemble of grottoes, nymph temples, flowers, masks and play of water.