What is it about Saturdays in Lucca?

It is actually Sunday here now, but I was too tired to post last night. I have a cold. I’ve been fighting letting it take hold, but it’s got me. So if it’s true that a cold is 3 days coming, 3 days here and 3 days leaving, then I am on day 1 of “here.” With pounding head and body aches to go with it. Drats.

So it will be a stay-in day for me and plenty of hot tea and broth. But yesterday, Saturday, well there’s just something about Saturdays in Lucca. Maybe because there’s so many people out and about there’s just so much more potential for things to happen. And I’m sure I don’t know the half of it!

Anyway, since I’m feeling congested, I thought I’d walk down to the tourist center and check out the afternoon trip they offer to a nearby town famous for it’s thermal hot springs. You can go to one of the hot pools and soak and get other spa services if you like. I’ve been dreaming of it for weeks and would give anything for a nice hot, deep bath!

ImageWell, just as I went out the door I heard a fantastically loud blast of music and firecrackers going off. It was the high school kids demonstrating again, but this time they had a small vespa truck in the lead loaded with a sound system. And in front of that were armed police!

that’s not a radio on his left shoulder

This group was much smaller than the one I saw before, but seemed to be a lot more rowdy. At least the kids in front. I scurried up onto the church steps to get out of the way while they passed.

Then, much to my surprise, the polizia at the rear were in full riot gear! I had a sudden flashback to my own college days and the demonstrations against Vietnam. And the overwhelming police presence at Kent State that led to disaster.

This sight not only made me sad, it chilled me to the bone. I don’t understand the approach of trying to swat a fly with a sledge hammer. I know I am uninformed about the whole business, and maybe the officials were expecting a much bigger turnout, but did they really need all this? It almost seems like it would provoke the kids more if emotions start running high – and that’s not a good thing…

ImageImageSo after that parade passed, I headed on down to the tourist center. I couldn’t get an appointment for the Thermal pool for a week so I guess it won’t help my cold now. But the young man at the desk was very enthusiastic and told me about a couple free events going on that I didn’t know about. So I went to those!

First was free admission at Museo Nazionale di Palazzo Mansi – a historical palace/museum that was only two blocks away. Good news since I can’t get too lost in that distance!

It was an amazing place. The property was purchased in 1616 by wealthy Lucca merchant Asconio Mansi. He and his heirs turned it into a palace that served as the family’s residence and also a place of business. This monumental palace actually stayed in the family until 1966 when it was sold to the state and turned into a museum. It is very unusual to have such a well-preserved private residence that has retained its Baroque Style. You can’t imagine how grand it is, but here’s a few photos…


one sumptuous bedroom


several rooms were completely hung with handwoven tapestries


the first of four rooms that make up the “picture gallery”

ImageThe artwork in the galleries now is a beautiful collection of 83 paintings by Italian and Flemish artists of the 16th-18th centuries. It is not the original family collection – which was lost when one of the old boys used it to pay his gambling debts. One painting my theocratic friends will appreciate is this crucifixion. Notice the position of Jesus’ arms…


“Purity” by Barry X Ball

Also on display in one of the rooms was a very new sculpture based on an historic marble sculpture in Venice. This piece is sculpted of translucent pink Iranian onyx and I’ve never seen anything like it. The picture may look a bit creepy, but it is actually a quite beautiful rendering of a bust wearing a veil. It was 3 years in the making, completed in 2011.

I really enjoyed getting a glimpse of real palace life in Lucca from centuries ago. And the second floor of the museum holds a lot more artwork and sculpture that is much more modern. There were beautiful paintings that I’m glad I didn’t miss – and to think that all these treasures live right down the street! That’s Italy for ya!

Well, the day wasn’t over yet, but this post is long enough. I’ll continue in part 2 – after I get another cup of tea…

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Billy D
    Nov 18, 2012 @ 07:33:31

    That group of kids is mostly boys – unlike the previous demonstration that looked like a preppy parade in comparison…..

    If historical family palaces are just 2 blocks away what else is right around the corner? For a small town Lucca holds a lot of surprises!


    • thesketchylife
      Nov 18, 2012 @ 10:24:42

      you are right – that group was more boys – rowdy boys. There were more girls farther back, but they were definitely in the background. And the whole feel was different – almost ominous. It was like the boys and the polizia were just daring each other to make a move. Testosterone was flowing for sure and I stayed close to the concrete church railing, ready to duck. It was uncomfortable to be caught in.

      And you know what – there’s still a couple “official” places in Lucca I haven’t been! This place is amazing!


  2. Ellyn
    Nov 18, 2012 @ 12:51:48

    That bedroom is beautiful. Just think of how it would have sparkled in candlelight all those centuries before electricity!

    And the Purity bust is amazing. It reminded me of a scene in Pride and Prejudice where Keira Knightley is enraptured with a similar piece – maybe the one in Venice you referred to? It was stunning and unforgettable. I clicked on the picture to enlarge it and all I can say is wow. Just wow. And three years to create it? It ws time well spent. I think of how Michaelangelo would just study and study and study a piece of marble, trying to see the sculpture within so he could best figure out how to release it.

    Funny how one little snapshot sent me into an artistic high!


    • thesketchylife
      Nov 18, 2012 @ 16:12:48

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I certainly thought of you when I was standing there studying this unusual bust. And this place is down a little residential side street where I would never have thought to go! And you – you think you wouldn’t even like Italy! You would love it if you could find all these treasures most people never even find!


  3. MaryBeth Tipton
    Nov 18, 2012 @ 20:06:31

    Oh, Pride and Prejudice…splendid book, great movie….


  4. Vino girl!
    Nov 19, 2012 @ 18:52:50

    How fun it would have been for you and Ellyn to explore together! If I were of $$$$$ I would send that girl right over. I’m with you Ellyn, that sculpture is truly stunning. I looks so soft to be marble. It is amazing the talent that humans have and things they can see others of us never imagine. Oh to have talent. It’s at least nice to have talented friends to see things thru!( love Pride and Predjudice too! a favorite movie and book as well!) More culture! yeah!


  5. the hungrier billy
    Nov 22, 2012 @ 11:20:42

    i would think the policia know more of how to handle their folks then visitors. they have their hooligans for sure and they are way wilder than americans at football games. but, we have our own crazies too. they seem to protest more than we do – especially the greeks and the italians but it is fairly routine over yonder.

    i think some of my favorite sculptures were in italy, bernini i believe. they were somewhat mythic but so much detail in the sculpture. i recall seeing the males fingers thrusting into the skin of the female and i couldn’t believe the detail. i don’t know how he did it but it was pretty awesome.

    i think it is rare to see an american use a spoon for spaghetti too. you stereotype ideas too much… 😉


    • thesketchylife
      Nov 22, 2012 @ 11:58:58

      I think you are right. I sympathize with the high school kids overall, but the polizia know who the hooligans are. It is their job and and there must have been cause for them to be out in full force. And the fact is, I felt it. I couldn’t get out of the way once I was in the midst, but I had the instinct to duck at any moment. Can’t ignore that.

      Bernini is ALL OVER Rome. Fantastic sculptor. And yes, I saw some of those ones where the flesh is literally compressed by the touch of another figure. Absolutely amazing stuff. I had never seen anything like it before. It’s like the stone is moldable – which we know it is not. Terrific skill in sculpting.

      No more spoons with spaghetti for me… now I know!!!


      • the mappy-er billy
        Nov 24, 2012 @ 19:37:58

        so have we figured out how we are gonna get all the stuff home? do you know what episode of hoarders you will be on? i can’t wait to see it. 😉

        hope you maximize the rest of your stay. if there are things on your to do list, you better get ta do-ing.

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