I have recently learned a new word: apricity.
It comes from a Latin word: aperico and it means the warmth of the winter sun and that yearning for April and spring.
I realized it is the perfect definition of what I have been doing these days to help me to come out from the low-season tour guide lethargy. It feels so good to have the sun on your face, on your skin and maybe I can feel it even more because I am still wearing too many layers of clothing.
You could apricity on your home terrace but I guess you could appreciate it more if you are somewhere in contact with nature. In this case, Lucca is extremely lucky to have the walls.
All around there are benches, a good variety of trees, and large grass lawns on top and outside, and thanks to the creation of an ecological corridor in 2020 you may be lucky to see wild orchids, white herons, and fireflies in June.
However, I would like to give you a list of small gardens within the walls.
You might be surprised to see that in a medieval city where bricks and stones are predominant, still there was some attention to green zones.
They could be private gardens to make the palace more luxurious, cloisters gardens for the sustenance of the friars and nuns, or botanical gardens for scientific purposes.
West District: Palazzo Orsetti and Via Santa Giustina
Leaving the main piazza St. Michael behind you, just turn left on Via Santa Giustina. I would rename this street Gardens street.
They are all private, however, during the day the big entrance doors are fully opened and you can get closer to have a look, maybe just behind a gate.
You will immediately understand the main feature of these green corners in Lucca.
They are all surrounded by a wall, so you could think they are following the medieval model of a Hortus Conclusus, instead, there is a difference. The wall has large windows. This is quite typical of the city. A see-through effect is to let people know or imagine the wealth of a family keeping at the same time a discreet lifestyle.
Anyway, you can have a moment for yourself and enjoy some shade sitting on a bench in the garden in front of Palazzo Orsetti.
Nowadays this sixteenth-century palace has the Mayor’s office and during the weekend you could witness a wedding or see some confetti on the street.
Around the marble well you will find trees such as the magnolia, the linden, and the camelia flowers, and in June you will smell the wisteria. I am sure your eyes will catch the fully carved arches of the monumental doors showing at the top center: a coat of arms with a triton and the other one with a mermaid.
East district: Villa Bottini, the Botanical Garden and Palazzo Froussard
The city development follows somehow the sequence of the walls, this is the first thing you will learn on a tour.
So the borders and the distinction between the town, the first outskirts, and the countryside is still very evident.
Eventually, in the XVI century, the outskirts became enclosed behind a wall and suddenly the villas were more urban than rural.
Just across the water canal, Villa Bottini is the architectural prototype for most of the Lucchese villas.
Again the wall with see-through windows will tempt you to sneak peek and then you can go inside to see the monumental sycamore tree. This variety of tree was introduced in Lucca by Elisa Baciocchi, in the 1800s.
Unfortunately, the Nimphaeum is not in a good condition, but if can notice on the left, the dome of a small water cistern. While the garden is always open throughout the day, the Villa can be visited only if there is an exhibit or an event.
The best one is Fashion in Flair in May or late September.
Furthermore, if you like to combine some history and you have a green thumb, I definitely suggest that you visit the Botanical Garden.
This special corner was opened by the Duchess Maria Luisa di Borbone in 1820 in support of the medical students of the city University.
She basically made reality a project that Elisa Baciocchi had in mind.
You can see it even from the walls: the high sequoias, the Lebanon cedar, the Ginko biloba, the American cypresses in the water pond, but if you will go inside you can have a better experience walking up on the hill with the local vegetation, visiting the green nurseries and you can even go in the walls dungeon!
Verdemura in April and Murabilia in September are two important gardening and flower shows and this is the main location.
I know that even on this side of the city, many palaces have an inner private courtyard like Palazzo Froussard at the end of Via Elisa or Palazzo Massoni in Via dell’Angelo Custode.
I still remember when I did some welcome check-ins here and the guests’ reactions!
The only chance to see these and other private gardens is for Historical Residences day in May.
The cloisters are another green example you can find in this part of the city. Maybe in San Micheletto you could sit on the raised grass beds surrounded by some contemporary art pieces or just read your book at the Fondazione Ragghianti library.
While St. Francis cloisters, despite being my favorites, are mainly covered passages. The walls have many tombstones or funeral monuments.
Each one of the three cloisters had a specific use in the past: oat, herbs, vegetables, and now I am just a little bit jealous of the students at IMT, because this is their campus!
North District: Palazzo Pfanner and a new one!
This blogpost would not be complete without mentioning the Italian-style garden at Palazzo Pfanner.
There is no way you will miss it from the walls, but then it is worthy to really be in the garden! When I finish a tour here, it takes a bit to then make the people move again.
It is just so quiet and beautiful with the fountain, the bamboo corner, the roses, the lemon trees…it is so scenic!
And I will leave you with a new one. It will soon open and I think you easily imagine yourself here…and let me know if when you will find it!