There is nothing I love more than being in a place I've never been, and I pretty much just want to go everywhere...
I can't get enough of travelling and sightseeing, so this blog is dedicated to the cool little places I would someday like to go.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

"Garden Above the City" : Torre Guinigi

I’ve always wanted to go to Tuscany, Italy. The rolling fields and the villas look like paradise, and it always seems so sunny and warm and beautiful. I would love to drive through the countryside on a summer evening and stay in a gorgeous Italian villa (exactly how realistic that is, I don’t know – sounds a lot like Letters to Juliet).

But when eventually travel to Italy, one of my first stops will be Lucca, in Tuscany.

The first thing you see when arriving in Lucca is the massive stone wall that surrounds the town, which was originally built in the 1500’s for defense. It is now a walking promenade around the city for cyclists, locals and tourists to enjoy. Lucca is one of the best places to go for an authentic medieval atmosphere.

The town of Lucca dates back to Roman times, and Roman architecture is still visible in the town centre today. During medieval times, Lucca was a centre for trade, especially the silk trade. In the 14th century Italy was full of political turmoil and unrest, so many towns were fortified for defense. Power changed hands many times, but Lucca eventually fell under the control of the wealthy Guinigi family.

One of the first things the Guinigi’s did was build a huge tower to show off their wealth. This was a very common pass-time for rich families in that era, they apparently had nothing better to do with their money, and many Tuscan cities actually had to pass laws restricting the height of towers because people were just going crazy. When the families fought each other, knocking down the enemy’s tower was the ultimate burn.

Fortunately, Torre Guinigi survived, and today it is a breathtaking tourist attraction. The tower is entirely medieval architecture, except for the stairs, which are a modern addition (the original stairs were on the outside). You can still see the Guinigi family crest carved into the stone. Today, for 4 euros, you can climb the 230 stairs and from the top floor you can enjoy a panoramic view of the surrounding town, including the Roman centre, the original city walls, and a few other towers around the city that are still intact. You can also see the countryside around the town and the Alps in the distance.

The cool thing about the tower is that it’s high, but not high enough that you are completely distanced from the city. You can still hear the people in the streets and the musicians that play nearby.

 The most incredible feature of the tower is its rooftop garden, which dates back to at least the 1600’s. The garden is 125 feet above the ground, and includes several ancient oak trees.

What to Do? There’s lots to see around the town, enough to keep you busy for an afternoon of exploring. Across town from the Torre Guinigi is the Torre della Ore (the clock tower) which is also open to climb. You can visit several medieval basilicas and the Lucca Amphitheatre, whose architecture dates back to the Roman Empire. The Lucca Catherdral dates to the 1300’s and has many beautiful paintings as well as a famous sculpture of St. Martin. I would really just enjoy wandering the streets and exploring. I think that’s the best way to discover a city, and Lucca’s architecture and culture would be absolutely stunning.

What to eat? The Tuscany region is known for its delicious cuisine. Around Lucca you can sample the local cooking, including traditional peasant foods like cheese and herb stuffed past, delicious soups, and specialties like roast kid (goat kids) and cold rabbit salad.



  1. Oh them crazy rich people. But that is quite interesting though. The building is tall and all, but there are trees actually growing on top. I wonder if the roof will collapse one day. Hopefully they have something planned to prevent that because this is definitely a place I'd like to visit before i die.

  2. I'd love to take an instagram from above the city there (haha..... just kidding). It looks like a beautiful place. I've always appreciated old architecture; going to Quebec is so fun for that reason, but I can only imagine seeing buildings that make Quebec seem like a new subdivision. Keep them coming Renee, I love these adventure guide places

  3. I have seen trees somehow grow in many places so why not at the top of a building. I have always like architecture that blends both natural and modern, as with the last post on Giethoorn, and this is no different. Seeing all these places makes me really sad that I have yet to leave this country.

  4. Paulina I hope not!! :(

    Hahaha go for it Chase, and same, I looove old architecture! And aww thanks! :)

    And Mitchell I feel your pain! I've never been off the continent and it sucks!

  5. I would love to go to school in a place like this. Imagine staying here for a semester? Wow. It would be incredible. You just don't get buildings like this in Canada.