Shopping

Picture a stay in an elegant 16th-century Tuscan villa in the luxurious style of Renaissance nobility, but with all of today’s modern conveniences. Imagine a setting overlooking vineyards with views of majestic mountains. Sounds enticing, doesn’t it? To that picture, add convenient access to the fascinating medieval city of Lucca and many top sites in the region and you have Villa Buonvisi, where Mr. TWS and I spent the second part of our Tuscany visit.

Buonvisi Estate, Lucca Tuscany

Buonvisi Estate, Lucca Tuscany

 

 

Driving along the road lined with vineyards and woods, I caught my first sight of the villa. There on a slight slope, Villa Buonvisi was perched, grandly overlooking the vineyard. We arrived at noon on a perfect sunny Saturday in May — the roses were in bloom and the only sound was the cheerful chirping of the birds.

 

Roses in bloom with a mountain backdrop on the grounds of Villa Buonvisi

Roses in bloom with a mountain backdrop on the grounds of Villa Buonvisi

 

Walking on the red carpet to the entrance of the villa, I suddenly had the feeling that I should have been more elegantly attired – that perhaps Gucci would be more appropriate than Banana Republic. (I could picture walking up the red carpet from a horse-drawn carriage with a gorgeous Renaissance-style gown swirling around me, too.) My concern was diminished immediately by the warm greeting of our hostess, Gianna Dini, the owner of Villa Buonvisi. Gianna is very fashionable and chic, but her gracious hospitality made me feel completely at ease. She exudes a stylish flair which accompanied by her genuine warmth and sense of humor make her a joy to be around.

A tour of Villa Buonvisi

As we explored the grounds and rooms of the villa, Mr. TWS thought that he had stepped onto the opulent estate from Stanley Kubrick’s movie Barry Lyndon. He said he could picture the mid-18th century gentry and nobility moving around inside while the film’s theme song by Handel played. My first impressions of Villa Buonvisi were more associated with the music of the great composer of La Boheme, Turandot, and Madame Butterfly, Giacomo Puccini, who was born in Lucca in 1858.

The Villa

On the red carpet of Villa Buonvisi

On the red carpet of Villa Buonvisi

 

The villa, one of the largest in the area, was originally built in the 16th century by the wealthy Buonvisi family who had made their fortune in the silk trade, an industry in which Lucca had been famous. Gianna and her late husband Joseph bought the villa in 1992 and made extensive renovations to bring it to its current splendor with modern conveniences yet retaining elegant ambiance and historic features. It was a daunting task. The villa was in severe disrepair and there were certain restoration requirements because Villa Buonvisi is a registered historic landmark. But Gianna was determined and with her innate sense of design and style, she took on the challenge and accomplished her goal.

Much consideration went into the restoration with authenticity always in mind from the custom-made drapery to the period murals to the large exposed beams. Gianna took great care in choosing and customizing the interior decor, antique furnishings, and works of art to retain the villa’s singular period character. Gianna and Joseph lived in the villa with their two sons until opening it as a holiday rental in 2008.

High ceilings and large windows create open and bright spaces in the villa, such as those in the ground floor living room shown below.

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With 11 bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, and ample living and dining areas, it’s perfect for weddings (ceremonies can be held on the property), family reunions, business retreats, and other group events. To accommodate additional guests in the party or to be rented separately are two apartments (where Mr. TWS and I stayed) in the renovated farmhouse adjacent to the villa.

On our first night at Buonvisi, Gianna invited us for dinner at the villa with her son Nicola, a certified pizza chef and wine connoisseur. We began with aperitivos in the wine cellar seated at a table surrounded by their impressive wine collection. Gianna and Nicola talked about their family history and stories of the villa’s interesting past which includes a secret passage in the wine cellar discovered during the renovations.

In the kitchen and formal dining room on the ground floor, our lively conversation about food, politics, festivals, and life in Lucca continued as Nicola prepared and served us a wonderful Tuscan meal.

Dining table set for our dinner being prepared by Nicola

Dining table set for our dinner being prepared by Nicola

Originally, the second floor bedrooms and salon were for nobility while the third floor housed the servants’ quarters. Now all of the rooms throughout the villa are luxuriously designed and appointed with fine furnishings.

 

Second floor salon and view from the Juliet balcony; one of the 2nd floor bedrooms

Second floor salon and view from the Juliet balcony; one of the 2nd floor bedrooms

A few of the tastefully and colorfully decorated bedrooms, each one unique, are shown in the photos.

Colorful and uniquely decorated bedrooms of Villa Buonvisi

Colorful and uniquely decorated bedrooms of Villa Buonvisi

There are many exquisite displays of art and antiques throughout the villa. The religious art in the servants’ quarters (such as the fresco below on the wall of the servant’s secret stairwell leading to the “noble floor”) was a reminder to the maids of their faith in an effort to dissuade any less-than-honorable activities with the guests. Of course, we don’t know if it actually worked.

Religious fresco in old servants’ quarters, art by Dini family friend, sculptor Ron Mehlman, and ornate antique table and mirror

Religious fresco in old servants’ quarters, art by Dini family friend, sculptor Ron Mehlman, and ornate antique table and mirror

On the third floor, there is a large playroom for kids with a pool table and other games. The room is also used for presentations and screenings.

The grounds

Sunshine and blue skies really added to the already amazing setting as we toured outdoors.

Palm tree on front lawn and stone gate in back on the grounds of Villa Buonvisi

Palm tree on front lawn and stone gate in back on the grounds of Villa Buonvisi

The estate’s 300 acres include olive groves, vineyards, gardens, a gated pool, tennis courts, and outdoor entertaining areas with a BBQ and pizza oven. I would like to take a walk sometime through the imposing stone gateway at the rear of the villa through the olive trees and up the hill behind.

Palm tree on front lawn and stone gate in back on the grounds of Villa Buonvisi

Palm tree on front lawn and stone gate in back on the grounds of Villa Buonvisi

The Vera apartments

From top right: Renovated farmhouse with Vera private apartments, Vera 3 dining and living area, one of three bedrooms in Vera 3, and lovely early morning view through bedroom window

From top right: Renovated farmhouse with Vera private apartments, Vera 3 dining and living area, one of three bedrooms in Vera 3, and lovely early morning view through bedroom window

We were very comfortable in our private apartment, Vera 3, spacious and lovely with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, and a dining/living area. There is a small private pool and patio for the Vera units.

City, countryside, and coastal experiences

With all that the villa has to offer, it can provide for a complete countryside holiday, but its location makes it convenient for touring other city and coastal areas of northern Tuscany.

Scenes of charming Lucca

We appreciated that Lucca’s city center was so accessible from Villa Buonvisi, just three miles away. With the guidance and recommendations of Gianna and Nicola, we saw highlights of this ancient city founded by the Etruscans and quickly fell in love with the town. The historic center is mostly pedestrian and bike traffic which really added to its appeal. Lucca was very much abuzz with locals and visitors as we walked around on this Sunday afternoon. In the summer months, it comes even more alive with festivals, such as the Lucca Summer Festival which brings big name headliners and the Lucca Comics and Games Festival. Gianna is an excellent ambassador for Lucca — proud, knowledgeable, and eager to show others her city.

Piazza Anfiteatro, Lucca

Piazza Anfiteatro, Lucca

The oval-shaped Piazza Anfiteatro was the site of the ancient Roman amphitheater. As we entered through one of the four arched entrances, it was a lovely surprise with many cafes and restaurants.

Clockwise rom top left: Basilica di San Frediano, Duomo di San Martino, San Michele in Foro

Clockwise rom top left: Basilica di San Frediano, Duomo di San Martino, San Michele in Foro

Of the many churches that can be found in Lucca, on our walk we passed three that are the most notable in the city. Duomo di San Martino (above right) was built between the 12th and 13th centuries in Romanesque style with an intricately decorated marble facade. Puccini was a choirboy and played the organ here in his youth. Construction on the Basilica di San Frediano (top left above) was begun in the 12th century and in the 13th century was decorated with byzantine-style mosaic tiles mostly made with gold leaf that glows in the sunlight. San Michele in Foro (bottom left above) was built between the 12th and 14th centuries with a beautiful marble Romanesque facade and is topped with a statue of  St. Michael, the Archangel.

We got glimpses of Tower Guinigi at various points during the day, but didn’t have a chance to climb its 130 steps to the top where oak trees were planted by the Guinigi family to represent birth and renewal. Now one of the few remaining towers in the city, it’s interesting to note that when it was built in the 14th century, there were many of these structures on the Lucca skyline as a tower’s height was a reflection of a family’s prestige.

A glimpse of Tower Guinigi through the medieval buildings of Lucca; Statue of Puccini in front of the family home, now a museum

A glimpse of Tower Guinigi through the medieval buildings of Lucca; Statue of Puccini in front of the family home, now a museum

And of course, there is Puccini! Although we didn’t visit the family home which is now a museum with his musical scores and other memorabilia, we marked the moment by having a beverage at a cafe on Piazza Citadella near the bronze statue of Lucca’s native son.

Shoppers and browsers at one of the venues of the monthly Antiques Market; Taking an evening stroll along one of Lucca’s charming streets

Shoppers and browsers at one of the venues of the monthly Antiques Market; Taking an evening stroll along one of Lucca’s charming streets

Many locals do their shopping for food, wine, household goods and furnishings, clothing, and accessories in the city center. There are high-end designer shops and boutiques along the popular Via Fillungo, but many do their shopping at small and unique establishments that are individually or family-owned. We did a bit of window shopping and stopped in at Ottica Vogue to chat with Gianna’s lovely friend Andalusa and browse the glamorous eyeglasses. Of course, there are some stores that cater to tourists, but helping the city keep its character, they are not as prevalent as in other places.

Our timing was right to catch the antiques market which takes place the third weekend of each month. As we quickly browsed, we saw textiles, lamps, paintings, glassware, books, and many other collectibles.

There are many restaurants, cafes, and bars of all kinds in the piazzas and along the side streets for dining al fresco, people watching, and enjoying the company of friends.

Top: Al fresco dining in Lucca Bottom: Enjoying wine and dinner with Gianna at Osteria Miranda and lunch at L’Oste di Lucca

Top: Al fresco dining in Lucca Bottom: Enjoying wine and dinner with Gianna at Osteria Miranda and lunch at L’Oste di Lucca

At Osteria Miranda on Via dei Carrozzieri, a popular place with locals that comes highly recommended by Gianna. Our waiter (who is also a chef and owner of the restaurant) was friendly, the food was delicious, and the ambiance was very cozy and welcoming. Before dinner, we had aperitivos at a cleverly-themed cocktail bar, Franklin ’33, a nod to the end of Prohibition in the United States in 1933 during the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt. Music of the 1920s and 1930s and photos of celebrities of those days create a fun speakeasy atmosphere.

Top: Al fresco dining in Lucca Bottom: Enjoying wine and dinner with Gianna at Osteria Miranda and lunch at L’Oste di Lucca

Top: Al fresco dining in Lucca Bottom: Enjoying wine and dinner with Gianna at Osteria Miranda and lunch at L’Oste di Lucca

One of the most impressive features of Lucca are the still-intact ancient walls built in the 16th and 17th centuries with a 30-foot wide biking and pedestrian path on top. Mr. TWS and I rented bikes for an hour to ride all the way around twice. It was so much fun and quite beautiful with trees lining the path in many places. There were couples, families, and people of all ages biking, walking, stopping to talk, and looking at the sights. From vantage points around the path, there are great views of Lucca’s buildings, squares, parks, towers, and the countryside.

Day trips from Villa Buonvisi

Florence, Pisa, the quarries of the Apuan Alps, Viareggio and other sites in Tuscany are convenient for day trips from Villa Buonvisi

Florence, Pisa, the quarries of the Apuan Alps, Viareggio and other sites in Tuscany are convenient for day trips from Villa Buonvisi

In addition to having Lucca so close by, the villa’s location is ideal for sightseeing famous attractions, such as the cities of Pisa (8 miles) and Florence (45 miles). It’s also convenient for exploring other areas of Tuscany, some of which may surprise you as they did me. I never thought of Tuscany having beaches, yet it has a long coastline, the Versilian Riviera, on the Ligurian Sea with very popular beach resorts of Forte dei Marmi and the vibrant seaside city of Viareggio. I was especially taken with the rich art culture of Pietrasanta and the amazing marble quarries of the Apuan Alps where Michelangelo procured his white marble.

Quiet nights and sparks of light

On our final night on the Buonvisi estate, we were in our apartment when Nicola came to our door to tell us that the outside lights of the estate were going to be turned off to best see the fireflies that were swarming. My childhood memories include distinct recollections of chasing fireflies in our backyard in the Chicago area during the summers, but that was nothing compared to the thousands we saw this evening. Apparently, it is very common to see these swarms in Tuscany in early summer. We didn’t get any photos, so you’ll have to use your imagination to picture the vineyard completely aglow with tiny lights; trust me, it was a stunning sight.

I found a poem by Richard Monckton Milnes (Lord Houghton) who was at a spa in Bagni di Lucca (about 20 miles from Villa Buonvisi), when he wrote this in the late 19th century:

… The fireflies, pulsing forth their rapid gleams, Are the only light That breaks the night…

And so it was this evening, as we lingered outside breathing in the fragrances of the Tuscan air, mesmerized by the flickering lights.

Villa Buonvisi at night

Villa Buonvisi at night

Walking along the lane in front of the villa with the stars above us was quite magical, actually – which is how I remember our stay at Villa Buonvisi — magical, elegant, and filled with wonderful activities and surprises.

Our thanks to Villa Buonvisi and EsteVillas for helping us to create our Lucca memories.

by Catherine Sweeney   Travelling with Sweeney

august 10 2015

 

Osteria Da Miranda Via Dei Carrozzieri 27, | 55100 Lucca, Italy tel +39 0583.952731 – Typical local restaurant with great local food. indoor / outdoor seating –  reservation necessary.

 

Ciclo Divino Via Michele Rosi 7, Lucca, Italy   tel +39 0583471869+39 0583471869 – Happy Hour : A bike shop that sells great wine and great food. essentially you get wine by the glass and small “bites” for 1 euro/piece or 10 for only 7/euro

 

Prospero via S Lucia 13 Lucca – Local food tasting at Prospero, an extremely ancient and typical grain shop

 

Franklin Via San Giorgio,43, 55100, Italy tel +39 328 4677416+39 328 4677416 – Happy Hour

 

 

Lucca Amphitheatre Piazza - Estevillas Holiday Rentals

Lucca Amphitheatre Piazza – Estevillas Holiday Rentals

My friend Gianna takes us on an insider’s tour of Lucca’s best spots to grab a bite, a drink—and maybe a leather jacket or a fancy pair of Italian designer eyeglasses.

Gianna lives in an historic villa with a beautiful garden just a few minutes’ drive from Lucca. She is a real fashionista. She loves to find authentic small restaurants and “trattoria” where she can feel at home. She knows the best places to shop in the area for food, wine and fashion.

Lucca is a unique and very special town, a hidden surprise for visitors who come here for the first time. The location couldn’t be better: the Appennine mountains behind, the sandy beaches just a stone’s throw away and Pisa and Florence very close too.

The approach to Lucca involves venturing through the massive medieval walls that encircle the town. They are wide, lined with trees, restaurants, playgrounds, and tons of seating, creating a sort of suspended ring to jog, bike, run or simply relax while watching people wander the little narrow roads inside the walls.

Biking on the Lucca Walls

Biking on the Lucca Walls

Most of the city is closed to automobile traffic. Locals bike or stroll instead of driving, gather in the cafés and wine bar and peruse the open street market. You can easily hire a  bike and have tour of the city walls by yourself or decide to take a guided tour, which will add a lot to the experience by showing nice places outside the city.

We park outside the city walls and walk through the gate into the city.

“Don’t say that you have been to Lucca if you haven’t eaten Taddeucci’s Buccellato!”

Buccellato Taddeucci Lucca

Buccellato Taddeucci Lucca

The Buccellato is the most typical and well-known cake of Lucca. It is a ring-shaped tasty sweet bread with raisins and aniseed, smothered in a mixture of sugar and egg. It was the traditional dessert for Sunday lunch in most Lucchese homes.

For 131 years Taddeucci Bakery has stood in Piazza San Michele, the heart of Lucca and a fascinating place full of history. It was here in 1881 that Lucca’s baker, Jacopo Taddeucci, created the delicacy he is so famous for.

Today you can find the Buccellato in any bakery, but the original recipe is still a Taddeucci’s secret, handed down from father to son.

Two other bakeries make a worthwhile stop. The first is Forno a Vapore Amedeo Giusti (or simply Giusti) on via S Lucia. The tiny and always packed shop is the best place for their unforgettable dark brown, multi-grain focaccia. Stand in line, grab a number and wait for your order of the rich flat bread.

Sweet Vegetable Tarte- Chifenti

Sweet Vegetable Tarte- Chifenti

Chifenti on via San Paolino is where you can sample some surprising vegetable tarts—sweet, not savory!—a Lucca specialy.

Our path takes us to Via Fillungo, the main shopping street lined with many upscale boutiques, but Gianna moves quickly on and stops in front of one of the oldest shops in Lucca. Carli jewelry, first opened in 1655 and passing from generation to generation, is still furnished and decorated as it was in the 18th century. (Carli Via Fillungo #95 Lucca)

A little farther down the street at number 58 is Antico Caffe Di Simo, the historic coffee house where a stop for an espresso or a cappuccino is a must. It was here that Giacomo Puccini, the great opera composer, regularly gathered with other artists at the beginning of the 20th century. The café keeps the atmosphere of 100 years ago unchanged, as if Puccini will once again walk through the door.

Just off via Fillungo is Pizzicheria La Grotta, a triumph of regional food. The deli is stocked with delicious pecorino cheeses, some old, some fresh and young, soft cheese, prosciutto, salami, and pickled vegetable jam to be served with savory food.

Next stop is the famous traditional dried beans and seed shop Antica Bottega di Prospero, Via Santa Lucia 13.

Antica Bottega da Prospero Zuppa Lucchese

Antica Bottega da Prospero Zuppa Lucchese

 

We continue our tour leading to Ottica Vogue for a pair of Italian sunglasses…super chic sunglasses.

Superchic sunglasses - Estevillas

Superchic sunglasses Ottica Vogue Lucca

It is lunchtime and Gianna takes us to a….bike shop…a pleasant and quirky surprise. It is a funny place where you can buy bikes, great wine and great food all together in the same shop! You get wine by the glass and small “bites” for 1 Euro/piece or 10 for only 7 Euro. The welcoming and friendly Ciclo Di Vino is so popular for happy hour that the crowd spills out onto the Street.

Ciclo di Vino

Ciclo di Vino – Lucca , Bikes and Wine !

After our drink, it is time to get back to the car, as Gianna wants to show us one of the most renowned leather factories in Tuscany, La Pelle, which houses a large selection of clothing made of soft and fine quality leather by expert artisans. They also provide a prompt made-to-measure service and ship all over the world. I fell in love with a red leather jacket, it was just so cool and different from all the other ones I saw around.

The afternoon is gone! Time to go back to Gianna’s house where in my beautiful bedroom I will rest like a princess….

 

Gianna's villa in Lucca - Estevillas Holiday Rentals

Gianna’s villa in Lucca – Estevillas Holiday Rentals

Villa Buonvisi Lucca

Antica Bottega di Prospero – via S Lucia 13-  55100 Lucca.

Ciclo Di Vino – Via Michele Rosi 7

Carli Jewelry – Via Fillungo 95 Lucca

La Pelle  Via delle Cornacchie 473. – 55100 Lucca. Tel: 0583 955359

Forno Giusti – Via Santa Lucia, 18 -. 55100 Lucca.

Ottica Vogue – Via Fillungo, 4, Lucca LU

 

Bike rentals –  there are many biker rentals in town. Just to mention 2 of them:

Punto Bici   Via Crocifisso, 8, 55100 Lucca LU

Cicli Bizzarri   Piazza Santa Maria, 32
55100 Lucca (LU) – Toscana – Italia

Lucca Distances:  Pisa 17 km/11mls; closest beach 26km/16mls; Forte dei Marmi 34km/21mls ;  Florence 78km/48mls

 

Written by Luisa Castiglioni

Edited by Amay Smith

All Rights Reserved

 

THE PLACE: Milan, Italy

THE ITINERARY: Porta Nuova to Corso Garibaldi, discovering the trendiest places to eat, drink and shop.

 

Excited to inspect each single inch of the Versace, Armani and Gucci glam boutiques? There is so much more than designer fashion to see in Milan.

The brand new Porta Nuona neighborhood in the center of the city is home to the hippest spots to dine, sip a cocktail or go on a shopping spree.

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Porta Nuova is Milan’s main business center, featuring the futuristic Cesar Pelli complex: three glass towers dominating the impressive Piazza Gae Aulenti with fountains, sculptures and elevated arcades that radically change the Milan skyline.

 Just a few steps from the complex is Corso Como, the fashion and design street dedicated to shopping and night life. Take your time, as there is a lot to discover. 

The gem of the street is 10 Corso Como concept store, not only a fashion and design store but also an art gallery, bookshop, café, restaurant with a roof garden, and fantastic place for an aperitivo or romantic dinner.

For more than 20 years, the three-story location, designed by Kris Ruhs, has been synonymous with the lifestyle of Milan: a philosophy of seeing and shopping that is meant to entice visitors and customers to leave their hurried mood behind and take the time to enjoy finding small treasures.

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Promenade through art, design and fashion in a single space. Stroll through the courtyard and then on to the gallery to see an art exhibition, stop for a drink at the café, shop at the store or visit the bookshop and sit to read. The bookshop is one of the city’s best sources for fashion and design related literature. 10 Corso Como is a multifunctional space, a meeting place. It is culture and commerce in one.

Carla Sozzani—journalist, fashion expert, gallery owner (and sister of Vogue Italia editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani)—founded 10 Corso Como in 1990. She personally selects all the items, looking for those that are part of the zeitgeist but haven’t yet become popular.

Sozzani’s store is cool but can be quite an expensive experience. If you are looking for some more affordable trendy items, your destination is a little bit farther in a hidden courtyard off XXV Aprile Square: The High Tech Store.

You can find almost anything in this 2000 square meters full of unique and fun house wares, gift ideas, stationery and furnishings. It is a must see, fascinating place.

If your energy is zapped and you start to dream of a place to sit down and something delicious to taste, you are definitely in the perfect place.

eataly1

 

Turn left and you are at Eataly, the temple of gourmet Italian food. Housed in the former Smeraldo Theater, the store is dedicated to music in honor of its history and iconic performances.

Eataly consists of 5000 square meters of Italian delicacies on three floors: breads, pastries, fruit and vegetable markets on the ground floor; fish shop, delicatessen, and a butcher on the first floor; a wine area and many restaurants on the second floor, from fried to pizza to seafood, including the Michelin-star restaurant of chef Alice Viviana Varese.

Not quite exhausted yet? Go farther in your adventure. Continue your walk on Corso Garibaldi to number 79 and enter Lipstick Vintage for haute couture clothing and accessories, bags, sunglasses, belts and jewelry. You can buy rare clothing and accessories or search for inspiration in the historic section. In Lipstick Vintage you can find Antonio and Roy, who will provide you with their best advice and expertise.

 

WHERE : Milano, Porta Nuova

HOW TO GET THERE:

By Subway :

Line 2(Green) Garibadi Station

Line 5 (Blue) Garibaldi Station

line 2 ( Green) Moscova station

by Train :

There are many trains connecting Milano Porta Garibaldi railroad station with Lake Maggiore, Florence or Rome

 

THE ITINERARY:

Piazza Gae Aulenti to Piazza XXV Aprile = 500 meters

Piazza XXV Aprile to Corso Garibaldi 79 = 700 meters

 

10 CORSO COMO

http://www.10corsocomo.com/

Corso Como 10

Store: everyday 10:30 am – 7:30 pm

Restaurant and café: 11 am – 1 am

 

HIGH TECH STORE

Piazza XXV Aprile, 12, 20124 Milano Italy

Phone: 02 624 1101

Open: 10:30 am – 7:30 pm

 

EATALY

http://www.eataly.net/it_en

Piazza XXV Aprile, 10, 20124 Milano Italy

 

LIPSTICK VINTAGE

http://www.lipstickvintage.com/en/

Corso Garibaldi, 79, 20121 Milano Italy
Opening times
Mon – Fri | 10:00 am – 12:30 pm | 2:30 pm – 6:30 pm
Sat | 9:30 am – 12:00 am | During winter, Saturday morning only by appointment

 

Written by Luisa Castiglioni

Edited by Amay Smith

All Rights Reserved