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100 years of Italian Air Force - Locations

Lucca, between the centuries and history, there are stories still alive in the alleys and squares.

In Lucca, and in the surrounding area, some of these places have changed a lot today, but the stories can be told in a tour directly by the people, businesses, and places of memory.

Not far from the Guinigi Tower, in via dell'Angelo Custode, there is the Massoni Palace, an elegant residence of a noble family from Lucca. The facade of the Palazzo is very elegant with shell-shaped moldings, but the private garden is particularly striking, in its original seventeenth-century form, which can be visited on the occasion of the day of historic houses, in June. Four raised flower beds form as many squares, bordered by low walls decorated in a grotesque style, with mosaic pebbles, bricks and numerous marble masks of exquisite workmanship. On the front wall, aligned with the palace door, is a small grotto with a fountain made up of a marble female figure, two eagles and a rectangular basin with a coat of arms, supported by two statues of dogs.
Carlo was born in 1896, it so happens that the family is on holiday in the villa in Massa, but it is here that he grows up and embarks on his future career as an aviator.


san pietro somaldi church in lucca

Piazza san Pietro Somaldi is not one of the best known squares in Lucca, but it has an irregular perimeter, a very elegant appearance and many stories to tell.
On one side the church of San Pietro Somaldi is located, an example of the minor Lucca Romanesque style and surrounded by historic houses and buildings including Palazzo Spada and Palazzo Bartolomei.


In one of these buildings Carlo del Prete was born on August 21, 1897.


A commemorative plaque, a bas-relief created by the sculptor Francesco Petroni, surmounted by a large eagle that mentions a quotation from the first canto of the Divine Comedy:
"visse rivolto e riguardar nel sole: aquila sì non li s'affisse unquanco"
and the dedication: 

Carlo del Prete, argonauta del cielo vinse gli spazi e supero’ le emule prove / la sua sorte guerriera lo incorono’ di lauri e di bende nell’istante / trionfale gli diede prima la morte e poi la mutilazione.
I mutilati d’Italia sul libro d’oro del sacrificio segnano il / suo nome per memoria.” 
(Carlo del Prete, argonaut of heaven conquered the spaces and passed 'the rival trials / his warrior fate crowned him' with laurels and bandages in the instant / triumphantly gave him first death and then mutilation.
The cripples of Italy on the golden book of sacrifice mark / his name as a memorial)


commemorative plaque on the birthplace of Carlo del Prete


Not far from here, the funerals of del Prete and, years later, of Enrico Squaglia were held in the Church of San Francesco.
The church of San Francesco, one of the few hall churches in Lucca, has become over time a sort of pantheon in Lucca. Here musicians from Lucca are buried or remembered and the funeral of the aviator from Lucca who died in an accident on the island of Governador during trials for a demonstration flight on a new type of reconnaissance seaplane departed from this church.


interior part of the San Francesco church in lucca


Carlo Del Prete was buried in the monumental cemetery of Sant'Anna. At the entrance to the cemetery area, in the Benemerentibus chapel, the memorial chapel in Lucca preserves a medal also for the Atlantic transvolator who became famous for his exploits that took him as far as Australia and America, setting several records for permanence in flight and distance traveled.

The epitaph on the medal by the sculptor Augusto del Debbio says:

Tre volte trasvolatore dell'oceano atlantico portava l'ala d'Italia a mete non ancora raggiunte (Thrice-flyer of the Atlantic Ocean carried the wing of Italy to destinations not yet reached)

Also in memory of Carlo del Prete is the tribute placed in 2005 near the Lucca Est motorway exit.
It is a Piaggio-Douglas PD 808 GE plane from the 1960s donated by the Air Force to the Lucca section of the Air Force Association.


Lucca, cimitero urbano- foto di Di Sailko

photo by Di Sailko


Returning to the historic center, let's also take a step back in time, to 11 January 1759. Vincenzo Lunardi was born in a house between via Michele Rosi and via dei Fossi.
He will become famous all over the world for his aerostatic activity and will be the protagonist of the first balloon ascent in Great Britain, accomplished in London on September 15, 1784. A few years later, in June 1788, he announced that he would make an ascent in flight in his hometown. Even the sons of the grand duke of Tuscany came especially to see him. The flight didn't go well, the balloon got up too early and went off alone towards Florence. Despite this funny episode, Vincenzo Lunardi remains one of the greatest and most fascinating figures of the European eighteenth century. When he died, the news spread all over the world. In Lucca, the via del Pallone street, near the San Paolino bastion, recalls this episode and the Prato del Marchese (today Piazzale Verdi) remains the symbolic place of his aeronautical aspirations.


piazzale verdi in Lucca


Aeroporto di Tassignano
Idroscalo (i pochi resti) sul lago di Massaciuccoli