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camleia sprout in the villa reale di marlia

A date with spring

Winter is getting a little tight, March is near and afternoons of steaming chocolate give way to walks in the hills in the midst of reborn nature. To fully appreciate the season here is a program of essential parties dedicated to flowers in Lucca and in the area.

Lucca preview with two themed exhibitions. The delicate floral patterns of Japanese Kimono at the castle of Porta San Pietro and Painting and botanical design at Villa Bottini

On 8 March, in the Piazza San Michele, the camellia factory of St. Andrew of Compito gives a camellia to all women. It is an invitation to participate, at the Mostra delle Antiche Camelie di Lucchesia that will be repeated, in the weekends, from 16 March to 7 April in the Compitese countries with a rich program of initiatives to celebrate this flower, symbol of the Lucca villas.

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An opportunity to visit the towns of the Compitese, in the middle of the countryside at the foot of Monte Pisano, and the suggestive camelieto in the woods, historically organized and bordered by dry-stone walls that now houses more than 1,000 specimens, of which 250 are nomenclates. In addition to the Japonic Camellias there are also the Camellia sasanqua, the only scented camellia, the Camellia sinesis, the fragrant tea plant, the Camellia rusticana, the higo Camellia of the samurai and many others with simple and double blooms, from the colors ranging from pure white to deep red.

A treat also for tea lovers, a fragrant oriental drink obtained from the fermentation and infusion of the leaves of the camellia sinensis. In Sant'Andrea di Compito, there is no better time to visit the first Italian camellia tea nursery and participate in the tea ceremony held by the Iroha association and accompanied by traditional Japanese music.

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Image by Natasha G from Pixabay

On the occasion of the XXX Mostra every Saturday (16, 23, 30 March and 6 April) naturalistic excursions are possible in the wet areas of the Compitese. It is an opportunity to combine the marvel of the Camellietum Compitese with a walk where you can admire the richness and beauty of this territory. In particular we will visit the Lake of Gherardesca, which has become a Special Protection Area for the Protection of Water Birds but with its meadows, the lake, the forest and with views of the surrounding villages and mountains has a unique charm.

You will also reach the WWF oasis of Bottaccio with its wet meadows, the first blooms and the magical ancient wood of Farnie. Departure is from 2.30 pm by shuttle bus from the Borgo delle Camelie to Pieve di Compito. Follow the walk on foot, all flat, about 6 km up to the Oasis of Bottaccio. You will then reach the sports field of Castelvecchio di Compito where the shuttle will welcome the participants to take them to the starting point at about 5.30pm. Comfortable shoes and a supply of water are required. The cost is 10 euros for adults only, including shuttle service, accompanied by an environmental hiking guide and entrance to the Oasis.

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Coinciding with the last weekend of the exhibition, I return to Lucca for the three days of VerdeMura, the gardening exhibition that for ten years now has greeted the beautiful season from the stands of the Walls of Lucca. Plants and gardening equipment for large and small gardens, for simple balconies and also for welcoming stays. But also objects of craftsmanship and gastronomy, spices and fabrics, always in a green key, can be found among the almost two hundred exhibitors that occupy the meadows of three ramparts.

Leaving the exhibition spaces, the 4 kilometers of the route of the Renaissance Walls of the city, are a green ring around the city and an invitation to a botanical walk among avenues of large native trees, lindens, elms, poplars and rare examples of cypresses, catalpe and other exotic species including the splendid magnolias that at the end of the cold months, first give short but generous blooms.

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On Easter Monday, a trip to the ville lucchesi is almost a must, the rich residences of the patricians of the eighteenth century set in the hills between vineyards and olive groves north of the city. Surrounded by high walls that seem to protect it from the passing of time, the Royal Villa, with its large nineteenth-century park, will be a surprise for young and old. From the paths that cross it you can see the architecture of the nymphaeum with water games, the gazebo for music with the monumental wisteria, the theater of greenery, where once famous musicians played. And then suddenly, the gaze opens onto the lawns and embraces the scene of the pond with swans and of the villa that in the nineteenth century was the residence of Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi, Napoleon's sister and Princess of Lucca who rearranged it as its small reggia toscana.

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Two majestic cypress wings, almost a kilometer long, announce the theatrical façade of one of the best examples of Baroque architecture in Tuscany, namely Villa Torrigiani, a sumptuous and scenographic residence, with a garden of flowering parterres and large pools created as in the projects of Le Notre for the palace of Versailles, mirroring the facades. Thus he created the Garden, Theater of Flora with caves and waterworks still functioning and visible in the Grotta dei Venti, a garden that "enters" the Villa as a decorative theme in the perfectly preserved frescoes, in the furnishings, in the tapestries you will discover made by a embroiderer quite special!

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And after visiting the historic villas, taking advantage of the long days, you can linger until sunset for an aperitif and maybe a dinner in some country trattoria.

But in Lucca the holidays did not end with Easter. On April 27, in Lucca, Zita, the little saint of flowers, is celebrated in the holy city, which Dante quoted in the Divine Comedy as a representative of good and devoted Lucca. His body, naturally mummified and kept in the beautiful Basilica of San Frediano, is exhibited in these days while in the contiguous squares it is all a riot of flowers. It is still used to offer small bunches of daffodils and herb cakes to celebrate. On April 27th, for the #iovadoalmuseo initiative, free entry to the national museums, Palazzo Mansi and Villa Guinigi.

foto: R.Giomi