Lucca and music are an inseparable combination. Its architecture, its squares and streets, its monuments, even the Botanical Garden and the green terraces of the city walls represent an evocative natural stage for concerts with International artists, shows and festivals. A sequence of places and characters, soundscapes and atmospheres that can tell stories of excellent musicians born in Lucca and rock stars passing by.
In the old town center of Lucca in Corte San Lorenzo there is the house where the famous composer was born and where he lived: today it is the Puccini Museum - Birthplace
In the square, the bronze monument of the author of Nessun Dorma is perfect for a souvenir photo or, during the summer nights, to listen to the Cartoline Pucciniane, concerts of arias from Puccini's operas for piano and voice.
A mixture of classic and pop that the maestro would have certainly appreciated can be found in the shops in the nearby Via San Paolino closing at night to open a small "Street Art Gallery" on the shutters, with illustrated portraits of the leading female actresses from Puccini's operas. The Church of San Paolino is a place that can also tell some stories of the Maestro's life. This is where he actually debuted as a composer while still a student.
Not far from here, in Via S. Giustina, at the entrance of the tiny garden of Palazzo Orsetti, a plaque commemorates the birth of another great musician, Francesco Geminiani, born in Lucca, but a citizen of the world, thanks to his work and music, which marked historical moments in European courts and is still used as soundtrack for important movies today.
On the floors of a hotel the sound of jazz melodies can be heard in a rather unusual musical tour. It is the Grand Universe in Piazza del Giglio where the legendary musician Chet Baker played his trumpet at night on the windowsill of room no. 15.
The hotel has recently been renovated, the room is no longer there, but you can still enjoy its poetic atmosphere.
In front of the hotel the elegant and historic Teatro del Giglio is located, one of Italy's oldest public theaters which has presented on stage world-class singers, musicians and dancers and, of course, Puccini, who personally supervised the staging of some of his most famous operas, and where an important opera season and the Puccini Days event are celebrated every year.
For rock and pop music focus on Piazza Napoleone, the large square dedicated to the emperor not far from the theater, fenced on three sides by a row of centuries-old plane trees and by the wide facade of Palazzo Ducale, hosts every year the Lucca Summer Festival with national and international music stars.
For the last few years another stage has also been set up on the lawn below the city walls.
The state rooms of Palazzo Ducale, which used to be Elisa Bonaparte's palace in the 19th century, have always been a source of music and still bear witness to the splendor of the imperial style. Inside, concerts of classical, chamber and experimental music are still played today, as well as the "diabolic" and seductive virtuosities of the legendary NiccolÃ² Paganini, first court violinist and protagonist of unforgettable music events in the princely country residence Villa Reale in Marlia in Elisa's "greenery" theater. A plaque in Via S. Frediano commemorates the musician's stay in Lucca.
And here we are at the Renaissance walls. Going up from the Santa Maria bulwark and walking along the first historic stretch of the "public promenade" lined by four rows of plane trees, you reach the San Paolino bulwark where a large sculpture is dedicated to another important composer from Lucca: Alfredo Catalani.
At the foot of the Guinigi Tower, a maze of streets leads to the Music Institute â€œL. Boccheriniâ€, heralded by the statue of the famous cellist and composer.
Boccherini, whose minuets have been reinterpreted the most in the world, after a life at the European courts and particularly in Spain, he was buried in the monumental complex of San Francesco, where important concerts are still held today.
The music institute is one of the oldest in Italy. Inside there are still traces of Puccini, who was a student at the school (called the Pacini Institute at his time) and who in 1891 bequeathed a large part of the rich family library to the Institute. 696 manuscripts, mostly musical autographs by Giacomo Senior (1712-1781), Antonio (1747-1832), Domenico (1772-1815) and Michele (1813-1864), sacred compositions, profane cantatas and a series of autographs by Giacomo Puccini Junior, almost everything that remains of the great composer's early work is kept in the institute.
Not far from here, in the San Martino Cathedral, the names of the Puccinis still appear, since they were composers at the forefront of the city's musical organization, and they all worked as cantors and organists in the Cathedral. The large organ is still fully functional and it is the protagonist of summer festivals and concerts, including the well-known Musica in cattedrale concert series, as well as the Mottetone di Santa Croce, an original composition performed every year in occasion of the celebration of the Volto Santa on the evening of September 13, at the end of the Luminara procession.
The organ inside the cathedral is not the only valuable example of Lucca and the surrounding area. Lucca, the city of a hundred churches, is defintely also the city of a hundred organs.
In town, but also in country churches there are many organs, still mostly working and of huge dimensions, e.g. the one in the San Pietro Somaldi church, played by the young Giacomo Puccini, who returned there after the restoration (early 20th century), to leave his signature on the new windchest of the instrument.
Every year, the festival Lucca Città degli Organi offers the opportunity to get to know some of them and to listen to their powerful sound.