"Torre del Travaglio"
Torre del Travaglio is a classic medieval building, inside the oldest part of a Lucca. It was our "home" very briefly, last April.
Torre del Travaglio was once a typical Lucchese noble residence. It dates back to the twelfth century, when many of Lucca's wealthy homes proudly flaunted a torre, or tower. Today, the lower floor flaunts some fashionable mannequins! That make perfect sense, because Lucca was once known as the City of Merchants and Weavers.
I've been in love with this charming Tuscan town, ever since my family visited 55 years ago. At age 11, I loved climbing bell towers and clock towers. I counted the stairs and recorded in a little spiral notebook. The towers in Lucca impressed me. There were once over 200!
In 1969, Lucca felt magical. The stone walls surrounding the old city, looked like something from a fairytale illustration. I always hoped to return!
L'Antica Bifore is the name of the guesthouse that occupies the second floor of Torre del Travaglio. For 2 nights, Don and I were guests, in a medieval building with an actual tower. The 11 year old in me, loved that!
I stood across the narrow street to take this photo of the puzzling exterior. Brick and stone, arches and columns... a patchwork of designs and materials! I wish I knew which parts were 300 years old... or 500... or 10?
I read before arriving, that the guesthouse was named for its beautiful, arched windows.
When I looked up the translation, I learned that L'Antica means old and Bifore means mullioned windows. That was a new one for me. Mullions (vertical window dividers) were common in Gothic architecture. But what about that curious carved decoration between the windows?
When planning our trip to Italy, I was glad to see that Lucca would fit nicely into our plans. The city is located in northwest Italy, near the Ligurian Sea. We could travel by train from Cinque Terre. I hoped we could find a decent hotel, within walls that encircle the old city.
On the internet I found excellent reviews for L'Antica Bifore. Guests raved about the hosts. Interior photos excited me. The rooms were restored beautifully, keeping the historic feel of a 700-year-old building. I found no exterior images, but went ahead and booked. What a fun surprise to find our hotel on a charming "via" directly across from the lovely San Cristoforo. The narrow via, made it look like the church was having a stare down, with Torre del Travaglio!
Via Fillungo 5
The hotel was located on the Via Fillungo, the old city's main street.
Our cab driver took us as far as he was able. Then Don and I dodged a few bikes and pedestrians to reach the set of wooden doors, near the hotel's plaque and buzzer. Someone was leaving as we arrived, so we stepped inside.
Where is L'Antica Bifore?
We arrived early, so I had Don wait with our bags, while I headed past the bikes in search of L'Antica Bifore.
We weren't sure what else was housed in the old building, but we saw bikes and smelled pizza. I headed towards the stairs and looked back at the primitive doors we had just entered.
There was light shining on the stairs from a skylight. I headed up, while smells of toasty pizza dough and spices escaped from an open door, a half flight up.
The door belonged to the pizza restaurant on the bottom floor.
Luckily we (later) found a light switch to illuminate the stairwell. It would have been tricky, climbing those well-worn stairs in the dark!
I was relieved to see the brass plate with the guest house name. I buzzed and only waited a few seconds. Our hosts Alessandro and Alice greeted with big smiles.
The green doors opened to this lovely room, with a chandelier hanging from the coffered ceiling. A grand mirror hung above the fireplace.
There was something so relaxed and welcoming, despite the formality of the period furniture and decor.
Our hosts couldn't have made us feel more at home. As soon as I stepped in, Alessandro dashed down to help Don with the luggage.
We were glad to learn there was no problem checking in early. Alessandro and Alice gave us maps and lots of tips about exploring Lucca. We took one suggestion right away and ate pizza at Dante & Gentucca, downstairs! Yum!
Books, Coffee and Candy
I spotted 4 doors leading from the reception room to the guest rooms. Who would our fellow guests be?
Would we meet them later, sitting and browsing through some of the books on the table? Or having coffee in the morning, sitting at the dining table, with the curious candy holder?
I was a little jealous of the guests in the other 3 rooms, because they had arched windows, with colored glass. The colorful window in the reception room, reminded me of something out of Cinderella's Castle.
But Alice said she had given us the room with the best view, since she remembered my request, when I booked. Entrance to our room was through the left door, in the corner. Our room was within The Tower!
The door opened to a gold framed mirror. We turned right and stepped into our room, facing the front of the building. As I moved towards the window, I let out a happy gasp! What an unforgettable view! That church was comically close!
Moments before we'd been on the pedestrian street, looking up at the tower. Now we were inside, looking out of the window with the green shutters.
I knew from our hosts, that our room in the tower had more than a wonderful view. Our space had some interesting history!
Our room didn't have an arched window or stained glass, but I was thrilled to have the "Dante Room". The room was named for the medieval poet, who spent time in Lucca after he was exiled from Florence. There is some documentation that he was hosted by a woman named Gentucca in 1317. Her husband was a merchant who owned this building.
Supposedly Dante spent time in this tower. Who knows for sure, but it was kind of fun picturing Dante hanging out, writing and pondering. Just like us, he probably studied the incredible brickwork of the arched ceiling. Maybe he gazed out the window towards the church. Then again, Gentucca could have spent time with him in this tower! No time for pondering... who knows?
I loved all the curious details of our room. The brickwork was fascinating.
And 4 angels watching over us! They were a bit lovely and funny and worrisome and memorable!
The light fixture could have been worrisome too.
But that's only because my home in Texas, is a mere quarter century old. I know nothing about attaching artwork or fixtures, to stone or brick!
Don and I weren't really worried about anything falling. We were mostly amused... and delighted and fascinated.
I loved studying the decor... and looking through the books, displayed on the wall shelf...
... and sampling the sweet treats from Santa Zita Biscotteria, which we visited later!
Floors and More
I believe the terracotta floors were all original. The tile and frescoed walls in the bathroom... I'm less sure about.
I was perfectly happy with our cozy, modern bathroom. Soft towels and nice bath products.
I'm always grateful for a private bathroom, in an Italian hotel. My early memories of hotel bathrooms in Italy, are funny now. But at age 11, I was appalled that our family had to walk down the hall to a shared bathroom. Shared with strangers! And what was that thing they called a bidet! Ugh!
I can't say enough about that window, with its stunning view of San Cristoforo.
I loved studying the rose window. It was nice to know I could stare away, without worries of someone staring back
At night the dramatic Romanesque & Gothic church, was lit.
The sounds from the street below were entertaining. Voices and music and footsteps! It was never annoying, just curious and oddly amplified. The sounds echoed, off all the surrounding stone.
Open and Close
Luckily the inside shutters could close out some of the sound at bedtime.
I loved it that we could do the opposite and open up, to all the sounds and views and fresh air!
With windows wide open, the view was even more dramatic!
We were so close to the church, we could have shared a clothesline!
It was fun watching activity below. Via Fillungo is mostly closed to traffic, but I did see some delivery and work trucks. I watched the workmen enjoy pizza on the steps.
A school group gathered one afternoon. I failed to get a photo of the contestant flow of bicycles!
Left and Right
I was delighted that we could see Torre del Ore (Clock Tower) from our window. I walked down and bought a ticket to climb up, for some amazing views. I forgot to count steps, but there are 207.
I wondered about the green shutters on the outside. Could they be closed? In the U.S., shutters are mostly decorative.
And then there was our little table, beside the window. We made use.
We wandered very early one morning and picked up goodies from a bakery.
Alice made us a little coffee, served in the perfect cups. A good start to the day!
The location of our hotel was perfect, especially for finding food. Our first meal was at the little pizza place, within Torre del Travaglio. We exited the front door and took 2 steps to reach "Dante & Gentucca".
The pizza was delicious and how about the name of the restaurant! Another little spotlight on Dante and his friend he met during exile!
Plaza del Anfiteatro
We were a short walk from the elliptical plaza, that once held a Roman Amphitheater. The original structure goes back to the first century.
We had a wonder lunch at L'Anglolotondo, where our host, Allesandro just happened to work!
Caffe Santa Zita
After an intriguing visit to San Frediano Basilica, Don and I grabbed a table next door, at Caffe Santa Zita.
We toasted to Santa Zita, the patron saint of maids and domestic servants. We had just seen her mummified body on display in the church. That was something to talk about over a glass of wine.
Feast at Grand Universe
The last night, we allowed ourselves slightly more upscale dining adventure at Grand Universe.
The food and service was exceptional. Don gave high marks to the comfortable chairs!
Old Lucca hasn't changed all that much since I was 11. The things I loved then, I still love best now. Climbing towers and walking up on the wall! The views were most lovely at sunrise and sunset. In the slideshow there are glimpses of so many wonderful parts of Lucca, all within an easy walk of our hotel.
Simply put... Lucca is such a picturesque city!
We slept an OLD building! Torre del Travaglio was over 600 years old, when composer Puccini was a baby, living a few blocks away! I believe this may be the oldest building I've ever slept in!
Besides loving our building's age and history, our guest room was clean and cozy. The view and architectural details were over the top memorable! Our hosts were delightful and welcoming. The location was perfect!
Don and I rarely revisit hotels, even ones we love. There's so much to experience out there! But, I would love to return and stay longer at L'Antica Bifore! Maybe next time we'll change it up and book a room with am arched window! Bellissima!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!