"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!
Seaside Guesthouse in Riomaggiore
I've spent years drooling over stunning photos of the five Italian coastal villages, known as Cinque Terre.
Last April I was finally able to absorb some of the scenery, with my own eyes! Riomaggiore is one of the colorful villages that Don and I visited. At last, I was able to snap my own photos of the Ligurian Sea and the bright tower houses clinging to the rocky hills. In this photo, you can actually see our guesthouse, overlooking the narrow harbor.
"Scorci di Mare"
Scorci di Mare, was our home for 2 nights. When I booked, I didn't realize what was behind the name. If I'd known scorci was the Italian word for glimpse, or that mare meant sea, I might have guessed we'd have a sea view!.
Our guest room in the narrow pink building, wasn't a glamorous seaside Hilton. I'd say it was better. The historic building was perched right above the harbor, with a "glimpse of the sea" beyond.
Paolo was our host. He met us at the train station and escorted us to our 2-level guest suite. He opened up the door to our balcony and I couldn't stop grinning.
As the harbor below bustled with activity, Paolo shared stories. He was the 5th generation... to own the building I presume. He talked with such pride about his community, nestled between the hills and sea. He said there were over 1,000 residents now. Don guessed that he probably knew them all. He answered yes, then joked, "Not that I want to!"
Even though we were chatting above the water, Paolo reminded us that Riomaggiore had less connection to the sea, than the mountains. Terraced farming... grapes... white wine!
Paolo talked about how the hills kept the locals healthy. He mentioned that he (and his kids) made numerous trips up and down the hills each day. No driving the kids to school, since cars aren't permitted in the village center. There wasn't even a real road to the village, until the 1960's. Walking and climbing has always been part of village life.
Ups and Downs in Riomaggiore
When we first arrived, Don and I sampled some of that healthy hill climbing, when we met up with Paolo at the train station. He graciously took one of our bags and we followed along. So glad we packed light!
Our quick but rugged journey, took us through a maze of narrow passages and tunnels. We had a quick look at Via Colombo, (the main street) with its restaurants, shops and tourists.
Eventually the lane opened up to the cozy harbor, filled with pedestrians and boats. It was much quieter, when I took this photo at sunset.
In the busy afternoon, the festive harbor made me feel like I'd just walked onto a movie set. Even more so, in the quiet morning or evening.
Our Pink Building
From the harbor, Paolo pointed out the narrow pink building. He said the bottom story was built around 1280 and floors were added over generations. The top level was completed in the 16th century.
I spotted a door, on the lower level, but that wasn't for us! To access our guest room on the top, we had to wander around the wooden boats towards the stone stairs.
A walkway wrapped around the buildings and offered a lovely view of the sea. Then more stairs!
I'm still confused as I try to recall how many turns we took. But I do remember reaching the split.
I was glad to ignore the stairs that continued to the left. We headed right, through a passage between buildings.
I could see 2 more tiny sets of stairs at the end of the passage. I was so glad we were following Paolo. I was also glad we hadn't arrived after dark.
The primitive sets of stairs, led to two small landings. Our entrance was on the right.
The stone landing was a little worn and worrisome, but the green door to our guest room looked fresh and clean. A little glass sign welcomed us to our guest room named, "La Terrazza."
Don and I were huffing and puffing and grinning at this point. Here we were, standing in front of a sweet and tidy entrance, after 15 minutes of stumbling along, over uneven and often crumbling paths and stairs! Whew!
Before sharing the interior, I need to show our route in reverse! I'm clearly obsessed with the location of our guest house and I don't want to ever forget our crazy arrival adventure. This photo shows our green door and the passage that we had just come through.
Directly across from our landing, was another building and entrance. I've no clue about what was behind that cage-like door. I never paused to examine it, since I was very busy watching my feet most of the time. Luckily we never slipped into the gap, between the 2 landings.
Our comings and goings always felt like an adventure! I never tired of seeing this view, when we left our room and headed out of the passage!
Walking towards the light felt familiar. I was suddenly reminded of caving adventures when I was in college. It was always a thrill to spot the bright opening of the cave, after exploring in darkness. Our dim passage wasn't a cave, but it offered an even bigger thrill, as we headed towards the blue colors of sky and sea!
Our room/suite was named La Terrazza, which means terrace. I guessed that word, so I was expecting a balcony of some kind.
I somehow missed it, that our room would have 2 floors and 2 terraces. Double the fun!
This was what we saw as we stepped inside.
My eyes were drawn right away to the ladder-type structure, leading to the upper floor. I had no idea we would have so much space.
Clean and Updated
To the right of the door, was a nicely updated bathroom. It was clean and fresh, with a nice little window.
I couldn't help but wonder what it was like living here in the 1500's, long before plumbing. It would have been a long journey to get outside, to use some kind of outhouse. I'm guessing chamber pots were common.
Kitchen and Stairs
There was a nice little kitchen space with stovetop and fridge... dishes and table. There was complimentary coffee, tea and cookies. All tidy and welcoming.
The steep stairway was a curious addition, leading up to an opening in the beamed ceiling. I was reminded of pulldown attic stairs. The kid in me thought about attic treasures... or a treehouse at the top... or heading to an upper boat deck! But actually using the stairs was more tricky than fun.
From this angle the stairs looked more like a slide. Once again, I was reminded of caving days! At age 19, it was challenging and fun, carrying a backpack up a caving ladder (think circus ladder). Carrying my suitcase up the steep ramp-stairs, was equally challenging, since I'm 66 not 19. Actually it was sort of fun...ny! Luckily no mishaps!
The bedroom was clean and comfortable. I wish I knew what this space looked like 50 years ago. Or 200!
I'm sure the walls weren't smooth and white. I wanted to know what was behind those clean walls.
I appreciated having at least one bedside table and lamp. There was even a collection of books. If only I could read Italian! Best of all, there were 2 doors, that opened to another balcony!
The table and chairs were still wet from an earlier rain, when I first opened them.
I didn't take a seat, but I enjoyed taking in the view. Even with cloudy skies and muted colors, it was all beautiful. I couldn't wait to see the building and sea, when the lighting changed!
We certainly didn't need a TV, but there was one. There was also heating, which was nice on a chilly April day. Don had to do a little figuring to get it going.
Having a couch was a plus, after lots of walking. Cinque Terre accommodations can be pretty cozy, so this was a nice addition.
It was chilly out, but I was determined to make use of the window and doors, that led to the little balcony. I wanted them open!
I wanted to feel the air and hear all the sounds from below.
Best Seat in the House!
This was my favorite spot!
The sun came out shortly after we arrived and the terrace was warm and inviting!
I made coffee and soaked up the warmth.
It was wonderful having a view of the sea, but watching the people below and across, was actually more entertaining. I wondered about the people who owned the buildings and lived behind the windows.
I felt a little like Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window, although I didn't get out any binoculars to snoop. I did spot a few terrace activities, from yoga to wine drinking to rug beating.
We only had 2 nights in La Terrazza, but we made sure to have at least one lunch on our terrace.
Focaccia sandwiches, from a shop in the village!
Yogurt and coffee in the morning. Wine and Aperol Spritzes in the evening!
We even did a little bit of clothes washing in the sink and made use of our sunny terrace.
I had fun pretending I was a local, hanging my soggy socks on the clothesline.
The location of our hotel made exploring so easy! I slipped out the first morning before sunrise and felt like I had the village to myself!
After a little post dawn wandering, I actually spotted a few people and an actual vehicle! Now I know how the food and supplies arrive!
Slideshow of Riomaggiore
I could go on for days about all the places we enjoyed within walking distance of our hotel.
But I've rambled enough. I'll share a slideshow instead.
Our stay at Scorci di Mare felt authentic. We stayed in a building that was over 500 years old... owned by the same family for many generations.
The view and location made our 2-night stay unforgettable. We could look across to the tower houses and hills... down to the harbor and boats and out to the sea. We could wander to the rocky beach and dine in great restaurants, just steps from our door. All for a reasonable price! Perfecto!
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!