If you go to Lucca, I am sure you will visit the Cathedral of San Martino, the Duomo. Construction of this cathedral was begun in 1063. The nave and transepts were rebuilt in the 14th century in the Gothic style. There are 3 very important pieces of art. One of the pieces is by Domenico Ghirlandaio, master of Michelangelo, Frederico Zuccari, Jacopo Tintoretto, and Fra Bartolomeo.
Aside from the obvious beauty, there are a couple of other unusual “secrets” that you should explore. Before you enter the church on the outside right of the main doorway, is a labyrinth which is carved into the column. It is about 50 cm in diameter. The Latin inscription below it says “This is the labyrinth designed by Cretan Daedalus. None of those who ventured into it ever found their way out, with the exception of Theseus, who did so thanks to the thread Ariadne gave him out of love.”
The labyrinth was once used for those parties who had been sentenced to death. It was their last hope before they were taken to the scaffold. The condemned man was brought to the labyrinth and if he could trace a route through it on his first attempt, his life was spared.
The second mysterious thing is inside the Duomo on a pillar in front of the Chapel of the Holy Visage. You will find a thick brass grill with an axe inside it. The Latin inscription speaks of a miracle that occurred in 1334.
Giovanni di Lorenzo from France, tried to help a man who had been attacked in the town of Pietralunga in Umbria. The man ultimately died of his wounds. The townspeople had not seen the attack and assumed that Giovanni was the murderer. He was sentenced to death by beheading.
Giovanni prayed to the Holy Visage of Lucca for the people to see the truth and he be spared. When the executioner brought the axe down on the neck of Giovanni, the blade went soft and would not cut the neck, nor did it even leave a mark. The executioner tried another two times before finally in accordance with custom, the man was set free and his innocence pronounced.
Look for these two unusual items when you are there!
The monthly mercatino, which used to be held in Piazza dell Republicca, has moved to the Piazza of Santa Maria Novella. This is a lovely new location! Not only is it much larger and there is a nice space for the endors, it is even closer to my house! I like to visit this market for cheese, truffle sauce, olive oil, and of course to taste and buy wine. The vendors always offer free samples and are all from Tuscany. The market is held on the first Saturday of the month.
I get a lot of mail from folks who are planning a trip to Italy and don’t want to be an “obvious tourist”. I thought I would share some of my advice with you all.
1. You will look like a tourist if you dress like this. (shorts, flip flops, baseball caps, athletic shoes, showing a lot of skin)
2. If you order cappuccino after dinner
3. Wear a fanny pack or backpack
4. Do the “passagiatta” on a segue
5. Order Chicken Parmesan or Spaghetti and meatballs in a restaurant.
6. Ask for a small plate for olive oil to dip your bread
7. Stand on the street corner with a map in your hand
8. Ask for parmesan cheese when you order some type of fish dish
9. Ask for a “to go” cup of coffee or a doggy bag
10. Order something besides wine or water with your meal. If it’s a pizza you are eating, beer is ok.