Escape the Lucca Summer Heat at the Palazzo Pfanner
Last month, in my search of the historical center of Lucca for the ideal wedding site, I came across this great Palazzo smack dab in the city center called Palazzo Pfanner. It's open to the public and for a small admission fee, you are free to stroll it's Baroque Italian Gardens complete with allegorical statues and an enormous fountain, as well as the interior of the Palazzo and its small museum.
The facade of the Palazzo that faces the city street looks just like any other building in Lucca. However, upon entering, it becomes clear that Palazzo Pfanner is truly one of a kind. The ceiling of the entrance hall is a series of high arches that frames a view of the adjacent Baroque Italian Garden. From this vantage point you can also view the grand open stair case that leads to the second floor. The effect of this open plan is that although one is securely inside the Palazzo's walls, there is still the pleasurable feeling of being somehow outdoors.
The Italian Garden is a real marvel to walk through, especially since it's the only one of its kind inside the city walls. In the center is the octagonal pond and fountain, which is surrounded by allegorical statues of Bacchus, Mercury, Poseidon, and Anfitrite (Poseidon's Wife). The garden is divided into various paths, festooned with seasonal flowers, each leading you to a more intimate corner of the garden to appreciate.
A large part of Palazzo Pfanner's charm derives from its long and at times eccentric history. Built in 1660, the architecture of the building is unique as it deviates from traditional Tuscan architecture and tends to resemble a more central european esthetic. The building changed hands twice before finally being purchased in 1856 by the Pfanners, a family of Austrian brewers who arrived in Lucca to set up the first brewery in the Duchy. It soon became a popular gathering place for the elite of Lucca, who enjoyed the novelty of sipping the exotic beer in such a palatial setting. The brewery finally closed in 1929, and the Pfanner family gradually changed their talents from beer making to medicine. A fascinating exhibit of 19th and early 20th century surgical instruments, belonging to former mayor of Lucca, Pietro Pfanner,is in fact on display as part of the mini museum created on the second floor of the Palazzo.
The museum is divided up into several different rooms all adjacent to the central hall of the second floor. Each room is furnished with pieces from a particular period in history. For example, Crown Prince Frederick IV stayed briefly at the Palazzo in 1692, so the bedroom and actual canopy bed that Frederick slept on during his stay, as well as the accompanying 17th century furnishings are all on display. Also on display is an authentic kitchen from the beginning of the 19th century and a dinning room with original table settings from the nineteenth century. Of course the most impressive of the rooms is the large central hall which is adorned with recently restored frescoes dating back to the first half of the 18th century. In its center hangs a Louis XVI chandelier of Murano glass that is not to be missed.
In recent years Palazzo Pfanner has been used as a backdrop for films, most famously for Jane Campion's The Portrait of a Lady. I really enjoyed my visit to Palazzo Pfanner and think that it would be a great place to stop at to escape the summer heat and appreciate what aristocratic life must have been like in years gone by.
Visiting Hours: Palazzo Pfanner is open to the public from mid-March until the end of October, every day (including weekends) from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.