Lucca's museums

Lucca's museums


National Museum of Villa Guinigi

Museo Villa GuinigiThe National Museum of Villa Guinigi is one of the hidden gems of Lucca, one of the oldest and most distinguished buildings of the city. This is one of the rarest examples of Tuscan villas existing from the 1400s. Paolo Guinigi, wealthy Lord of Lucca, spent a fortune building this impressive brick palace. The art collections on display tell the story of the history of Lucca, from the first settlements of Etruscan origin up to the contemporary age. You'll see on displaty paintings and sculptures by Matteo Civitali, Giorgio Vasari, Fra Bartolomeo, Pompeo Batoni ect. Read more about the Villa Guinigi Museum.

National Museum of Villa Mansi

Museo Nazionale Palazzo MansiThe National Museum of Villa Mansi located in Via Gallitassi, in one of the most luxurious villas in Lucca, in the same street as the city court. Built at the end of 1500s, the building houses elegant apartments and a national art gallery, with works from the Medici collections and others. The Mansi family, who gave the building its name, was believed to have originally been from Saxony, arriving in Lucca in the 11th century. The family’s coat of arms is displayed above the main entrance, and its reproduction is evident in almost every room of the apartment. Rafaello Mansi was the first to buy the palace. To show off his social standing he transformed it into a mansion by modifying the original one story building with the addition of staircases and wooden ceilings. The renovation in 1689 was entrusted to architect Raphael Mazzanti, originally from Lucca. He had many contacts within the Medici family was " au courrant" with the latest trends in architecture and interior decorating. Mazzanti altered the ceilings, covered them in frescoes, built a large hall and added an additional floor and a large gateway entrance.

Ebook di LuccaSome rooms were subsequently used as art galleries, with the installation of wall to wall lighting to illuminate the paintings perfectly. The picture gallery was set up in 1977, its works donated to Lucca by Grand Duke Leopold II of Habsburg-Lorraine; this followed his ascension to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, in the second half of the nineteenth century. This was later enriched with acquisitions from private collections.

Today the Museo Nazionale di Villa Mansi has a number of paintings of great artistic value: the collection ranges from the 14th to the 18th century and offers a meaningful overview of the major schools of Italian painting, from the Tuscan to the Venetian, with such masterpieces as Ritratto di Alessandro de' Medici by Jacopo da Pontormo (1494-1566) (see photo), Il Ritratto di Don Garzia de' Medici Bambino del Bronzino (1503-1572), La continenza di Scipione di Domenico Beccafumi (1486-1551), La Crocifissione tra i Santi Caterina d'Alessandria e Giulio di Guido Reni (1575-1642) and il Ritratto di Senatore veneto del Tintoretto  (1518-1594). On the ground floor are the Summer Apartment rooms (1691) with a decorative ceiling by Giovanni Maria Ciocchi (17th century). Among other significant works are paintings by Girlandaio, Veronese, Andrea del Sarto and Vasari. Also on display, are the works of Tuscan artists from the 18th and 19th centuries, which works from Batoni, Nocchi, Tofanelli, Ridolfi and Macmillan and De Servi. One particular work by the latter, has incredible intensity: the portrait of Giacomo Puccini, 1903.

Curiously, the rooms of this Palace are called "strung". This is due to the fact that one leads into the other, building up to the most elaborate: the alcove, or the bedroom. The effect is that of growing wonder- one more reason to visit the museum. The main floor is richly decorated and furnished: the Galleria Nuova, is a hall decorated in a neoclassical style, created by Stefano Tofanelli in 1792; the Music Room, from the late 1800s, has frescoes by Giovanni Gioseffo Dal Sole (on the walls) and by Marco Antonio Castro (on the ceiling), both from Bologna. On the same floor are three living rooms, their walls covered in valuable tapestries created in Brussels in the late seventeenth century. These tell the stories of Zenobia and Aurelian (the Roman Emperor Aurelian who conquers the Kingdom of Palmira ruled by Queen Zenobia, the same Palmira destroyed recently by Isis).

The alcove, which concludes the sequence of living rooms, is covered in embroidered silk and has a splendid arched entrance and a wooden, gilded bed, the so-called "serliana" (see photo). The room next to the bedroom is home to two important paintings from the 17th century, one of the few remaining pieces from the original Mansi collection: Una Sacra Famiglia attributed to Anton van Dyck and il Sacrificio di Isacco by the Flemish artist Ferdinand Boll.

On the ground floor, where the kitchens once were, is an interesting weaving workshop, with nineteenth century weaving frames, still in use. Several of the original seven frames were donated to the Museum by Maria Niemack, originally from Milan. She is credited with the success Lucca enjoyed in this ancient industry, following her relocation to Lucca in the late 1800s. She used frames that were several centuries old, creating fabrics that were impossible to find elsewhere. Here you can see the original Lucchese silk production methods, made famous by the skill of the weavers; they not only managed to conceive decorative patterns for their designs but also create them with great skill.
Cathedral Museum

Museo della Cattedrale - Lucca The Cathedral Museum, in Piazza Antelminelli, near the Duomo, displays works of art showing the political and economic importance of the Lucchese Church over the centuries, as well as the city’s devotion to the figure of the Holy Face. This ancient crucifix of the black Christ, venerated by pilgrims in the Middle Ages, was visited by pilgrims from all over Europe. The Museum was opened at the end of 1922 and was made possible thanks to a contribution by the Cassa di Risparmio di Lucca. These precious works of art are housed in a building consisting of a 13th century tower house, a 16th-century Church and a main building of 14th century origin.
The Romanesque cathedral houses sacred vestments, liturgical furnishings, sacred silverware (made in Lucca between the 15th and 19th century), paintings and statues. Of great importance are the medieval books and a statue of the Apostle of Jacopo della Quercia from 1400 AD. Among the most important works: the precious artifact of the Holy Face, his shoes, crown and collar, a polished gem of French origin and the famous cross of gilded silver, known as "Cross of Pisani", 1411, belonging to Paolo Guinigi.
Study of the Cross of Pisani
The Cross of Pisani, is the only remaining significant work of Paolo Guinigi, Lord of Lucca (1400-1430) and consort of Ilaria Del Carretto. It is a work of very fine gold, studded with precious stones. It was created by Vincenzo di Michele from Piacenza, a Goldsmith in great demand in Northern Italy's courts in the fifteenth century. The cross is 78.5 cm high and is made of molten silver, embossed, engraved and gilded, with touches of Polish "en ronde bosse", applied to each of its three dimensional sides. This devotional object was used in religious ceremonies of particular importance. The figures represented include a crucifixion overlooked by a mystic Pelican's nest (symbol of sacrifice), flanked on two sides by figures portraying the Madonna and Saint John; in the upper part of the cross are figures of suffering angels and the four evangelists. This type of representation was inspired by the arbor vitae (the tree of life, the source of redemption).
According to legend, the Pisans became indebted to the Lucchesi after many Middle Age wars.  In need of a loan, they offered the valuable artifact as a down payment. When the loan expired, the Lucchesi, realising that the crucifix had a much greater value than the loan, set all the clocks in the city one hour forward. The Pisani arrived too late and the cross remained in Lucca.
Lucca - Casa museo di PucciniWe have alrady spoken about Giacomo Puccini's Birthplace Museum

Corte San Lorenzo 9 - 0583 584028.

Archivio storico comunale di Lucca

Piazza Curtatone, 7

Tel. e Fax 0583 491784.

For history lovers!


Paolo Cresci emigration Museum

Museo dell'Emigrazione Paolo Cresci a Lucca The Paolo Cresci emigration Museum is housed in the Palazzo Ducale in Lucca and more specifically in the side Chapel of Santa Maria della Misericordia. It is small but very well organised. The exhibition shows images both modern and old, as well as exhibitions showing original documents and objects. Historical footage and sequences from movies and interviews by those who have experienced the process of emigration are projected onto the walls of the museum.  The museum was founded with works by a Florentine scholar, Paolo Cresci, a passionate researcher and advocate of these issues. History is seen not through major events or significant characters, but through common, simple, tragic, heroic stories, many told by Italians in search of a better life.
Intense, exciting, capable of communicating not one, but a thousand messages, this is a museum that everyone should visit: children, adults, Italians and foreigners. The museum’s message is more relevant than ever. Today as in the past, from migration during the medieval period, to Italians journeying to America in search of a better life, to North Africans travelling to Europe and Syrians fleeing war, the human journey is  incessant and goes beyond the ephemeral in our understanding of modern society.

Domus Romana

The Domus Romana (House of the Child on the Dolphin) is an archaeological site dating back to the first century BC, situated in the centre of Lucca. The site, discovered in 2010, has unearthed evidence of daily Roman life. Among some of the more significant exhibits is a bronze fibula (brooch) of the Augustan era and a sestertius (coin) issued in 14 AD by Emperor Tiberius. Also on display is a terracotta frieze, taking its name from the Domus depicting two Cupids riding dolphins. In one room you study the evolution of construction techniques through 2000 years of history. Also on display are walls, objects and friezes from the Roman period (1st century BC), the Lombard, Medieval and the Renaissance periods.

Archaeological Museum of the Church of SS. Giovanni e Reparata

Inside the baptistery of Santi Giovanni e Reparata is an archaeological site open to the public. This was discovered after a major excavation, which begun in 1969, unearthing serval Roman remains (domus and spas), as well as an early Christian basilica (4th-5th century Ad) and an adjoining baptistery.

The Risorgimento Museum

Lucca - Museo del RisorgimentoThe Risorgimento Museum, housed in the Swiss courtyard of the Palazzo Ducale, displays historical exhibits from 1821 to the start of the First World War. Among the many rare relics on display is the flag of the Carbonari of 1821, flags of the National Guard, some signed letters by Mazzini and Garibaldi and a couple of Garibaldi's red shirts. Also in the collection are weapons from various ages and nations, photographs, uniforms and equipment, everyday objects and precious documents; an archive of considerable interest. The story is told through illustrative panels with texts in Italian and English and multimedia displays. A section of the museum is dedicated to the Lucchese characters who took an active part in the process of national unification.

Historical Museum of Liberation

Lucca - Museo del RisorgimentoOpened in 1988, the Historical Museum of Liberation is located at Palazzo Guinigi in Via Sant'Andrea, 43. This is a unique museum which tells the story of the army, navy and Italian air force during the war of 1940-1943. On display are exhibits of memorabilia, photographs, maps and war uniforms. Of particular interest is the section on Italian military cemeteries and details of locations where massacres were committed Nazis.




Torture Museum

Like other European cities, Lucca has a Torture Museum, which strangely is very popular! On display are objects, images and historical sites dating from the Middle Ages to the Industrial Age. The collection includes torture instruments collected throughout Europe, (some pieces of exceptional rarity), execution and public humiliation devices, as well as etchings, prints and paintings. The collection is accompanied by illustrations and commentary. The aim of the exhibition is to shock the visitor and public opinion in general, to create a feeling of repulsion towards torture and the knowledge that the error lies in man, who can win only with intelligence, recognition of the past and eternal vigilance.

Cesare Bicchi Botanical Museum


The Cesare Bicchi Botanical Museum is located within the Botanical Garden of Lucca, of which we have already spoken. This small and interesting museum exhibits ancient "herbaria" from the collections of centuries gone by. If you are interested in visiting this museum, we recommend calling in advance to find up to date opening times and to book a tour.

Mint medals

The Lucca Mint lies at the Casermetta San Donato in front of Piazzale Verdi, in Via Sant'Andrea 45. The building is dedicated to coins minted throughout Lucchese history. The collection is accompanied by a factory and a library. The guards at the entrance, dressed in period costume, are a reminder of the Swiss Guard’s presence in Lucca (as is the case at the Vatican). After many centuries of duty they were laid off in 1805 by Elisa Baiocchi. Throughout the year many temporary collections are on display for visitors.

Lucca Centre of Contemporary Art

The Lucca Centre of Contemporary Art has only recently joined the long list of Lucchese museums and is located in Via della Fratta, 36 near the Church of San Francesco. The works of modern and contemporary art are exhibited over five floors and include a meeting area/café/restaurant, a bookshop/library and a reading room. The exhibition halls are devoted to temporary and permanent exhibitions of decorative arts and sculpture, video art etc. A modern art gallery in the ancient city of Lucca may seem out of place, but if you are a fan of modern art, this is the ideal museum for you.





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