Visiting the Lucca Cathedral was one of the highlights of the time that we spent touring the city of Lucca in Italy. One of the most fascinating things about the cathedral is the different colors of the bell tower due to the different materials that were used in its construction. The base of the tower is made of quartz stone, while the top floors are made of white limestone, making for an interesting contrast. Another interesting feature of the cathedral are the three arches that are part of the entrance. One of the arches is smaller than the other two due to the fact that the bell tower existed at the time of the construction and the architects reduced the size of the third arch to accommodate the tower.
Construction began on the Lucca Cathedral in 1063, but there were many changes over the years, including Gothic features that were added in the 14th century. There is some very interesting artwork and reliefs within the church, but one of the most important objects within the cathedral is the Holy Face of Lucca, also known as the Sacred Countenance. It is a wood crucifix with the image of Christ that was carved in the 1st century and is the most precious relic in Lucca. Another interesting feature within the Lucca Cathedral is the tomb of Ilaria del Carretto, which is considered to be a masterpiece.
Another interesting feature of the Lucca Cathedral are the columns on the façade that are of varying styles. Legend has it that the city commissioned three different artists to design the columns for the cathedral. When the artists presented their work, the town’s people apparently decided to use the columns from all three without paying them for their work. In addition to the columns of the façade, the marble entranceway is quite stunning with more unique columns and detailed reliefs above the doors.
Lucca Cathedral is definitely one of the most prominent buildings in the city of Lucca. With its unique coloring, beautiful artwork, and interesting design, it is different than most of cathedrals that we visited in Europe. Lucca itself is a wonderful walled city with medieval architecture and is worth at least visiting when in Tuscany. In addition to the Lucca Cathedral, there is also the Torre Guinigi, which is a tower with trees on the roof that provides wonderful views of the city.
Located about halfway between the Pantheon and the Colosseum, the Atare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland), which is also known as the Monument of Victor Emmanuel II, can be seen from throughout the neighboring streets. It is a huge, marble building that also has the tomb of the unknown soldier, the army museum, and a panoramic viewing platform. There is also the busy Piazza Venezia located across from the building as well as the Santa Maria di Loreto church. What certainly stands out are the different statues, including the two of the goddess Victoria riding on a chariot being pulled by four horses known as a quadrigas.
After the death of Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of a unified Italy, in 1878, the government approved construction of the monument. It was built on the northern side of Rome’s Capital Hill and construction began in 1885. It stands out due to its grand size, bright white marble, and tall columns on its façade. As you walk up the stairs to where the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is located, which is below a statue of the goddess Roma, the views of the city start to become impressive. In addition to the tomb with its uniformed guards, there is also the eternal flame located there as well. The statue of Victor Emmanuel II on horseback is certainly a dominating feature.
To enjoy even more amazing views of Rome’s skyline, take the lift to the rooftop that was added in 2007. From the rooftop, the unique buildings and architecture of this historic city spread out all around you. You can also see the Colosseum and the Roman Forum from the rooftop viewing platform, which is almost more impressive than seeing it from the ground below. The views of the city are probably the highlight of the monument, but the army museum is interesting as well. From the stairs or the rooftop, the beautiful Piazza Venezia with its busy roundabout stretches out before you and there are many restaurants in the area. We enjoyed lunch at a restaurant that had seats on an outdoor balcony that was directly across from the monument building.
From what we’ve read, there are some mixed feelings for locals regarding the Altare dell Patria, some of national pride and others feeling that it is a little too ostentatious. Either way, since it is centrally located and has the rooftop viewing platform, it is certainly a location that should be part of your walking tour of Rome. We visited on our second day and found it an easy walk from the Pantheon through Rome’s winding streets.
There are a few places where the floors, ceilings, and even the walls can be just as fascinating as the pieces of art or furniture that are in them. The Vatican Museums are definitely such a place where no matter which way you look there seem to be beautiful geometric patterns or murals painted directly onto the ceiling. Obviously there is the Sistine Chapel, but just within the Vatican Museums themselves there is much to see beyond the famous artwork that is housed there. There are certainly many other palaces that we’ve visited that have very ornate floors and ceilings, but these are definitely some of the most interesting and beautiful. It isn’t often that you find yourself taking photographs of a floor, but just because it is beneath your feet doesn’t mean it can’t be art. It is certainly a reminder to not only look left and right, but to also look up and down as well.