Green architecture: The hanging Garden of Guinigi Tower
Lucca is a city where history can be felt at every turn. If it weren't for the many shops, bars, cafés and restaurants that bring you back to reality, proof of a time in which there are no knights or ladies, you'd think you were still in 1400. Just like in the Italian film "Nothing Left to Do but Cry", people who arrive for the first time and find themselves in front of those – still intact – walls feel lost for a moment and imagine that they will find a guard asking for one Florentine florin for entry when they pass through one of the gates that lead into the city, just like in the famous customs scene from the film.
Once you're inside, the old town centre will not disappoint your expectations and presents streets and views that boast unparalleled beauty. Streets, monumental renaissance palaces and museums – every part of Lucca is a work of art. Known as the city of a hundred churches, in the past it also had an extremely high number of towers, over 200 of them. They were the symbol of rich families who built them to demonstrate their wealth and superiority to the world. Unfortunately, only two of these remain intact today: the Clock Tower and Guinigi Tower. It's the second one that we really want to talk about. Built in the 14th century by the Guinigi family, who were, at the time, the undisputed masters of the city, it has always been a symbol of the city. Its main feature is the hanging garden found at the top, which contains 5 centuries-old Holm oaks.
The visual impact that this tower – which is over 44 metres tall – makes on people who look at it from a distance is inevitable and the eye can't help but be drawn to this spot of green in the middle of the sky. The garden symbolises rebirth and welcomes visitors, who must climb over 250 steps before reaching the top of the tower, from which they can see a stunning panorama of the city and the mountains that surround it. There is also a legend about the Quercus Ilex oak planted at the top of the tower. It would appear that it was planted by Paolo Guinigi himself and it is said that when he was captured by Francesco Sforza and then imprisoned in the castle, his death was foretold by the tree, which lost all its leaves.