They say patience is a virtue. Well, you my friend, are overflowing with virtues. Thanks for coming along with us on the crazy, seemingly-never-ending journey. I have enjoyed revisiting and sharing each of these properties with you and I hope it’s served as a mini-travelogue. I have always believed to better understand a place and its people you must see the spaces they inhabit. Property voyeurism provides a window view into life in another country and it’s in that spirit I present to you our shiny new view.
Which property did we choose?
In case you missed any of the updates, here’s the recap:
Update 1: The River Dream, Private Garden, or Sunny Charm
Update 2: The Pink Suburban Palace, Canalside Reno Special, or Boho Birdhouse in Centro
Update 3: The Proud Papa, Nobile Floor, or Pink Palace #2
Overall, we viewed approximately two dozen properties this time (adding to the three dozen+ we viewed three years ago before purchasing our first apartment in Lucca). We appreciated the unique characteristics of many properties, but, in the end, there were only a handful that truly entered the deliberation stage.
We fell hard for the River Dream, but knew it was too much house and too much money for us. We could see ourselves living in the Cathedral of Your Own, but we just couldn’t get beyond the busy intersection to get there and the water/moisture issues along the back wall of the apartment, which would inevitably result in having a musty guest room (a no-go in our book…we love having guests way too much for such worry)! The Pink Fortress challenged us. We really liked the idea of restoring its glory and dignity, but, let’s face it, we are not cut out for suburban living. The Canalside Reno Special was very interesting, but also terrified us. And, then there was the Proud Papa. We really liked that house, but realized it isn’t our style.
Our friend’s place Boho Birdhouse in Centro is a beauty in all the ways. “Yeah, but…the entire reason for this uprooting change, aside from scoring more space, is to move outside of the center of Lucca to some place calmer and more tranquil, right?” we asked (perhaps, told) ourselves over and over again.
Well, all those notions flew out the window…the giant seven foot (2 meters) tall windows of a Piano Nobile apartment, to be exact.
Yep, after all the chatter and patter about fresh air, more serenity, and open space, we chose – without reservation or hesitation – a sprawling apartment in the bustling heart of Lucca, on one of the original Roman roads, and at the intersection of two streets with names that translate as the “Holy Cross” and the “Guardian Angels.” How could we resist that gravitational pull?
“After all that, I knew it!” said our flabbergasted real estate agent Lorrain. “You people are city people!”
And, she’s right. The more we searched outside the city, the more it became really, really clear that, at this stage of life, we are solidly still city people. We love walking along the street to the vegetable market, butcher, cheese shop, bank, doctor’s offices, etc, all within a few blocks. We love deciding at the last minute to meet friends out for dinner just around the corner. We love waking up to the very-Italian street life below our window. When you get right down to it, we love the bustle, even if at times, it can verge on chaos.
This apartment, the Piano Nobile, was a slow burning love. We first visited on a whim, really. I wanted to get inside the apartment, which was being utilized as doctors’ offices, to get a closer look at the artwork featured in the listing’s photographs.
“But, we’re not buying art,” was Matt’s very logical stance, though he agreed to take a look anyway. Within minutes, the apartment had him at the entrance. In the 15th and 16th centuries in Italy, the fine homes of nobles would often reserve the floor above ground level (known as the first floor in Italy, but considered the 2nd floor in the US) as the space exclusively for entertaining guests. (Anyone who knows us well, knows that’s pretty fitting).
Often, there would be an elaborate marble staircase, exclusively for the use of guests to reach the piano nobile, as opposed to using the family or servant staircase. It’s rare today to find this configuration still intact inside one apartment. But, this one preserves the feature beautifully. The apartment begins through wooden double doors in the lobby that serve as the front door. Inside, you find a spacious nook beside the stairs which, back in the day, would have served as a closet for guests’ fine cloaks and coats. I bet you can guess what purpose it can serve for us? Yep, a super-fine bikelandia!!! (Ah, bikelandia)!! It’s the ideal space for several bikes and all the gear. Matt never has to lug the bike upstairs again and I never have to trip over bike shoes and helmets. Guardian angels, indeed.
Once we ascended the marble staircase and reached the living floor, the surprises kept coming. High ceilings and large windows are characteristic of a piano nobile, as are hand-painted frescos. When we entered the stanza dei pavoni (room of the peacocks), I felt my eyes pool with tears. In Italy, peacocks represent vitality, immortality, and wealth. For me, they represent my beloved grandmother. For her whole life, she was obsessed with peacocks. She loved their color and grace and always said she wanted to come back as one.
Of course, there’s also an old Italian superstition that peacock feathers resemble an evil eye and mean bad luck – sort of like a black cat or the number 13. We I happen to love black cats, all things 13, and those beautiful peacocks! I guess that makes me not the superstitious sort.
Continuing on in the apartment, we noticed a strange glass tile panel in the marble floor. “What in the world is that?” I asked Lorrain. And, that’s when we learned a fun-to-say new word. Spioncino: spy hole. When you are upstairs, you can look down through the spioncino to see who might be standing at your front door. A unique feature which will inevitably supply endless party-tricks-fodder!
And, then there’s the sheer size of the space. There’s been some strange partitioning of spaces to create an office for three doctors’ practices, but as you know from our last go ‘round, we have an affinity for tearing down walls to create big, open spaces. The kitchen hasn’t been in use in decades and is a complete gut-job, as are the three, uhm, “vintage” bathrooms. What is up with the affinity for pink tile, people? The floors are exquisite in every room, a mixture of centuries old terracotta, fine marble, and that one-hundred-year-old tesseire hand-painted tile which we love so much, however, they look as though they haven’t been cleaned since the days when guests would have arrived by carriage!
Oooh, the renovation projects we have stretching out into infinity!
When we need respite, there’s a sweet little balcony with a view of an interior garden. Naturally, it doesn’t offer the expansive mountain views of our former apartment – but, really, what apartment does? But, still, it’s a lovely peak into a characteristic central courtyard.
What can I say? You get a notion in your head about what you need…in this case, tranquility and green-space; then, your heart leads you in a completely different direction. It’s safe to say, we are madly in love with this new apartment and project, to the point of being downright giddy. Renovators want to renovate, there’s no way around it. So, here we go again!
Within hours of closing two weeks ago, we were already elbow (and knees and toes) deep into tearing down walls and ripping out tiles and – oh boy! – do we have surprises to share with you in the first reno update, coming soon!
Thanks for coming along with us! We hope you enjoy the views!
So, please stay tuned. We have renovations stories coming!