Italy obtains an overwhelming artistic and historical legacy but unfortunately not the financing to present it properly. Because of this, one of the overlooked museums of Lucca is The Museo Nazionale di Villa Guinigi. The relatively unappreciated museum contains a very interesting collection of art from 8th BC to 19th century with some of the best Gothic pieces in the country.
The museum’s pre-modern art is owned by the city and the core of the collection is former Church property and Etruscan archaeological finds. The halls are laid out in chronological order, so you will find yourself moving through time. If you are not an archaeology buff, the very beginning of your time-travel may not seem that promising, but once you get in medieval era things change and you enter a completely wonderful collection of painted and sculpted artworks.
Chances are, you will find yourself alone in a huge gothic villa that was home to the prominent Guinigi family. The Villa was completed in 1418 for Paolo Guingi, the Lord of Lucca in 1400-1430, so it is the epitome of luxury of its time – an imposing brick façade with a central ground-floor portico, vast halls and a sculpture garden. Today this sign of power is a beautiful museum.
Once delicately decorated by Guinigi it has served various purposes over the years and is now not that polished and glossy, but has kept the spirit of quiet reflection close to meditation. The museum allows you to relax, walking the vast remarkable halls that witnessed the political decision-making process 600 years ago.
Many Italian museums don’t have English-speaking guides, but Villa Guingi is the exception and we strongly recommend taking a tour. The museum’s guided tours are elaborately planned to show you the progression in any given theme – archeology, landscape design, art. And since the museum is not that popular, the tour will most likely be private with the possibility of asking questions and dwelling on particular subjects that interest you.
Tip: If you are coming from out of town for a day in Lucca, park at Via Beato Luca Passi (inside the wall). The parking is closest to the museum that opens at 8:30 AM, so it is a perfect way to start your day and make your way to other attractions afterwards.
Fact: The museum is displaying only artists born in Lucca or foreigners who worked in the city for a vast period of time.