Posted by: debrakolkka | May 5, 2010

Villa Grabau – Lucca

Just outside Lucca,  at the foot of the green hills that surround the city, are many grand villas.  They were built as country houses by rich silk merchants and bankers from the 1400s to the 1800s.  They would leave the heat of the city in the summer and retreat to these magnificent homes surrounded by beautiful gardens with cool water spurting from fountains and shady trees to lie under.

Several are open to the public and for a small fee it is possible to wander about the lovely gardens and sometimes snoop inside to see how these people lived.  Spring is an excellent time to see the gardens at their best.

Our first visit took us to Villa Grabau,  built by the Diodati family in the 15oos.  It had several owners until  1868 when it was bought by a German banker, whose family still owns it.

The most outstanding features inside  include elegant  frescoes and the “trompe l’oeil” curtains in one of the large rooms.  Photos were not permitted, but my camera seems to have a mind of its own and one appeared.

the trompe l'oeil room

A 9 hectare park surrounds the house and is full of rare and interesting trees and plants.   A Michelia Figo and Quercus x Andleyenis can only be found in this park.  There is a beautiful lemon house dating from the 16th century.  In winter it houses more than 100 lemon trees in ancient terracotta vases stamped with the coat of arms of the owners.

the view from the house

the lemon house

inside the lemon house - the one in blue on the left is Jim

part of the Italian garden

On the  central fountains in the Italian garden, there are 2 magnificent bronze masks of satyr heads attributed to Pietro Tacca (1577-1640).

bronze satyr 1

bronze satyr 2

From the same period is a grotesque statue of a tortoise supporting a dragon.

the tortoise and the devil

the winged dragon

Wandering in these beautiful gardens is a very pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.

a swan posed for us by the fountain


  1. I cannot believe that those curtain are trompe-l’oeil!
    I had to enlarge the picture to make sure my eyes are not playing tricks on me:)

    I always heard about lemon houses (orangerie) in Pari,s but never saw one put to use like this! most of them are not used to keep lemon anymore…
    Thanks Deb for sharing! great post!

  2. Hi Mirella, The painted curtains are amazing aren’t they! I had to get a picture.

  3. Hello Deb, I had no idea of the meaning of trompe l’oeil so had to look it up. In this instance, are the curtains painted as 3D to look like real curtains or….Please forgive my ignorance. Good to learn. Love it when I can start my “work” day by reading your blog.

Leave a Reply


%d bloggers like this: