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Gary and I took a few hours recently and walked to the Palazzo Pfanner to finally take a peek inside. We have been to Lucca several times before moving here, however, never had the chance to explore this palace. It was well worth the few euros for entry to see both the incredible home and the garden.
Location of Palazzo Pfanner
You can actually see the back of the palazzo and the garden from up on Lucca’s medieval wall on the north end of town. This garden is one of the most beautiful in town. We find many people relaxing along this stretch of the wall to take in the palazzo’s beauty. Sitting on one of the many benches here, you can take a rest from a bicycle ride or walk under the trees.
Originally, the merchant nobility Moriconi family of Lucca commissioned the building in 1660. The Moriconi family was forced to sell the palazzo to the Controni family after being ruined by bankruptcy. This family made a number of changes to the house, including the important addition of an outside grand staircase. This staircase was immortalized in Mario Monicelli’s famous film, Il Marchese del Grillo (1981).
This residence consists of a large reception hall with frescoes by Pietro Paolo Scorsini from the early 18th century. It includes a historic kitchen and a bedroom. Currently, the residence has a permanent exhibition of medical-surgical instruments from the end of the 19th century that belonged to Pietro Pfanner, an amazing surgeon, philanthropist, and mayor of Lucca from 1920 – 1922.
You can actually rent the apartment in the Palazzo!
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Some Interesting History – A Brewery!
The house took the name of the Pfanner family in 1800 when it was acquired by the Austrian brewer. Charles Louis Bourbon was invited to Lucca in 1846 to direct the brewing of beer in the town. The brewery, which produced beer according to the old German tradition, was operative until 1929.
The Pfanner Family
Today, the house is still owned by the Pfanner family. It has been open to the public since the 1990s. In 1995, this family had undertaken the demanding work of improvement by initiating its restoration. Inside we can admire the splendid monumental hall, frescoed in the 18th century, and a collection of surgical instruments which belonged to Pietro Pfanner, a physician who was also mayor of Lucca from 1920 to 1922.
A little more about Pietro Panner… He was born in Lucca in 1864 and graduated from the University of Florence. After several years as Assistant Hospital Director, he then became chief surgeon of the Red Cross. In 1918, he became chief emeritus of surgery in the Hospital of Lucca. At one time, his outpatient office was located on the ground floor of the palazzo. He died in 1935 and Lucca dedicated the street in front of the hospital in his name.
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The Stunning Garden
The most charming, fascinating, and poetical part of Palazzo Pfanner remains the marvelous garden, created in 1700, by Filippo Juvarra. This garden includes Mediterranean plants including bamboo, statues of the four elements and the four seasons, a Roman sarcophagus, lemon trees, and a huge magnolia tree. A beautiful focal point is an octagonal fountain, artfully set at the intersection of the two central paths.
The long narrow building at the back of the property was at one time, dedicated to storing lemons. Statues of Hercules and Cybele, along with some beautiful rose bushes create a romantic and relaxing setting.
In 1996, the garden was chosen as the location of the film, Portrait of a Lady, a film adaptation of Henry Jame’s 1881 novel directed by Jane Campion starring Nicole Kidman and John Malkovich.