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TORRE DEL LAGO

Once swampy marshland, Torre del Lago Puccini remained sparsley populated until the area was drained and the land reclaimed in the middle of the 18 th century. The Republic of Lucca 's reforestation plan attracted hunters, farmers and fishermen who established a hamlet there because of the fertility of the soil and the abundant game. Puccini dicovered Torre del Lago in 1884, when he visited the little town seeking consolation after the death of his mother. In those days, the few inhabitants of the village survived by hunting, fishing and harvesting the marsh hay, falasco, which can still be seen growing abundantly today. The villa in which he lived, next door to the open air theatre, was originally a small tower from the 1300's that gave this place its name. When Puccini first arrived in Torre del Lago, it had been used as a gatekeeper's house where it stood near the edge of the lake. In the summer of 1891, Puccini returned and sublet two rooms from the farmer who lived there, and moved in to complete the composition of Manon Lescaut. After the success of Manon and La Bohème, he puchased the house and set about having it completely restructured. At around the same time, he obtained permission from the marquis Carlo Ginori, who owned the lake, to fill in that part of the lake in front of the villa so that a garden could be established, and a road built beyond the front fence. The elegant but modest house was equipped with all the latest fittings, from radiator heaters to the telephone, and Puccini took great care with the decorations. He asked his friends, the painters Plinio Nomellini (a frequent visitor) and Ferruccio Pagni (a neighbour at Torre del Lago), to add frescoes which can still be admired today. He added furniture and objects in different styles, from Bugatti to Tiffany, and a piano with 'dampers' because he most often composed at night. In this villa, apart from finishing his Manon, Puccini also wrote Madama Butterfly, La Bohème, Tosca, parts of La Fanciulla del West, La Rondine, and Il Trittico . The great composer lived and worked in his much loved home on the edge of the lake for almost 30 years, and therein lie his remains and those of his immediate family inside a specially consecrated chapel in the villa. The Museum Villa Puccini is open to the public, for reservations and hours of opening, call 0584 341445 or email case.puccini@tin.it .  Piazza Belvedere in front of the Museum Villa Puccini, which was constructed on reclaimed land, is an ideal place from which to take an excursion of Lake Massaciuccoli by boat from the pier opposite the Museum Villa Puccini. The piazza, since it didn't exist in Puccini's day, has changed somewhat the peaceful atmosphere of this lakeside hamlet as the composer would have known it. However, solitude can still often be found there, as can a gathering of the locals, many of whom are descended from Puccini's friends and neighbors. Piazza Belvedere today remains a place of congregation for the townspeople, visitors, the opera festival staff , and during the Puccini Festival, a crowd of opera goers littered with VIPs and opera personalities from around the world. A highly recommended culinary experience can be had at Ristorante Enoteca Chalet , on the edge of Piazza Belvedere overlooking the lake. Boasting beautiful views through the large windows, the atmosphere is heightened by ambient lighting . Torre del Lago holds a weekly market every Friday. To get to Torre del Lago, drive to Viareggio and take the SS1 signposted Pisa/Livorno about 5 km to the turnoff . Take the exit to Torre and continue 2 km to the first main intersection with traffic lights. Turn right and continue towards the lake until you are directed into a parking lot. Traffic is prohibited in Piazza Belvedere.