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Pre-congress Tour: March 21-25

9 February 2023  475 By: wangzhonglang

Pre-Congress Tour: a Short Visit Guide

 March 22nd, Wednesday: VILLAS & GARDENS 

This day is dedicated to the villas and gardens around Lucca.

Participants will be transported by bus. Buses will leave Hotel Guinigi at 08:00 AM.

Villa Reale di Marlia

  • Villa Reale has always been the residence of aristocratic families. In 1805 Elisa Baciocchi, Napoleon’s sister, sovereign of Lucca, created a grand ensemble by combining the extensive, old villa Orsetti, with the grounds and palace formerly used by Lucca’s Bishops as a summer residence. She modernised the entrance lodges and the old Orsetti palace in the contemporary Empire style, leaving the splendid 17th century Orsetti gardens, including the outdoor theatre made of shaped shrubbery (Teatro di Verzura) and the “Viale di Camelie” (Camellia’s Lane). This lane has many interesting, old and rare species of camellias.
  • After the Napoleon’s fall, the villa went to the Dukes of Parma, then to the Grand Dukes of Tuscany. After Italy’s unification, King Vittorio Emanuele the II assigned the Villa was assigned to Prince Charles, brother of the last king of Naples. Prince Charles married an English commoner, Penelope Smith of Ballynatray, and his family disinherited him. The couple lived in the villa and were buried in the chapel on the grounds. Their son, known as the Mad Prince, because of his religiomania and eccentric behaviour, died in 1918. To pay his debts, the villa was put up for sale, the movable was auctioned off, and many trees were chopped down for timber.
  • Count and Countess Pecci Blunt acquired the property just in time to stop that destruction. They commissioned the French architect Jacques Greber to restore the park, re-create the woods, shrubbery, brooks and lake that make a romantic complement to the classical Italian gardens dating of the Orsetti’s times.
  • In 2015 the Villa was finally purchased by Henric e Marina Gronberg who undertake a complete restoration of the Villa and its park. Many famous visitors were guests in Marlia: the violinist Paganini, princes and princesses from all Europe, the American painter John Singer Sargent, who did several watercolours of scenes in the villa.
  • Now Marlia is hosting, thanks to the owners and Regional Government of Tuscany, concerts in Teatro di Verzura and Bishop’s Palace. The complete tour of garden will take about two hours.
Aitonia Francesca da Rimini Mathotiana rosea
Alba plena Gilliesi Mutabilis Traversii
Anemoniflora rosea Giuseppina Mercatelli Palmer’s superba 
Bella di Firenze Ignivoma Pomponia rosea 
Chandlerii ll Tramonto  Prince Eugene Napoleon
Coquettina Iwane-shibori  Ridolfiana
Dionisia Poniatowski Le Grand Frederic  Roma Risorta
Formosa de Young Lefévriana  
  • Camellias in Villa Reale Garden include


Villa Torrigiani

  • The Villa dates to the early 16th century when it belonged to the Buonvisi family. In the second half of the 17th century, it was purchased by Marquis Nicolao Santini, ambassador of the Republic of Lucca to the court of Louis XIV, the famous French King. Santini added flowering gardens and large baths, which reflect the villa’s fa9ade, and the green theatre built with grottos and fountains, which are still working. The mansion is still inhabited by the descendants of the Marquis Santini, the Torrigiani family and finally the princes Colonna. The interior of the villa, with 17th century frescoes by Pietro Scorzini and the original 18th century furniture, is open to the public as well as the park, with its fountains, nymphs, and statues. Villa Torrigiani hosts about 50 old camellias.


Vito and Gemma’s camellia wood   

For more information

Vito Menchini was a super- passionate of camellias (and magnolias). His garden in Piegaio, a small village with about 250 inhabitants, at 300 meters above the sea level and 30 kilometers from Lucca, hosts a large private camellia collection on a steep slope, with over 600 plants from Tuscany, France,Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and China.

The garden hosts a collection of camellia species (about 40), Higo (over 40), sasanqua (some 60) and some C. nitidissima hybrids.

Also, the garden includes over 150 varieties of Magnolia. The camellia flagship is a C. reticulata “Mouchang”. Sadly, Vito, who was preparing for welcoming the Congress delegates, passed away in 2022 because of an accident.


Celle Puccini

adapted from

Celle dei Puccini is a small hamlet, close to Piegaio. It was the home of the Puccini family, starting from Puccini’s ancestor, Giacomo, after whom the famous composer was named. The residence is part of the historic homes’ association, Case della Memoria.

Giacomo Puccini spent many years in Celle, from his childhood till his death. His letters and musical instruments are displayed in the Puccini house museum.

Rooms across two floors are open to the public with family heirlooms on display, including a sewing machine used by the women of the house, pieces of furniture (including a wardrobe, a baptism gift to Giacomo), the piano that was used to compose part of Madama Butterfly and several manuscripts. You can also see the armchair that Puccini loved to use, as well as various photographs, letters and a family tree located in the entrance which details the history of this musical dynasty.

For more information on Puccini, the composer of Madame Butterfly, La Boheme, Turandot etc. 

Giacomo Puccini, in center with a Panama hut, visiting his country house in Celle (from


 March 23, Thursday: PIEVE DI COMPITO 

The whole day will be spent in Compito. Buses will leave the hotel at 08:00 AM.

Compito, a nice village at 20 kilometers from Lucca, Pieve di Compito features a number of camellia gardens and hundreds of camellia varieties and species.

Camellias (mainly Camellia japonica) are spread everywhere, in the small village orchards, along the creek, in ancient aristocratic villas, and, finally, in the Camellietum, one of the largest Camellia Gardens in Europe (awarded in 2016 as International Camellia Garden of Excellence). Altogether, Camellia plants in Compito may be estimated around 2,500.

The first camellias were planted in Compito around 1820 and still survive in Villa Borrini, Chiusa Borrini, and Villa Orsi. Around year 2000 Guido Cattolica, a descendant of the Borrini family, with Centro Culturale Compitese, (Compito Cultural Centre) created the Camellietum, to preserve ancient Tuscany varieties. Camellietum has continuously grown and now hosts over 1,300 camellias. Every year the Centro Culturale Compitese, a no-profit organization, organizes a camellia show “Antiche Camelie della Lucchesia” (Lucchesia’s old Camellias) that attracts fifteen thousand of visitors. 

Sant'Andrea di Compito - Villa Borrini - Chiusa Borrini 

Right: President Greg Davis inaugurates the Camellietum (2005); Left: Gianmario Motta (then VP Europe) consigns the certificate of International Camellia Garden of Excellence to the late Augusto.

Orsi (1944-2022), president of Centro Culturale Compitese (2016)

Camellietum was initiated, thanks to Guido Cattolica and Angelo Lippi, around year 2000, to collect ancient Tuscan varieties, mainly released in the Nineteenth Century, such as ‘Stella di Compito’, ‘Dionisia Poniatowski’, ‘Oscar Borrini’, and many other varieties.

In 2005, the Camellietum was inaugurated by Greg Davis, President of ICS. Currently, Camellietum is operated by “Centro Culturale Compitese”, headed by Augusto Orsi, and is supported by “Amici del Camelieto” (= Friends of the Camellia Garden), headed by Daniele Bosi, who is ICS Director for Italy. In 2016, the Camellietum was awarded as International Camellia Garden of Excellence.

Sadly, Augusto Orsi passed away in December 2022, he was denied to see his dreamed Congress in his Camellietum.

Villa Borrini

Villa Borrini is an ancient country house dating to Seventeenth Century with a garden of ancient camellias all planted around 1820-40. Alessandro and Angelo Borrini, the ancient owners, were Italian patriots; as camellia collectors released ‘Ida Borrini’ and ‘Oscar Borrini’. The Villa Borrini camellias include:

Alba Simplex Marie Antoinette
Anemonaeflora Rosea Moshio
Aspasia  (looks different from the Aspasia described in Camellia Register)
Bella di Firenze  Mutabilis Traversi
Bella Romana Oscar Borrini
Candidissima Parvula
Centifolia Alba Pendula de Chandler
Eloisa Borrini Plutone 
Francesco Ferruccio Pomponia Semi-plena
Giuseppina Mercatelli Prof. Filippo Parlatore 
Ida Borrini Rosa Mundi Stellaris
Latifolia Rubra Rosa Simplex Terziana
Jubilee  Rubina Tricolor (Siebold)
Lucina Plena Rubra Simplex Tricolor Florentina
Madoni Stella di Compito Variegata Alba
Marchesa Teresa d’Ambra Stella Polare  


Chiusa Borrini (Borrini Dam)

The Dam was built at the end of 1600; there is the Borrini family chapel (1795); the garden hosts ancient camellias cultivars: Adrien Lebrun, Corallina, Francesca da Rimini, Ignea, Giardino Santarelli, Marie Antoinette, Principessa Bacciocchi, Stella di Compito, Stellaris, Marmorata (a wonderful spotted bloom).

Guido Cattolica, who authored a number of texts and essays on camellias, installed here a tea plantation and, moreover, created here a set of new cultivars.

Villa Orsi

Villa Orsi is an ancient country house, of the same age of Villa Borrini, with an edge of centennial camellias. In front of the Villa, you find the two centennial ‘Paolina Maggi’ and ‘Madame Pepin’. Camellias in Villa Orsi Garden include:

Alba plena Casoretti C. H. Hovey Iwane-shibori Roma risorta
Alba plena Contessa Giovanna Nencini Lady Vansittart rosa Rubra simplex
Alba simplex Corallina Lavinia Maggi Sacco Vera
Anemonaeflora Alba Drouard Gouillon Lavinia Maggi rubra Saint Dimas
Asagao Francesco Ferruccio Lefévriana Madame Pépin
Bella Romana Hagoromo Mathotiana Alba Paolina Maggi
Bonari ll Gioiello prof. Santarelli Variegata


Villa Di Vecchio

Villa di Vecchio is an aristocratic mansion nearby Villa Orsi. It features about 50 old /centennial camellias.


 March 24, Friday: PISA AND LUCCA 

The day is dedicated to visit Pisa and Lucca. Buses depart from hotel Guinigi at 8:00 AM


Piazza dei Miracoli, the unmistakable core of Pisa

The visit to Pisa is limited to the main square, namely Campo dei Miracoli. It is guided. Delegates could visit on their own budget the Leaning Tower. The visit to the Leaning Tower, which is based on small groups every 10 minutes, is not included.

The Baptistery

Architects: Diotisalvi (sec. XII), Nicola Pisano (1215/20 - 1278/84) and Giovanni Pisano (Pisa 1248)

The Baptistery, an imposing construction with a circular ground plan, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, is, together with the Cathedral, the Tower and the Camposanto Monumentale, one of the Focal points of Piazza dei Miracoli.

The construction began in 1152 by Diotisalvi in Romanesque style. It was continued about a century later by Nicola Pisano who added the airy loggia with its Gothic embroidery of triangles and aediculas, the setting for sculpture from the workshop of Nicola and Giovanni Pisano. The finishing touch is the dome, finished in the 14th century, covered with tiles and lead plaques, and crowned by a bronze figure of the Baptist, attributed to the 14th-century artist Turino di Sano.

The Cathedral

Begun in 1063, it was built when Pisa ruled most of the Mediterranean Sea. The cathedral structure is a Latin cross with a five-aisled nave, with a transept with apses at each end, and an elliptical crossing dome (erected later). The building follows the early Christian template of separate structures for the church, baptistry, and bell tower, all of which are unified using similar stone and the design of blind arcades and horizontal galleries.

The Leaning Tower

The construction began in 1173 and continued for about 200 years, following the plans of the original designer, whose identity remains a mystery. The famous lean (over 14 ft. from the vertical) hopped during the construction of the tower, and many attempts were made to correct it. The Tower of Pisa was closed in 1990 to reduce its dangerous tilt and reopened in 2001. Engineers are currently working with the soil below the tower to increase support.


Amphitheatre Square, the core of Lucca, built on the structure of the Roman Amphitheatre

Lucca was for almost 1000 years an independent aristocratic republic, a center of fabrics business. Thanks to that independence, it is perfectly preserved, and still keeps its Roman layout and renaissance walls. The walled city is pedestrian, and walking is a unique enjoyment.

Plundered by Odoacer, Lucca it was besieged for three months in AD. 553 by Narses, a Byzantine general. Under the Lombards, it was the seat of a duke who minted his own coins. It became prosperous thanks to the silk trade that got a start in the 11th century, to rival Byzantium. In the 10th and 11th centuries Lucca was the capital of the margravate of Tuscany, actulally independent with owing nominal allegiance to the Holy Roman Emperor. With the income from the silk trade, several magnificent churches were built across Middle Ages, with some founded in the 6th century, 1,500 years ago.

After the death of the marchioness Matilda of Tuscany, Lucca was independent for almost 500 years. Dante’s Divine Comedy includes references to the major feudal families. In 1805 the ancient Republic of Lucca was taken over by Napoleon, who appointed his sister Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi as Princess of Lucca. After 1815, Lucca became a duchy of Bourbon-Parma, and, finally, part of Italy.

The old city

"Lucca is Tuscany still living and enjoying, desiring and intending. The town is a charming mixture of antique 'character' and modern inconsequence ".Henry James, "Italian Hours"

Lucca is so alive and there is so much to do. Taking apasseggiata on the splendid tree-lined city walls, shopping along Via Fillungo, having a cappuccino at Antico Caffe Di Simo, one of Lucca's fancy old coffee shops, browsing the Antique Market and Antique Book Market, walking through Puccini's birthplace, taking a break on the steps of the Cathedral San Michele, and seeing the people of Lucca go about their daily life - these are all rich experiences

The walls

Perfectly and completely preserved, the walls are considered one of the finest examples of military architecture in the world, thanks also to their transformation in a wonderful walkway.

The walls are formed by 11 curtains, 10 spur strongholds and a platform. They are supported by a double scarp wall, 12 meters high. The city was defended by artilleries behind the strongholds, 124 cannons and two 12,000-pound cannons; all were removed by the Austrians in 1799. Outside was an impressive series of defensive works: a moat (35 meters), a terraplane and 12 halfmoons. The current walls originally only had three doors closed by rolling shutters, one of which is still visible on Porta San Pietro. The latter was completed in 1556 according to a design by Resta, the two side doors were done in 1856. Porta Santa Maria was done in 1593 and is adorned by a marble group of the Virgin with Child and two panthers bearing the city's insignia. The Porta San Donato was founded in 1629 by Muzio Oddi. At the time of Maria Luisa Buorbon, who took up a project proposed by the Baciocchi family, the walls were turned into a public garden. The beauty of the trees on the ramparts, the striking view of the city and the surrounding countryside, and the architectural structure all contribute to make the park a unique work. Additions walls include Porta Elisa (1806), in neo-classic style, Porta Vittorio Emanuele (1910), Porta 4 Novembre (1930). The access to the city was made easier by further entrances, one by the Orto Botanico, built at the end of the last century, and one by San Frediano. Two old sorties, originally covered, were reopened recently, one by San Colombano and one by Santa Maria. 


 March 25, Saturday: GENOVA 

Buses will depart from the Hotel at 08:30 AM. The visit will focus on Villa Durazzo Pallavicini. The park is a Masonic Garden, rather unique in Italy; also, it collects many rare species and a collection of centennial camellias planted by Marquis Pallavicini around 1840.

Villa Durazzo Pallavicini

The Villa (left) and the temple in the upper lake (right)

Marchioness Clelia Durazzo, born in 1760, built the villa in Pegli, a suburb of Genova. From 1794, she enriched the villa with rare and exotic trees the garden. Her successor, Marchese Ignazio Pallavicini, enlarged the villa with the architect Michele Canzio, who also designed the garden with its charming itinerary of grottoes, temples, and ponds. The garden was inaugurated in 1846 and in 1856 Marquis Pallavicini let build the Pegli train station just at the gate of his garden, together with a hotel. In 1928 Matilde Gustinani donated the Villa to Genoa for use as a public park. During the 20th century, the garden fell into some disrepair, and in 1972 was threatened by the construction of a nearby highway. Its restoration began in 1991. Currently, the Park Curator is Silvana Ghigino, a landscape architect.

The layout of the park is far from the classic romantic / English park. It is esoteric, thus disclosing the meaning of the scenery only to the people who are initiated to freemasonry. The park features an itinerary that eventually shows the victory of the light against the darkness. The itinerary is divided in Acts: 1.

Back to Nature, 2- History Revisitation 3- Catharsis 4-Waterworks. Apart that masonic meaning, the park includes the entrance guarded by a Roman Triumph Arc, and the upper lake, where you can access through grottoes. In the lake centre, the beautiful circular temple, which is the icon of the park.

Camellias in Villa Durazzo Pallavicini Garden include - “Alba Simplex” -“Bella Romana” -“Bellina major” - “Conte di Cavour” - “contessa Lavinia Maggi” - “Contessa Woronzoff’ - “Diamantina” - “Duchesse de Nemour” - “Durazzo Prima” - “Fanny Durazzo” - “Fiammetta Bianchi” - “Fra Arnaldo da Brescia” - “Giuseppe Mercatelli” - “Gloria del Verbano” - “Ignea” - “Il 22 Marzo”- “Incarnata” - “Madame de Strekaloff’ - “Marchesa Teresa d’Ambra” - “Nina Durazzo” - “Omar Pacha” - “Queen of Danmark” - “Rosa simplex” - “Spini” - “Stellaris” - “Vergine di Collebeato” - “Warratah Rubra”

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