For anyone driving from the Lucchesia to Pisa airport the route is usually the standard and tedious one of catching the autostrada at Lucca and then carrying on to Pisa. (It’s actually better, and cheaper of course, to leave one’s car at a station on the Aulla-Pisa line and catch the train from thence.
There are two alternative routes which are only marginally slower: the old road that goes round the Pisan Mountain via Ripafratta with its romantically ruined castle, or the Foro road which leaves Lucca in a direct line to pierce the mountain with a one mile tunnel.
Presumably the preoccupation of getting to the flight on time is paramount to most motorists but there are some very beautiful places to visit just off the beaten track of the foro road.
One of these I came across by chance earlier this month when scootering (scooters park free of charge at the airport car park) to the airport. It’s the borgo of Santa Maria del Giudice which is on the old road running parallel to the standard one. Santa Maria has a charming central square and there are some good restaurants nearby waiting to be discovered. But its chief glory is the Romanesque parish church dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta, certainly one of the most beautiful religious buildings in the Lucchesia.
Dating back to 1166, Santa Maria Assunta’s facade has a double order of arcades which extend round the sides of the church. Everything is carved with the finest delicacy and the church itself presents a transitional architecture between Pisan and Luccan Romanesque. For example, the use of squarely carved stones from the marble quarries of Pisa’s San Giuliano- just on the other side of the tunnel – is evocative of Pisa’s own cathedral which also finds an echo in the columned inlay tympanum of the Pieve.
The campanile is of a rather later date and, oddly, is of an an octagonal shape placed on the church’s semi-circular apse.
I was unable to enter the building as it was closed but the exterior was enough to convince me of the extreme beauty of its architecture.
I don’t think I added more than fifteen minutes journey time to the airport and what a relaxing relief it was to have a final glimpse of a picturesque Italian small town centre complete with delicate Romanesque church before entering into the globalised horrors of air-flight procedure!