Bagni di Lucca has three new museums and they are all housed in that magnificent Villa where Byron lived when he stayed in our town in 1822, the Villa Webb situated in that hilly part of town known as Terme alla Villa.
Each museum is splendidly decked out by volunteers and each displays a very different aspect.
The ground floor of the villa houses a palatial hall with the insignia of the Vicariate of the Val di Lima. You’ll probably be familiar with the vicariate as its members fire the cannon that start conferences by the Fondazione Montaigne. The hall is beautifully arranged with banners, costumes instruments of battle and armour.
On the first floor is an immaculate collection of the board and card gambling games which brought Bagni di Lucca fame as the first casino in Europe. You should find time to examine the different ways you could win or lose a fortune a couple of centuries ago. Some of the games may be familiar such as the Biribisso, one of the antecedents of such fluttering delights as Montecarlo’s Chemin de Fer. The director of the historical collection of the casino games is the encyclopaedically knowledgeable Virgilio Contrucci, familiar as the barman at the antiche terme.
The top floor of the villa Webb contains one of the most amazing museums ever. Titled the ‘museum of the impossible ‘it will fascinate anyone enamoured with the macabre, the freakish, the delivish, the mythical and the alchemical – in fact, anything to do with the esoteric and pure black magic.
Don’t miss out on the kitchens now splendidly arranged with old brass and terracotta ware.
The luscious gardens have been revealed stripped now of their insidiuous brambles. There is even a delightful nymphaeum.
The Villa Webb is open at week-ends by special booking. We were lucky in that we met the caretaker quite by chance so we had the whole place to ourselves.
I still can’t quite believe whether the things we saw in that villa were a dream or a vanishing vision. Certainly, it’s Bagni di Lucca’s most extraordinary new attraction and has already enticed curious visitors from the four corners of the world. It’s an excellent example of how the comune di Bagni di Lucca can lease out its catalogue of empty historic properties to enthusiastic groups of people eager to make Bagni di Lucca an even more attractive place to visit and allow these buildings to re-live again.
PS The number to phone for a booking is 345 8035 945 or 338 2015 232. Visits may be booked at any reasonable time. There is a donation box for your visit to the museum.