“Torre del Lago, supreme delight, paradise, eden empyrean, turris eburnea, spiritual vas, royal palace…. inhabitants 120, 12 houses…”
A deep love that lasted thirty years bound Giacomo Puccini to the charming village of Torre del Lago, which has since been renamed “Torre del Lago Puccini” in his honour, to the pride of all its inhabitants.
Puccini was born in Lucca on 22 December 1858 in the house in Via di Poggio. He was the last of a family of four generations of musicians, originally from Celle.
When Puccini came to Torre del Lago at the end of the 19th century, it was to find a picturesque and quiet place where his creative genius could flourish. He was immediately attracted by the lake and the small village, whose houses were reflected in the grey-blue waters of the Massaciuccoli river, less than two kilometres from the sandy beaches of Versilia, and was warmly welcomed by the people of Torre del Lago.
On his arrival, the young composer was even greeted by a welcoming committee at the small railway station, and the numerous artists, mostly painters, with whom he would later found the Club della Bohème, gathered around him, happy to count him among them as an already famous personality. These were years of extraordinary artistic fervour that involved the whole region; Florence, Livorno, but also Lucca, were in contact with Paris and the European capitals, ideas and people circulated voraciously, painters and musicians met in homes and cafés.
But then, to return to the roots of their inspiration, the light, the purest sounds, they went to places where nature still offered strong sensations. Sun-drenched beaches, cool pinewoods, the ever-quiet lake, in other words, Eden: Puccini had two great passions, music and hunting, and for him Lake Massaciuccoli was the ideal place to practise both.
He arrived in 1891, aged thirty-three, and decided to settle there, first renting rooms and then having a villa built, which he moved into in 1900. The success of Manon Lescaut (1893) and La Bohème (1896) gave him the money to buy the house of his life, an old watchtower (hence the name Torre del Lago), which he completely renovated.
With the permission of the owner, the Marquis Ginori, he also filled in part of the lake shore to create a garden and a road in front of the house. In front of the house was the landing stage from which he went hunting, especially for teal and woodcock.
The house, which is open to the public, still bears witness to this: the pianos he used to compose his music, the mementoes of his great performances and the prizes he received for his international triumphs. There are also paintings by his friend, the painter Ferruccio Pagni, who visited the musician along with other artists such as Plinio Nomellini and the Tommasi brothers.
Puccini remained in Torre del Lago for thirty years and composed all his major works there, including Tosca (1900), Madama Butterfly (1904), La Fanciulla del West (1910), La Rondine (1917) and Il Trittico (1918). In 1921 he moved to the new villa he had built in Viareggio, but he only stayed there for three years, until his death in 1924.
At the request of his son, the musician was buried in a chapel built in the old house on the lake. The lake also remembers the stories of the past: it can be explored by boat, departing in front of the Villa Puccini. The light is the same as before and so is the tranquility. Today the lake is part of the Regional Park of Migliarino-San Rossore Massaciuccoli, comprising 24 thousand hectares of beaches, pine forests and marshland that host a rich birdlife. This interweaving of the lake, Puccini and music is the result of the Puccini Festival, which has been held on the lakeshore since 1930, wanted by Puccini before he died and entirely dedicated to his works.