Scattered through the hills of Lucca and Capannori, often hidden in the gardens of the most beautiful and historic homes found in the area, grow some of the oldest camellias in Europe. Imported from the Far East during the 18th century by Lucca’s prosperous merchants, these extraordinary plants spread across Tuscany where they found a perfect microclimate. These thriving conditions are responsible for their wide cultivation in the area, where camellias provide a stunning and elegant adornment for local parks and gardens.
Each year, between March and April (the period when camellias flower), visitors can admire the largest exhibition dedicated to camellias in Italy: the Ancient Camellias Festival in Lucca. The event is organized by the local administrations in collaboration with various cultural organizations from the area and with the Association of Palaces and Villas in Lucca.
During the prestigious festival, “The Village of the Camellias” – the tiny hamlet of Pieve and San Andrea di Compito, located in the municipality of Capannori – opens the doors of its stunning gardens to thousands of visitors from around the world, while the village comes alive with activities and events (spanning three weekends). A variety of tours are organized allowing visitors to enjoy the sights of the Village and its diverse gardens and parks – including the famous “Camelietum” (a sort of camellia sanctuary featuring a stunning display of over 600 varieties of the ancient plant). During this time, the gardens of the many villas and ancient residences that characterize the area and the city of Lucca also offer special tours dedicated to the occasion. Some of the most beautiful sights include Villa Torrigiani, Villa Mansi, Villa Oliva (all located in the Capannori area) together with Villa Nardi, in Lucca, where visitors can admire some of the largest camellia found today in Italy, while also admiring the sights and sounds of the city’s luscious botanical garden.
Together with the exhibition, organizers offer a variety of other initiatives, including seminars and information related to the cultivation of camellias, music, painting and photography exhibits and courses and other themed activities with subjects typical of the area.