We really enjoy seeing historic churches throughout the world and most of them can be found in the old town areas of the cities. There are times, though, when modern cities with skyscrapers surround the old churches and the images can be just as striking. Seeing the bell towers reaching towards the sky in parallel with the glass towers is quite a juxtaposition of images. Obviously it goes in direct opposition to the desire to have the churches and cathedrals be the tallest buildings in a city where people could see them from all of the surrounding areas as they ventured towards the city. Here are some of our favorite examples of churches and skyscrapers.
Old town in Lima, also referred to as the Historical Center, is probably most known for its colorful colonial buildings with their fascinating balconies, but there is certainly much more to see than just the architecture. To make the most of your time in the downtown area and we would suggest starting out at the Plaza Mayor or the Main Square and then exploring out from there. There are palaces, the cathedral, official buildings, and other churches in the area, each uniquely beautiful. It is very walkable and you will also find stores carrying tourist items as well as restaurants in the area. We stayed in the Miraflores district, which is by the beach, but it was only a short taxi ride to the Historical Center.
The architecture is certainly the highlight of the Historical Center and the buildings are either colorful or covered with intricate details. There are several palaces including Government Palace, the Archbishop Palace, and the Justice Palace. Obviously there is the Cathedral Basilica of Lima, but there is also the Church and Convent of San Francisco as well as San Pedro Church. There is also the Palacio Municipal or Town Hall located downtown as well. Even with all of these buildings and monuments, your eyes will be naturally drawn to the intricately carved balconies that are on every street in the Historical Center.
Being the heart of Lima, you can certainly expect to find plenty of crowds walking the streets with you. There are vendors selling food and drinks as well as shops to buy items made by the local people of Peru. Occasionally you will see indigenous people dressed in their authentic clothing with items to sell as well. As with many cities, you will also find an abundance of pigeons making the city center their home as well. During our time in Lima, there were guards and police plainly visible, which did provide an extra sense of security as there can be protests on a semi-regular basis. We’d recommend that you register your trip with the local embassy so that you receive notifications of any travel alerts in the region.
Lima is certainly an interesting city and should not just be a landing place on your way to Machu Picchu or other destinations within the country. With wonderful beaches and a vibrant food scene, there is much to do within Lima, but visiting the Historical Center should definitely be at the top of your itinerary. The architecture, culture, and history make it one of the most interesting old town areas in South America.
One the things that we did during our trip to Florence, Italy was to take a day trip that included going to Lucca and then going to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower. The trip itself was certainly worth it, but as fascinating as the Leaning Tower of Pisa might be, we found Lucca to be the highlight. We enjoyed walking the narrow streets and seeing the wonderful architecture of the Tuscan city. Lucca is only a short drive from Florence making it a perfect place to explore during a visit to the area.
Of the different places that we spent time visiting while we were in Lucca, several of them certainly stood out. First is the Lucca Cathedral with its unique bell tower, which has different colors due to the different materials that were used in its construction. The base of the tower is made of quartz stone, while the top floors are made of white limestone, making for an interesting contrast. Another interesting feature of the cathedral are the three arches that are part of the entrance. One of the arches is smaller than the other two due to the fact that the bell tower existed at the time of the construction and the architects reduced the size of the third arch to accommodate the tower.
Another must see location is the Guinigi Tower, which is visible from throughout Lucca. What makes it unique is the garden on the roof with its oak trees providing shade. Built in the late 1300’s by the Guinigi family, who were wealthy merchants in the area, the tower certainly stands out amongst the other buildings in Lucca. The climb up the 235 stairs to the top of the 125 foot tower is certainly worth it as you are rewarded with amazing views of the historic city. One can imagine the wealthy Guinigi family sitting on the rooftop to escape the heat of city below with its warm breezes and wonderful shade trees.
We also stopped for a traditional Tuscan lunch at the Buca di Sant’Antonio, which dates back to 1782. Since the restaurant is known for their handmade pasta, which is made fresh every day, we had to get an order of their ravioli in addition to a rabbit salad. The copper pots hanging from the ceiling add to the ambiance of the restaurant. It was certainly a wonderful way to end our half day in Lucca before heading to Pisa and returning once again to Florence.