You can’t go wrong with Guest Apartment Margherita http://www.guestapartmentmargheritabb.it/indexh.php
Puccini Festival tickets
These can be booked online via www.puccinifestival.it . You don’t get an e ticket- you must print the payment receipt and exchange it for a ticket in Torre del Lago.
Transport to and from the opera
I looked into several possibilities for where to base myself to get to the opera and back afterwards. It turned out that for those without a car, staying in Lucca is by far the best option, as there’s a shuttle minibus for the opera organised by Tau Touring, www.tautouring.it . They charge 23 euros return to/from Porta San Pietro or 28 return to/from your accommodation in Lucca. Booking is by e mail (firstname.lastname@example.org ) and they don’t ask for pre-payment. The bus leaves at 19.30 from Porta San Pietro (earlier if picking up from hotels etc,) and reaches Torre del Lago soon after 20.00. The performances start at 21.15, so there is plenty of time to collect opera tickets from the ticket office, which is not in the theatre itself, but about 50m up the street heading away from the theatre on the opposite side of the park.
The driver will tell you the meeting point after the performance finishes and I didn’t have any difficulty finding the bus. It’s quite sociable, as all the other passengers are opera fans, so you can make some friends. It can take quite a long time to get out of Torre del Lago on the way back as it’s a small place for so many cars, and then everybody is dropped off at their accommodation in Lucca. (They switch you from the minibus to a big car at Porta San Pietro). So even though the performance ends around midnight, it was pretty close to 1 a.m. by the time I got back to my bed and breakfast.
Other options I looked at
I thought of staying in Torre del Lago, but it’s a small place, with limited accommodation possibilities, which quickly fill up during the opera festival. When I looked even months ahead, everything seemed to be fully booked or overpriced.
I also looked at staying in Viareggio, which is a bit nearer to Torre del Lago than Lucca. But I couldn’t find any clear information about transport options to get back after the opera. An agency quoted me 90 euros for a taxi there and back!
These don’t exist for individual performances, but I bought the programme for the entire festival, which included the libretto for each opera being performed. It cost only 5 euros and I picked it up at the stall in the main hall of the theatre building. I also picked up a DVD of Madama Butterfly for one euro. I haven’t watched it yet, so I’ve no idea of the quality, but for that price you can hardly go wrong.
This is open from 10.00 to 12.40 and 15.00-18.20, closed Monday mornings. Entry (7 euros) is at fixed times every 40 minutes, and you’re supposed to be out in time for the next group to come in. (So the last entry before lunch is at 12.00 and the last one in the afternoon is at 17.40). On opera days in the afternoon the villa opens at 16.00 instead of 15.00, and the last tour is at 19.40. There’s an audioguide (included in the admission price) which explains each room. If you’re lucky, you’ll meet Puccini’s granddaughter. For more details see http://www.giacomopuccini.it/en .
Boat trips in Torre del Lago
These operate from the landing stage more or less opposite the Puccini villa, and seem to run hourly, on the hour, in the afternoon. However, there is no information posted at the landing stage, just a phone number +39 338 9029465. They don’t speak English. Margherita from my bed and breakfast in Lucca called. She said they weren’t very clear about departure times and had told her they only sailed if they had enough passengers. I saw the boat waiting, with nobody but the captain on board, so had more or less given up on the idea, until I heard repeated blasts from the horn just before 4 p.m. So I rushed over, got on board, and so did a lot of other people. The cost of the one hour trip was 7 euros.
Getting to and from Torre del Lago during the day
When I went back to Torre del Lago to see the Puccini villa during the day, I took the bus from Lucca, which leaves from Piazzale Verdi. The ticket office is in a small building on the edge of the square. The link for the timetables is http://www.vaibus.com/pdf/orari/EXTRAURB_001.pdf but it might be worth checking again locally, as I noticed that although the PDF timetable showed a bus from Lucca at 15.03, the timetable on the bus stop didn’t.
The bus leaves you on the main road in Torre del Lago, which is quite a long way from the Puccini villa and the lakefront. It’s about a 20 minute walk- go back from the bus stop, turn left and keep walking. You can pick up the Viareggio-Torre del Lago minibus at a stop soon after making the left turn, but as this only runs every half hour, you could have a long wait.
When I’d finished in Torre del Lago, I caught the minibus to Viareggio. This is much easier, as it leaves from the car park next to the Puccini villa and runs every half hour. You can buy tickets at the nearby café. Here’s the link to the timetable (route 31):
Puccini concerts in Lucca
Details of the concerts in the San Giovanni church can be found using this link:
As the church is very large, tickets don’t need to be booked in advance. I bought mine on the same day from the little shop at the entrance to the church- cash only.