Paolo Guinigi’s Treasure

An Itinerary based on the storytelling:

Paolo Guinig’s Treasure






Episode 1:
Lucca – Cathedral and tomb of Ilaria del Carretto
The discovery of the key

Grandma Anna brought her grandchildren Ilaria, Lucia, Matteo,Leonardo, Chiara and Giacomo to see the funerary monument of Ilaria del Carretto…….
All around the bottom part of the tomb, the artist carved little dancing angels, holding up pretty garlands…. Matteo was enchanted by the little dancing angels… He liked to touching the little wings,… so he stretched his arm, he put his index finger behind the wing of the little angel in the center and pulled the curl of the angel on his left. There was a click, then a piece of marble popped out slightly. Grandma Anna excitedly said, « It looks like a key! Children, we’ve made an amazing discovery! This is the key that opens the door to Paolo Guinigi’s treasure. »

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Episode 2: The key to Paolo Guinigi’s treasure

« A treasure!» the children exclaimed as they huddled around their grandmother. « Maybe it’s best if we left this room, I’ll tell you more when we get home» said grandma Anna…
They went out of the Sacristy but suddendly, grandma Anna tripped and fell.The accident produced a loud noise. Her stick and the marble key both fell to the ground.



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Episode 3 : Leaving the Cathedral of St. Martin

Matteo went down on his hands and knees,and moved around people’s legs loudly saying, «I lost my key!»
Ilaria approached her cousin, helped him to his feet and said out loud, «I have your key. Come on. Let’s go.» …
The group of people and the attendant stepped back to let grandma Anna make her way towards the exit of the church. Giacomo walked alongside her holding her arm and thanking people as they went.


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Episode 4: Emotions before the Labyrinth

They had gathered in a circle on the porch of the Cathedral, near the smaller arch, the one adjacent to the bell tower. Engraved in the pillar attached to the tower was the famous labyrinth of St. Martin.
« It’s a very important discovery. I’m very excited. We need to be extremely careful, though, because if we break this object, all will be lost and we won’t be able to find the treasure,» she grandma Anna. « Don’t worry. I’m not crazy. This is something serious. Yes, maybe a little bizarre and unusual, but I’ll explain everything to you patiently…. It’s a very ecretive secret! Promise?»

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Episode 5: From Piazza San Martino, across Piazza San Giovanni, towards grandma Anna’s house

They left the Cathedral behind them. On their left, the ancient palace “Opera del Duomo”, which now houses a bank. Matteo had turned around to see if someone was following them.
For a fraction of a second he eyed the front of the Cathedral of San Martino, with its arches of differing sizes. The group had crossed Piazza San Martino and were now in front of the church of San Giovanni. “It’s the old cathedral of Lucca,” said grandma Anna, “the primitive church, built over the ruins of a Roman house and enlarged over the centuries. A true archeological wonder!”


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Episode 6: Grandmother Anna’s House – Saint Zita’s fair

Grandmother Anna lived right in the historic center of Lucca, not far from the Cathedral of San Martino and from the city walls. She lived near Porta San Pietro, one of the city gates, in an ancient building dating back to the 16th century. A little terrace that overlooked the building’s internal courtyard. Over time the little terrace had come to look even smaller, because grandmother Anna had filled it with potted plants.
Ilaria would always say that grandma’s little terrace looked like a flower shop, or rather, like Piazza Anfiteatro during the Santa Zita flower fair. In fact, every year on April 27, during the celebrations for this saint

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Episode 7: Saint Bernardino of Siena and the IHS symbol

Grandma Anna and her grandchildren arrived at her front door….The stones that form the arch are shaped like wedges and the one in the center up there has a three-letter inscription on it, IHS. It’s a symbol created by Saint Bernardino of Siena and we see it in every city where he preached; it’s inscribed on the front of houses.


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Episode 8: Grandmother Anna’s study and the treasure list

Grandma Anna’s study was located on the left as you entered her apartment. It was a large, bright and very welcoming room. Grandma Anna rushed into her study and put her bag on the table and she began looking through her books and magazines on the shelves. “What are you looking for?” the children asked as they entered the room one after the time.“I know it’s here somewhere,” she mumbled, “I had it in my hands just the other day and I was about to throw it out!” “Here it is!” their grandmother exclaimed excitedly, “The list! The list of Paolo Guinigi’s treasure!” “Grandma! What we need is a treasure map,” insisted Giacomo, “and you have a lot of explaining to do now. You talk of a list, of Paolo Guinigi, of Sercambi, of Bongi, of a key and of a treasure. I’m totally confused.”


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Episode 9: The secret of the search for Paolo Guinigi’s treasure

Grandma Anna sat on the stool, turned to her grandchildren and said: « The discovery we made today is truly extraordinary. I’m terribly excited. In other words we have a key that can open Paolo Guinigi’s treasure box. We only need to find the list that may tell us where it’s hidden. I was able to draw up one of Paolo Guinigi’s possessions from the book “About Paolo Guinigi and his Wealth”, by Salvatore Bongi. « Of course I’ll explain everything to you in detail, but later. I have to go to the airport in Pisa now to pick up Michael. I’m sure he’ll want to be involved in our treasure hunt adventure. But be careful not to say a word to anyone, not even to grandpa Gianni, until then. It’s a secret and it must stay that way. This is why we now have to make our usual oath. »


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Edipode 10: Grandma Anna’s kitchen –
Two local specialties: the “Buccellato” and the “Torta di Pepe”

Grandpa Gianni walked into the study, smiled and said, « You’re already back? Great.A snack is ready in the kitchen for you children .» Grandma Anna wasn’t a very good cook but she enjoyed experimenting with recipes and especially with cakes. She was good at making one of the specialties of Lucca called “torta di pepe” or “torta di verdura”. That day she had made another local specialty for her grandchildren, the tart with a chocolate filling called “torta di cioccolata con i becchi”. As for the other local specialties, grandma Anna preferred to buy them at the pastry shops in the city. She especially liked the “Buccellato”.


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Episode 11 : The attic – The Palio of San Paolino

« What was your grandma looking for?» asked grandpa Gianni while serving his grandchildren the tart « with all those papers and books she takes back and forth from the attic to the study, heaven knows where she’s put it!» « Can we go look in the attic? » Chiara asked, getting up quickly from her chair. In the attic Leonardo found a small wooden cross-bow in his box. « Look! »he exclaimed,« I used to play with this! I liked it so much! » He put the cross-bow on his shoulder and pretended to shoot an arrow towards the window. « One day I’m going to take part in the San Paolino cross-bow tournament too » he added. They all knew what Leonardo was talking about, because they had all been to the cross-bow tournament known as the “Palio of San Paolino” and to the traditional festival held every year on 12 July to celebrate Lucca’s Patron Saint.

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Episode 12: The List of Paolo Guinigi’s Treasure

Ilaria, Chiara, Matteo, Giacomo, Leonardo and Lucia looked at the boxes and books scattered around their grandparents’ attic. Ilaria dashed over to the scattered papers, picked one up and yelled:«The list! Leonardo, you’re a genius!»


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Episode 13: Bicycles in Lucca – Michael, the American cousin

While the children were concentrating on their discoveries in the attic, grandma Anna was on her way to the airport of Pisa with her daughter Enrica. When Michael arrived in Lucca, the first thing he would do with his cousins would be to go for a ride on the walls: it was a sort of welcoming ceremony.


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Episode 14: Getting Ready for the Treasure Hunt – Music and Giacomo Puccini

Since she had retired, grandma Anna enjoyed writing fantasy stories which she’d have her grandchildren read. Every year she organized a vacation with them to visit the places mentioned in her stories. There are so many events in the historic center of Lucca throughout August and September – said her daughter Enrica – that it would be impossible to make you all stay at home in the evening. I hope you haven’t forgotten my performance at the church of San Giovanni.” “Of course I haven’t, dear!” grandma Anna replied with a satisfied smile. The church hosts Puccini recitals every evening; the festival is called ‘Puccini and his Lucca’ and it is one-of-akind in the world.

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Episode 15 : Pisa and its Leaning – Arriving in Lucca

The airplane landed on time in the airport of Pisa on that hot, late-August day. «Would you like to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa?» Even though Michael saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa every year, he was always fascinated by it. After visiting Piazza dei Miracoli they left for Lucca and took the tree-flanked road leading towards the Pisan Mountains. «Here are the walls! » said grandma Anna when they approached the old city. Michael popped his head out of the car to get a better view. The image of those red bricks that lined the ancient walls surrounded by bright-green lawns were the most beautiful memory of his city.

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Episode 16: The Golden Chicken – The Devil’s Bridge

Leonardo closed the box he had distractedly dropped in the attic. With his cousins and his brother he tidied up all the papers, keeping aside only the one they believed was the list of Paolo Guinigi’s treasure. «Grandma told me there’s a trunk that contains a treasure, maybe inside the Villa Guinigi museum,»Ilaria told her cousins, «I remember her telling me a folk legend that talked about a chicken entirely made of gold, and that there were at least 12 chicks, they too were made of gold.» «Maybe they’re bewitched,»said Lucia, «Grandma once told me that near Lucca, at Borgo a Mozzano, there were once lots of witches and that they’d sometimes come to Lucca to cast spells on families they didn’t like. Maybe they didn’t like Paolo Guinigi.» «Those weren’t witches,» commented Ilaria, «but probably little devils. Like the ones in the story of the Devil’s Bridge at Borgo a Mozzano.»

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Episode 17 :The Joyful Welcome of Michael’s Cousins

Michael’s cousins jumped for joy when they saw him. Impatient to tell him all about their discoveries,… . «Now the key is in grandma’s studio,» Ilaria added, «and we also found the list. The next step is to find the treasure. Is everything clear to you now, Michael?» «Not really,» he replied sorrowfully, «But, if we’re going to look for a treasure, we’ll need a map, not a key and a list. How do we know this is a key to a treasure and what list are you talking about?»

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Episode 18: The Story of Paolo Guinigi

Grandma Anna sat on a bench and her grandchildren gathered around her, waiting to hear the story of Paolo Guinigi’s treasure. «You must know,» she said, «that the year 1400 was a difficult year for Lucca because of the plague and the lack of men who could rule the city. Some wealthy families of Lucca, members of the Council of Elders – the group of men who made the political decisions – began looking for a leader who could guide and protect the city from possible attacks from Florence and Milan. One of these families was Paolo Guinigi’s.

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Episode 19 : Nicholas the Showoff

The next day, grandma Anna and her grandchildren Michael, Lucia, Chiara, Matteo, Giacomo, Ilaria and Leonardo were ready to set off on their treasure hunt. They all went down to the courtyard to get their bikes. No sooner had they opened the door to the courtyard that the unpleasant surprise of the day appeared before them: Nicholas, the disagreeable son of Mrs. Orlando, grandma Anna’s neighbor, was impatiently waiting for them. Giacomo looked at grandma Anna hopelessly: « Plan B? » « Let’s all go for a ride on the walls, » grandma suggested.

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Episode 20: The bicycle race on the walls

«Let’s race,» Nicholas suggested, approaching the group. «Sure,» Giacomo readily replied, «I’ll set the starting line and grandma will give us the start!» Giacomo made sure each participant was positioned behind the imaginary starting line. At her start, they all began pedaling towards the bulwark. Nicholas’ sprint gave him an immediate advantage, placing him in a winning position. When the barrack came into view, Nicholas suddenly yelled: «Noooooo! » His wheels were running idle: the chain of his superturbo had slipped off the chain ring and his bicycle began losing speed. Matteo sprinted and stopped in front of the barrack and claimed his victory.

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Episode 21 : Via dei Fossi and the Medieval Gate – The Legend of Lucida Mansi

After accompanying Nicholas home the treasure-hunting group took off for the city walls once again: from the Santa Maria bulwark they cycled towards the San Colombano bulwark. They stopped where they could have the best view of Via dei Fossi and its canal and clearly see where the walls of Paolo Guinigi’s times once stood. Grandma Anna pointed it out to them, along with the Saints Gervasio and Protasio gate. « Maybe a chest with a part of the treasure was walled into medieval city gate,» Giacomo said. They continued riding until they got to where they could see the Botanical Gardens and the legendary pond, in which a beautiful cypress of Lebanon grew. « There it is!» exclaimed Lucia, « That’s the pond the devil drove his burning carriage into. It would be a great hiding place, don’t you think?» « What?» asked Michael, « The devil in the pond? I don’t understand?» « You mean, you don’t remember the legend of Lucida Mansi? »

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Episode 22: Climbing the Guinigi Tower

Grandma Anna and her grandchildren looked up at the top of the Guinigi Tower. Ilaria looked to the right, at the imposing palace with the small white marble columns at the windows. «What do you say?» Giacomo asked, «Should we go up? I don’t see anything here that could give a clue.» «I guess you’re right,» remarked grandma Anna. She wasn’t too enthusiastic about climbing the 230 steps to the top of the tower, «Maybe the climb will stimulate some ideas.» They stopped at each landing, and took advantage to enjoy the views while they waited for their grandmother and little Chiara, who were slower than the others. They eventually reached the top, where seven small holm oaks had been planted. «Did you know there is a legend that concerns these trees?», asked grandma Anna, out of breath when she finally joined the others.

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Episode 23: The Villa Guinigi Museum

On the way to Villa Guinigi grandma Anna and her grandchildren bumped into Mr. Mattei, a family friend who worked at the city archive. «Good morning Mr. Mattei» grandma Anna greeted him, «Today we’re visiting the Villa Guinigi Museum. I told my grandchildren about Paolo Guinigi’s treasure and now we’re hunting for the chest.» «Well,» he said, «No one knows what happened to that treasure. In my modest opinion, the treasure was kept where Paolo Guinigi lived, in the citadel, the fortress he built on the western edge of the city that was later destroyed… But, there’s always a chance something could be found, especially if we’re talking about a treasure. I would look at Paolo Guinigi’s portrait,displayed in the Museum.»

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Episode 24 : The Portrait of Paolo Guinigi – The Sarcophagus of Ilaria del Carretto at Night

After looking at Paolo Guinigi’s portrait, Giacomo commented with a disappointed tone, «There’s just his name!» «Is this Paolo Guinigi?» Ilaria asked « I had imagined him different. He’s…he’s ugly!» « He looks like the typical man of the 1400s to me » grandma Anna replied. They all stood silently before the portrait, not sure whether to carry on with their exploration. Once outside, grandma Anna announced « We need to go back to the Cathedral and have a closer look at the sarcophagus. But, we should go when the church is closed, after dinner. » That evening, after dinner and before heading off to the Cathedral, they had to once more ditch the intrusive Nicholas. Once inside, grandma Anna shone the torchlight on the tomb and Chiara, Matteo and Leonardo screamed while the others stood petrified. None of them expected to see a purple cloth stretched over the sarcophagus.

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Episode 25 : The Cathedral at Night

« I’ve had enough!» said Giacomo, « Let’s go have a look in the church.» Grandma Anna realized the children were tired and agreed. Using the torches, they left the sacristy and walked into the church.The church’s vast interior in the dark was impressive. It looked as if it could collapse on them any minute, like a heavy rock. They weren’t as much afraid of the darkness as they were of the silence. Matteo had just stepped onto the step of the temple when the alarm of the church went off. Everyone jumped, startled. Chiara began screaming and was followed by Ilaria and Leonardo. Even grandma Anna screamed, but stopped immediately and tried to calm the children down: « It’s an alarm! Let’s leave. Follow me!»

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Episode 26 : The treasure map

The children were in grandma Anna’s studio going over what had happened inside the cathedral. While they were talking, grandma Anna kept turning the key in her hands. At some point she stopped and took a close look at the piece of marble. What had always seemed to be a single piece was actually two that fit into each other. «Well I’ll be darned!» she exclaimed with excitement.She held the key up against the light and discovered that the upper part could be removed. She managed to unscrew it and was amazed to see that it consisted of a hollow sphere, which contained a tiny piece of parchment paper. «It’s the map! I’m absolutely sure! It’s the map!» Matteo exclaimed, crazy with joy.

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Episode 27 : Counting steps at Villa Guinigi

The following day grandma Anna woke her grandchildren up early: « Wake up, children! Today’s the big day! We’re all going to Villa Guinigi.» The children immediately knew their grandmother had deciphered the map.  In the meantime, Nicholas, the hateful neighbor, had no intention of being left behind and had decided to follow the group more closely. To do this, he had summoned support: Federico and Cesare. When they saw the children leave their house, Nicholas, Federico and Cesare ran down the stairs and began following them, stopping at the corners of the blocks and squares. But grandma Anna and her grandchildren had already noticed they were being followed and had come up with a way to sidetrack them: they would have involved them in the task of counting the steps until they would become too exhausted to continue.

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Episode 28 : The Executioner’s House

With the step-counting game, once again grandma Anna and her grandchildren had managed to lose Nicholas. After counting their steps again, they all went to the San Salvatore bulwark. «The executioner’s house!»grandma Anna exclaimed, surprised. «Even though the house didn’t exist in the times of Paolo Guinigi,» grandma Anna continued, «all the steps take us here, and we might just as well have a look around. You don’t believe in ghosts, do you? Are you afraid?» They found an opening on the lower side.

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Epiode 29: The Treasure Keeper

«We need equipment to go down there: a flash light, a rope and I think the key too.That key may just open the door to a treasure located somewhere down there.» Before grandma Anna could finish the sentence, Chiara screamed and disappeared into hole. She fell onto a pile of leaves down below. It was very dark and she had to open her eyes wide to see where she was. Then Giacomo instinctively jumped into the hole. There was dead silence for a moment before they all began yelling Chiara and Giacomo’s name. Lucia looked at her grandmother and exclaimed, «Oh, for heaven’s sake!» and jumped through the hole. One after the other, they all followed her, even grandma Anna. grandma Anna, with her eyes wide open, exclaimed, «But this is the ghost of Tommaso Jona, the executioner!» «Yes, it’s me,» the ghost said with a spectral voice, «I’ve been waiting for you for a long time!»

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Episode 30: The Treasure

Grandma Anna still couldn’t believe they were standing before a ghost, speaking to him and about to receive from him the treasure they had long been looking for. The ghost of Tommaso Jona was sitting on a wooden chest that wasn’t very big. It was dark brown, the shape of trunk and roughly fifty by thirty centimeters large. It was closed by leather straps and a wooden clasp. As soon as grandma Anna saw the chest she opened her eyes wide, she began stuttering, «The-the-the treasure. P-p-paolo Guinigi’s treasure really does exist!» She looked up at the ghost and he slowly disappeared without uttering a word, waving goodbye to them. «It’s not that heavy,»said Giacomo while he helped his grandma lift the chest. The group was able to then deliver the treasure to its destination by an appropriate means of transportation. What happened after that was a whole new adventure.

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The End.

Text: Vittoria Calafati
Illustrations: Caterina Calafati
Translation: Isabella Nicotera for
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