Okay, now this is (so far) our favourite city in Italy (and not just because it’s flat!). Maybe it was walking from the railway station on a stinking hot day after being in a non-airconditioned train for an hour and a half, through the city walls into a piazza lined with huge beautiful plane trees making a shady avenue for us to walk to our B&B that started our love affair with Lucca. Maybe it’s the gorgeous old buildings and the true locals hanging out with the tourists (of which there are few after the groups leave of an afternoon) in the many family run trattorias, osterias and pizzerias. There is still plenty of good shopping to be had, but the whole city doesn’t feel to be geared to that.
Our accommodation came with free tickets to a classical concert in a gorgeous church – San Giovanni (obviously not the same one mentioned on previous blog posts!). It was a combination of Puccini (of course!) and Verdi – all the favourites thrown together for a very pleasant evening with a tenor (who looked too much like Newman from Seinfeld to be taken seriously) and soprano and piano accompanist. Lovely way to be introduced to the city. Dinner was a simple but scrummy pizza and corona on the previously mentioned Piazza Napoleone (the one with the trees). There was plenty of action happening in all of the nearby squares due to an election on Sunday. So there were several platforms set up for bands and politicians to rant. Particularly liked the rag-time marching band keeping us entertained while eating pizza. Very enjoyable evening all round really. We were both completely knackered and a little dehydrated from our very hot and sweaty (and not in a good way!) train trip, so we had an early night.
Our next day was spent getting to know the town. That began with a bike ride on the city walls. Excellent idea considering it was shaping up to be another hot one and the top of the wall was lined with more magnificent plane trees to shade us. Nothing like hooning along on a bike when it’s smooth, flat terrain and there is a cool breeze. The butts were mighty sore when we were done though. Bit out of condition for the whole bicycle seat scenario – especially when they are old, hard, very unforgiving saddles! Not like a spin class at all!
Walked to the local markets to buy some fresh veges for dinner (there does seem to be a shortage of a range of veges on the menus here). Found the only small supermarket within the city walls and were very pleased to get some good wine at a great price as well as some 50% cocoa lindt chocolate on special (will be going back to stock up on that before we leave).
Went to a local, family run restaurant called ‘Leo’s’ for lunch and they gave us huge serves of pasta and salad and very friendly service. AND their bread had salt in it!! VERY happy about that – traditionally, bread in Tuscany has no salt so it’s pretty blah (guess you don’t eat as much of it that way!). Were pretty full after that feed, we didn’t even have room for an afternoon gelato. We DID however, manage to fit in an afternoon nap, and not one of our usual 15 minute jobs – a full hour! Man, it was good! Were still full after our nap (surprising how a sleep doesn’t work off that food!) so skipped our planned cooked dinner and had some fruit, wine and left over cheese. Perfect.
Visited a big home and garden called Palazzo Pfanner that was used in Jane Campion’s film Portrait of a Lady (which we still haven’t seen – we’ll have to now!) Pretty fab. Love looking at how the other half lived once (or even now!)
Took ourselves off to another free concert that completely blew us away with how wonderful it was. It was a visiting choral group from Bradley University in Illinois. We got 2 hours of non-stop superb singing, and it really was superb. We both preferred it to the ‘professionals’ of the evening before; heavenly, as befitted the setting (one of the 70 churches in Lucca). Some true standouts in the group who could easily make it in the professional world. They were accompanied by a string trio – as equally talented as the singers. One of the best nights of the whole trip.
Sunday was spent slobbing about. Had a home-cooked lunch and dinner (that was SO good!) with good wine and lindt chocolate. Strolled the city and the walls, sat on park benches, wrote in journals, took photographs, chatted, oh, and napped in the afternoon.
This would be the perfect place to come back to, rent a villa in the surrounding area for a month and do a combination of hanging out and day trips to the many areas within reach by car. Have to look into that. Anyone interested?