There is one reason and one reason only that I wanted to come to Lucca – my little baby nephew of the same name with the same spelling. He is my sixth nephew and the one that fulfilled my own prophecy that from six girls (my sisters and I) will be born six boys. He was barely 2 months old when I set off on this journey and it was a wrench to leave him knowing how much he (and the other five) will have changed by the time I see him again. Although I’d dearly love to also visit Aiden, Brendan, Julian, Madiba and Claude, I don’t think they’re actual place names whereas Lucca is just an hour up the road from Florence. No favouritism intended!
It was a great relief to discover that it is actually a beautiful and charming little city because we’d committed to spending the night there. Whilst I usually prefer to be more organised, Ryan and I had decided to just book things as we went along so we could be flexible. The downside of that is that you don’t always get the best places to stay but we were lucky enough to find a nice hotel in the newer part of town, just a short drive to the old walled city. We parked outside the walls and explored on foot.
Lucca is gorgeous (nephew and city), small enough to explore its cobbled streets on foot in a lazy afternoon but big enough to have all the modern conveniences. Compared to Florence, its lanes and alleyways were blissfully quiet and yet there was enough local life to make it vibrant and inviting. It was like a concise version of Florence and as such, we enjoyed a concise visit.
Our first order of business was lunch. We were drawn into a small piazza lined with cafes and chose the one that most tickled our fancy. Unfortunately it was a decision that also tickled the fancy of our waiter who flirted so outrageously with Ryan that I thought he was actually going to sit in his lap! Feeling a little bit like chopped liver, I wasn’t sure if I should leave them to it but Ryan assured me he wasn’t yet ready to trade me in. The waiter finally noticed I existed and scaled back the preferential treatment… not by much though. When our meals arrived, we noticed the statue in the middle of the square of Puccini (La Boheme and Madam Butterfly) and the fact that we’d inadvertently plonked ourselves down right in front of the house he was born in! Such good tourists!
Fed and watered, we moseyed on. I was stopped in my tracks by a souvenir concession stand and went nuts – Lucca t-shirts, Lucca magnets, Lucca giant pencils and so on. There was even a Lucca snow dome but it didn’t meet my strict snow dome standards. I quickly bought up one of everything that wasn’t too tacky and a couple of things that were, satisfied that whatever else we did here was a bonus because I’d now done what I’d come to do.
Just beyond we saw a crowd gathered to watch a clown busking. We stopped to have a nosey and luckily got there just in time for the real entertainment to start. Although we didn’t understand a word of what was being said, we managed to work out that the clown had called for audience participation. An issue arose between the family of the person chosen and another who were not. What started as a shouting match that I took to be a staged part of the act, quickly erupted into a punch up with other audience members eagerly weighing in on one side or another. The crowd went crazy in an over the top display of cliched Italian passion! The police turned up to stop the show but even as arrests were being made, the fighting continued between non-related parties still discussing the outcome of the fight.
We wandered some more, stopping for coffee at a very fancy old world cafe and then on a bit to an enchanting little wine bar for a glass of local produce before wandering some more around the old squares until it was time for pizza at the most picture perfect restaurant you can imagine. Everything about it would have seemed so fake anywhere else but here, it felt authentically Italian from the chianti bottles lining the walls to the home made bread to the most delicious pizzas (mine was pesto and mascarpone – yum!) that were so big and tasty, we needed a whole litre of Peroni each to help digest them!
By the time we finished, we were practically leaning towers of pizza! Hmmm, gives me an idea for tomorrows excursion…