To get into the charming Lucca, we first had to penetrate the 16th and 17th century Renaissance ramparts that enclose the church-filled fortress town. We parked outside the wall, or mura, along which a stream burbled and flowed, and found our way through an opening.
Once we found our way inside the ramparts, we were greeted by terra-cotta roofed buildings and narrow cobblestone streets. Bicycles whirred all around us. Mike said he wanted to rent a bicycle, but we never made a commitment to do it, and the opportunity passed.
The Cattedrale di San Martino is a mostly Romanesque cathedral dating from the 11th century.
We were hungry so we stopped for lunch at the cutest little bistro, “Des Arts” Bistrot e Winebar. I ordered Pici Cacio e pepe al Tartufo (Typical big spaghetti with cheese and truffle), My daughter had been to Italy before, and she said her favorite food was Cacio e pepe, which is just spaghetti with black pepper. She was right; this was simple but exquisitely delicious. What made it so wonderful is that the noodles were handmade and soft but not mushy. Mike ordered a delicious soup, Farro e Fagioli (spelt and beans). We each enjoyed a glass of wine.
The cozy and delightful bistro had a black and white photo of Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones when they played a concert in Lucca in 2017. The waiter was a big Rolling Stones fan so thought it wonderful that they came to Lucca, but he missed the concert because he had to work.
After drinking wine, I always get so irritable, sleepy, tired and grumpy. I really shouldn’t drink at lunch unless I can take a nap afterwards!
In Lucca, Caesar, Pompey and Crassus agreed to rule Rome as a triumvirate in 56 BC; it was later the first Tuscan town to accept Christianity. When most of Tuscany was voting Communist, Lucca’s citizens decided to do otherwise. The composer Giacomo Puccini (1854-1924) was born here and is celebrated during the summer Opera Theater and Music Festival of Lucca (Essential Italy: Fodor’s Travel). Coming up in summer, Elton John would be entertaining during the Music Festival.
We walked around Lucca, coming face-to-face with many of the town’s nearly one hundred churches. The most magnificent was Chiesa di San Michele in Foro, or the Duomo with blind arches on its facade, an example of the orderly Pisan Romanesque style. Small carved columns enlivened the wedding-cake facade. Atop the church is a figure of the archangel Michael slaying a dragon.
The Gothic Interior had a moving Byzantine crucifix called the Volto Santo, or Holy Face, brought here, according to legend, in the 8th century, but it was probably between the 11th to 13th centuries.
We wandered around the town and climbed the 230 steps up Torre Guinigi, the tower of the medieval Palazzo Guinigi with its grove of ilex trees growing in a U-shape at the top. Their roots reached down into the room below. From the top we had sweeping views of Lucca and the Tuscan mountains beyond.
We strolled to the oval cafe-ringed Piazza dell’ Anfiteatro Romano, where an ancient Roman amphitheater once stood.
On the plaza, we stopped for a gelato and sat on a bench near San Frediano with its 14th century mosaic decorating the facade and a pretty garden in front.
We continued to wander around the town and back by the Duomo.
Finally, it was time to head to Florence to meet our Airbnb host, Niccolo, between 5:00 and 6:00. We walked back to the wall, on top of which was a wide and grassy area known as the Passeggiata della Mura, and where people bicycle and walk along the top of the ring of ramparts that define Lucca. Two rows of pine trees line the 4.2 km (2.5 mile) walkway, but we only walked a small portion.
Then we drove to Florence, a little over an hour away.
We kept going around in circles trying to follow the GPS in Florence. Finally, we got to our Airbnb apartment and met Nicolò. He was a slightly-built brown-haired guy who had a habit of pushing his long hair behind his ears.
We reserved this apartment, Terrace with a View, on Booking.com and had to pay a deposit by PayPal and then pay the balance in cash, plus a 150€ deposit upon arrival.
Niccolò showed us the ins and outs of the apartment, warning us about the small step just inside the door and the low sloping ceilings. The two-level terrace was definitely the selling point of the apartment, but it was mostly too cold to enjoy it.
Niccolò informed us he would read the gas and electricity meters and would charge us at the end for our usage. Also, we had to pay 5€ a night for private parking. The apartment basically included no amenities such as coffee, coffee pot, or olive oil. It only included two small rolls of toilet paper for three nights and no paper towels. It seemed Niccolò would nickel and dime us to death. He was oblivious to our annoyance; he hadn’t bothered to notice that when people resisted something, they became polite and then there was a fence around them that no one could cross. We felt he should have said “Scusami,” or in general been apologetic for his over-the-top requirements.
The other negative to the apartment was a 20 minute walk to the edge of the inner town of Florence, without much in between. At least the bed was comfortable.
We enjoyed great views of Florence from our terrace, while enjoying a glass of wine.
We ate dinner at Pizzaman in our neighborhood. Mike got a Peroni Gran Riserva Doppio Malto beer and I had a glass of red wine. We shared a pizza with mozzarella, tomatoes, fresh basil and mushrooms. Mike also got a mixed salad. It was delicious. So far the food in Italy was superb!
I took a picture of Mike outside with his face inside a cut-out chef’s head holding a sign “I Love Pizzaman.” The cafe walls were decorated with vintage signs HARLEQUIN PULCINELLA, CAPRI. MADE IN ITALY. CIRIO NAPLES. It was a fun spot to eat not too far from our apartment.
*19,352 steps, or 8.2 miles*
*Monday, April 29, 2019*
On Sundays, I post about hikes or walks that I have taken in my travels; I may also post on other unrelated subjects. I will use these posts to participate in Jo’s Monday Walks or any other challenges that catch my fancy.
This post is in response to Jo’s Monday Walk: Back to the Salt Pans.
In addition, I had an intention to write about Lucca using a random quote taken from p. 79, 4th sentence, from a short story called “In Darkness” from Pam Durban’s collection All Set About with Fever Trees: “She’d noticed that when people didn’t want to do something, they became polite and then there was a fence around them that no one could cross.” Another intention was to use an Italian word, and in this case it was “Scusami” or Excuse me.