A Little Luccan Relaxation

A little shopping, a little eating, a little resting, a little writing, and a little reading, all followed by dinner at the apartment and a choral performance in the evening.  Now that we are on our last day in Lucca, we can confirm that the apartment where we spent the week worked very well.  We all felt comfortable with its two bedrooms, two bathrooms, living/dining room, enclosed patio, small yet functional kitchen, and washing machine.  And the wifi works great, so there was little to complain about.  We are located near Lucca’s famous wall, and would use said wall to walk to dinner or post-dinner performances.  Free parking wasn’t far away and although we were not allowed to park within the city’s walls, we wouldn’t have wanted to anyway.  Our “small” car was not small enough for some of the so-called two way roads in the old city.

From Lucca's wall

Usually around this point of a vacation, and by that I mean a time when one activity is coming to an end, my mom focuses on the highlights of the last activity.  This, of course, was before Charlotte.  In Italy especially, it is probably inappropriate to redefine BC as Before Charlotte, but luckily BCE, a more neutral term, can also apply when taking into account the baby’s whole name.  Ever since the family transition from BCE to CE, the mode of thinking, the topics of conversation, and the usage of online video chat have all undergone substantial changes.  And they are changes for the better!  Back to the topic of missing our week end’s debriefing, we are mostly focused on tomorrow’s plan to get to Rome, find the apartment, return the car, and meet up with the rest of the family.  There are some logistics to take care of; however, we are all excited to be entering phase two of Italian Family Vacation.

    Summer Festival – Lucca 2011

    Like Perugia and like Spoleto and like probably many other small towns throughout Italy, Lucca hosts a summer music festival complete with big name artists.  This summer, some of the names that Lucca is or has already hosted includes Elton John, Liza Minnelli, Arcade Fire, Ben Harper, and James Blunt.  Timing worked out that we are able to watch J. Blunt.  The concert was fun, the music singable, and the crowd energized, but equally impressive to all of that is the setting.  Located in the heart of the old town in Piazza Napoleone, this festival transforms a piazza in a town that used to be a Roman colony in 180 BC into a modern theater.  Blunt’s song “You’re Beautiful” should be directed at the town, at the piazza, and at the entire surreal setting.

    James Blunt in Lucca

    First Day in Lucca

    Our first day in Lucca is spent within the limits of the city walls. In addition to appreciating the beautiful churches and piazzas, we are also lucky to be there on the third Sunday of a summer month, the day that Lucca has a large antique market. This market, centered around Piazza San Guisto and Piazza Antelminelli, is full of elaborate wood furniture, old radios, paintings of all different subjects, antique jewelry, and of course a bunch of old stuff that I can could never imagine purchasing. We punctuate the day with two delicious meals, the most delicious at Ristorante Giglio.

    Lucca Market 1

    Lucca Market 2

    In the evening, we attend a performance of Hamlet in a city church. The idea of the event sounds romantic, entertaining, and cultured; but, the execution wasn’t exactly that. The actors and actresses have strong Italian accents, and they speak Shakespearean old English as their voices echo off the the many walls in a church with a temperature warm enough to require the programs to be converted into fans. We tried.

    Onwards to Lucca

    Our last morning in Oriveto is spent underground. Orvieto hides caves and tunnels in the volcanic rock on which the city is build. In these underground passages that were originally mainly accessible by private homes above, we find wells, stairs, quarries, cellars, pigeon farms, and more. After a tour of the underground and a quick haircut, we are ready to make the drive north to Lucca.

    For our lunch stop on the road, we pause our drive in Montevarchi, a very quiet town where everyone has seemed to disappear during lunch hours. Although the options are limited, with the help of TripAdvisor’s seven reviewed restaurants, we find Daniele e Riccardo, a hidden restaurant near the center of town. We grab a table and the waitress’ first question is if we speak English. Initially, I only realize that she has a strong accent, which I reasonably assume to be Italian. We answer yes, we do speak English, and that is when I realize her accent is not Italian, but instead Northern European. Our waitress, who is from Denmark, speaks much better English than Italian, and has found her way to this small town for two weeks because she won a contest back home. We enjoy several great appetizers along with a lot of bread, olive oil and vinegar before continuing on our way.

    mom, dad, and me in lucca

    It is at this juncture that the primary driving responsibilities shift from my Dad to me. He is still a bit jet-lagged and the aggressive Italian driving style isn’t ideal in his tired state of mind. The first time I have driven since driving down to Southern California from the Bay Area before leaving the States was last night when we drove back from Perugia. The car is an automatic and easy to drive, and I enjoy getting back behind the wheel. We get to Lucca in the mid-afternoon, find our apartment, and before doing anything else, we go to the tourist office to start planning our week. We come up with many activities, especially evening activities, we grab a couple maps so that Dad can maintain his map folding prowess, and we set off to bravely explore the town of Lucca. We grab some gelato followed by dinner followed by a formal ballroom dancing display in a public piazza before heading back to the apartment to crash.

    Known for its well-maintained city walls, Lucca started as an Etruscan city then a Roman colony in the second century BC. Beginning in the 12th century, the city was an independent republic for about five hundred years. A couple fun facts are that the famous Italian poet Dante spent some of his exile within the wall of this city, and composer Giacomo Puccini was born here.

    Puccini statue