We’re in Lucca now, and we’re loving it.I think it’s our favorite place so far, which is ironic, since the guide book says it has “nothing to recommend it.” There are no massive, description-defying cathedrals or duomos, and the Central Square (actually an oval) is very plain.
There’s nothing spectacular about it at all, and that’s what’s wonderful! It’s so restful to wander through the quiet streets without having to force our way through crowds of tourists as if it’s Black Friday in Bloomingdale’s.
After rereading that paragraph, I must amend what I said. There IS something spectacular about Lucca, and that’s the medieval city wall.It’s intact, massive, and extends all the way around the city. It has a broad, flat, smooth top, which is paved and lined with enormous, leafy trees. Ah, trees! We’ve missed them so much. We learn that they were planted by Napoleon’s sister after she received the city from her brother as a gift. (Nice Christmas present, Napoleon!)
We decide to do the 2.5 mile walk around the city wallon a Sunday afternoon, a perfect choice, it turns out, because, as we find out later from the desk clerk, Saturdays and Sundays are when the Lucca residents come up to enjoy it as well. As we stroll along, lulled by the sighing of the breeze through the leafy treetops, we enjoy beautiful views of the Apennines and the rolling green foothills of the Alps. It’s so great to see mountains again! Looking inward from the wall, we see the winding medieval lanes of Lucca spread out beneath us, ancient buildings, towers and churches, and lots of lush back gardens with fountains and little chairs and tables set out and flowers everywhere. I guess residents of Lucca think twice before nude sunbathing in their backyards. . .
We feel privileged because we’re seeing the real Italy here. All around us are families out for a Sunday-afternoon stroll or bike-ride. The children tag along on their small bicycles behind their parents and the tiniest ones are in the little metal seats affixed to the crossbars of their parents’ bikes. Some kids are on scooters, and some just run back and forth laughing and shouting. Young lovers walk by holding hands or lean against trees, kissing passionately. There are lots of dogs running around chasing squirrels and each other. Tiny Italian nonnas with black kerchiefs hiding their white hair sit on benches and gossip or watch the kissing teenaged couples disapprovingly. In several places the wall widens out, almost to the size of a small park, and there are snow cone stands and gelato carts with little bells on them, and tables set up with old men playing checkers and dominoes and shouting genially at each other. Most people walk or ride their bikes at a leisurely pace, but at one point a couple of racing-bike types speed by, all decked out in their bike shorts and regalia, in defiance of the posted admonitions not to ride fast because you could knock the pedestrians down (as they almost do to us).
Our hotel, also, is the nicest we’ve been in so far.The desk clerk is a handsome young man who lets us know right away that his name is Massimiliano. A “great name,” he says importantly. He shows us up to our room.
The bed is actually soft, and it has two soft pillows. We’re in heaven! Our room is very luxurious, all done up in gold and gilt with long brocaded curtains and soft golden light, like a room in a castle. It even has an air conditioner, a mini-bar and a hair dryer. Wow!