Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Free Sunday in Lucca – City of Red Tiled Roofs

Jan. 6, 2013 – Since the 6th of January is an important religious holiday in Italy, we did not schedule any winey visits, and instead provided a free day. Many members of our group took the train the Venice, but Janeen and I decided to go to Lucca. We had both been to Venice before several times, but the city of Lucca was still unknown to us.

I awoke rather hungry, as we didn’t eat any dinner the night before. We had decided to eat large lunches, and just have cheese and wine for dinner for the remainder of the trip. This plan worked well as we often returned to the hotel rather late. So after breakfast at the hotel, we started out around 9:30.

Train from Florence to Lucca

The morning in Florence was very foggy, and though the weather forecast said it would be sunny, the fog hovered over both cities most of the day. We walked the 20 minutes to the train station and took the local train to Lucca. It was 7 euros each way and took about 1 hour and 20 minutes with frequent stops. The train was comfortable and it was interesting watching the Italian countryside flow by outside the window.

Wandering Around Lucca

We arrived in Lucca around 11:30 and were delighted to discover we could walk right into the ancient walled city -- just a few minutes from the train station. We began by walking around the top of the ancient wall until we saw the tourist office. Even though it was a holiday, the tourist office was open all day, and we were very impressed with the excellent service, advice, maps and brochures we found there.

Armed with these reinforcements we set off to explore the city and I fell in love with Lucca. It has small narrow streets filled with charming shops, delectable restaurants, beautiful churches and museums and nice squares. When we entered the first plaza we were greeted by a musician playing Italian music on an accordion – how appropriate. The other aspect of Lucca that I appreciated were the beautifully painted stucco buildings in shades of yellow, gold, and cream with red tiled roofs. Shutters were in dark green, blue, white and black. Also the city was very clean – not covered with graffiti and garbage as you often see in Florence.

Lunch at L'oste di Lucca

We wandered around a bit, until we found a restaurant called L’oste di Lucca. There we ordered a bottle of the local red wine, and I had a wild boar dish with red wine sauce and a side of spinach. Janeen said she had the best homemade pasta of the trip at this restaurant – a perciatelli with cheese and vegetables. Afterwards we went shopping, and visited most of the major sites and the Duomo. When we reached the famous medieval tower with the trees on top, we decided to pay the 4-euro admission price and climb the steps to the top. It was well worth it, because then we were able to witness the amazing panorama of the red tiled roofs of Lucca. Later we stumbled across a farmer's market and bought local olive oil, cheese, and prosciutto.

We caught the 4:30 train back to Florence, and my friend Vincenzo, a professor at the University of Florence, picked us up at the station. He took us to his house where he introduced us to his wife and children, and we enjoyed a pleasant hour catching up over wine and cheese. Later I spent time doing emails, while the rest of the group engaged in a floor party that ended up getting shut down around 2am due to complaints from other guests in the hotel regarding the loud singing.

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