LUCCA, we LIKEU
May 21 – 22
After being unable to find a room for an additional night in Cinque Terre, another well-made last-minute decision before catching our train to Florence was a one-night stop in a sweet town called Lucca. Steeped in history, Lucca was home to composer Puccini (Madam Butterfly and La Bohème), and – attention history nerds – the place where Julius Caesar, Pompey and Crassus reaffirmed their political alliance, the First Triumvirate. This was our first adventure in the “show up and find a place to stay” strategy we’ve heard works so well for other travelers. Not so sure we’ll be trying that again. Ask Dave why. He won’t answer because I threatened his life he loves me, but you’ll know by the fear appreciation of my patience you’ll see in his eyes. After (finally) dropping our bags in a room (ANY ROOM WILL DO I TELL YOU!), we adventured out into this Tuscan town, preserved in time, where bicycles rule the streets and old men are LITERALLY playing chess at scattered tables. Lucca is ringed with its original Renaissance-era city walls of yore, now topped with a 2.5 mile pedestrian tree-lined path (called the Mura), perfect for taking in the feel via a leisurely stroll or bike ride.
Apart from the high ratio of incredibly fit, spandex-clad men running laps around the Mura (although a disappointingly dramatic drop of facial hair than in Spain. Spanish men, like Dave, love their beards), the only scenery to distract you as you circle the city is the sea of similar, but distinct, buildings in its center, broken only by a handful of towers. We had the pleasure of visiting the top of one such landmark – the 14 story Torre Guinigis – where to our delight, we found an oak tree garden nestled on the tiny roof. The views from above provided an even further appreciation for the peaceful beauty of the city.
The walls also provided many excellent look-out points to watch the sunset over a bottle of wine, which we were quick to realize should be part of our short visit. We selected our location and a bottle of local red, and settled in for the show. Currently knee deep in Book 3 of Game of Thrones, I couldn’t help but think of the knights, princesses, or townspeople who watched this verysamesunsetview centuries ago. I may have also let my mind wander into the possibility of star-crossed lovers using the wall as a rendezvous point after dark, or for a dwarf and eunuch to meet and talk strategy under the guise of a night watch. Fine, enough GOT. Bottom line? The sunset was a picturesque cap to an idyllic day. (Side note – my sister thoughtfully gifted us a portable wine screw that has basically waged war on us each time we attempt to relax with a bottle of cheap vino…we’re currently winning – Dave may say differently as he is usually nominated for the task – but not without sore fingers and a few swear words. Thanks sis!).
What happens next is something out of I Am Legend. We descend the wall around 9:15 pm. The city? Is empty. Not like, down from 100 to a dozen. Like from dozens to ZERO. After peering around anxiously for flesh-eating zombies, we scrambled down the once pleasantly-buzzing alleys in search of something (ANYTHING) that was open. We finally tracked down a place that had been listed in Trip Advisor as “late-night” (silly us, thinking that meant after midnight), and found refuge with some DELICIOUS tap wine and meat/cheese/olive plate. I flawlessly ordered for us (QUIET DAVE!) in Italian (EDITORS NOTE: Noelle’s version of “in Italian” means waving her arms and making random shapes with her hands while speaking very slowly in English), and we enjoyed a cozy night in a town off the beaten path. Add it to your list if you plan to visit Tuscany (unless you have a zombie and/or Will Smith phobia. You know, just to be safe). Now? Onto Firenze!