Monday, July 1, 2013
We first want to thank our lovely art teacher, Lisa Brunini-Harvey, for recommending the medieval walled city of Lucca to us as we researched magical places to visit in Italy. Lucca, known as “love at first sight Lucca”, charmed us upon arrival, and kept on charming us with delights during our short and sweet stay.
We stayed in a most comfortable and charming bed and breakfast, B & B Evelina. Decorated tastefully with antiques and sweet touches such as tassels, old Lucca postcards, and dollies, it was like staying with a beloved Italian grandmother. And the view from our terrace included a campanile, an Italian bell tower, one of many in this magical city.
The winding, cobblestone streets were magical and mysterious. One could only imagine the stories they could tell. Established by the Etruscans, this beautiful old city is hidden being Renaissance walls became a Roman colony in 180 BC and a free, self-governing city in the 12th century. It miraculously escaped bombings during WWII, so the fabric of the city, the ancient walls, and sublime architecture has remains unchanged for centuries, including the Piazza Anfiteatro, so called after the Roman amphitheater that was located here in Roman times.
Our first night included an opera arrangement in the stunning church of San Giovanni, the church where Lucca-born Giacomo Puccini was baptized. Inside the church, an archaeological dig has unearthed walls built during the Roman times. Seeing these walls simply took our breath away. To be so near something so old was a first for us all. The opera selections - Puccini, Verdi, and more - were simply arranged, and the baritone and soprano, accompanied by an extraordinarily talented pianist, sounded like Lucca itself: classic, classy, pure, and fine. Dinner at a traditional trattoria was a feast for the senses, with pastas and salads and desserts prepared with care and love.
The next day included a highlight of our stay in Europe thus far, a bicycle rental to ride along the city walls, built around the old city in the 16th and 17th centuries. The ramparts are lined with old trees, benches, and a stunning view of the Apuane Alps. We loved weaving around the tangle of streets, passing through piazzas both quiet and bustling. A hike up the ancient Seven Oak campanile awarded us with stunning views of Lucca and beyond. The campaniles were an essential feature of these old, medieval cities for defense as well as time-keepers. The bells truly ring out on the hour, every hour.
Lucca - old, cobbled, medieval Lucca- is a fairy-tale destination. In search of the traditional craftsmen, such as Carlos Collodi’s beloved Geppetto from Pinocchio, we found Lucca filled with sleek modern boutiques instead. But, in our meanderings, we happened upon a local artisan's fair, where craftsmen and women sold their wares with pride. We found a wood carver and selected some special trinkets to remind us of this wonderful place, the lovely “love at first sight” Lucca.
Leaving Lucca was hard to do, but arriving in Venice has filled us with a sense of magic and wonder. In a city without cars or trucks, we've already wandered around our neighborhood for the next few days, the Cannaregio, and every turn has filled us with wonder and awe. We are staying at the very lovely and stylish Domus Orsoni, a bed and breakfast at an old mosaic foundry near the Jewish Ghetto. We are excited to explore this wonder of a place tomorrow after a good night's sleep. We simply cannot wait to explore. Buonanotte!