Getting to Know Lucca.
This was the first of two full days–meaning non-travel days–that I’ll be in Lucca. I spent this morning just strolling around the section of the old town in which my hotel is located. As in Siena, there are tourists here, of course. Plenty of them. And the old towns of both Siena and Lucca are very similar: the crowded, narrow streets, no sidewalks, little shops selling trinkets and souvenirs, tiny grocery stores tucked away almost out of sight.
Lucca is a walled city, with massive stone and brick walls enclosing the entire old part of the city. The top of the wall is quite wide and makes an excellent bikeway. All the hotels rent bicycles for exactly that purpose.
If you sit in the shade relaxing with a cappuccino in one of the outdoor cafes within the old city, you can easily pick out the locals. For one thing, they’re moving faster, whether on a bicycle or on foot. And it does seem that many of them have a kind of fixed resigned expression as they thread their way through all the tourists.
The city’s cathedral, the Duomo di San Martino, goes back to the early 1100’s.I have a really hard time imagining how people of the 11th century could create such a structure … and that it would still be here a thousand years later.
But check this out: running up the back side of the cathedral’s facade is what certainly appears to be a flight of steps. I suppose, even in those days, every so often they had to change a lightbulb.
Lucca, by the way, was the home of Giacomo Puccini, composer of so many of the classic operas. In fact, one entire wall of my room in the San Luca Palace Hotel is a reproduction of a poster promoting his classic opera, Madame Butterfly. A statue of Puccini stands in a square fronting what was once his home and it is a stop on most of the guided walking tours.
I had dinner tonight in a small restaurant down the street from my hotel. When the owner handed me a menu, I asked if my favorite pasta dish, carbonara, was on it. “No, but I will make it for you,” he said. And he did. I’m going to miss Lucca.
One more full day here, then I’ll be off by train again … to Venice.