The Hendersons       2008 travels in Italy - Lucca


2008 Choral Union European Concert Tour and Our Subsequent Vacation

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The Croatian Coast




Martina Franca




On Vacation in Lucca

Saturday, July 26 - Milan to Lucca

In 2002 we made a day trip to Lucca and fell in love with this small city. It is completely walled, and the walls, many years ago, were turned into a 'green belt' surrounding the city - people jog, ride bicycles, stroll, flirt and walk their dogs on the walls of Lucca. Lucca is also the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini - how civilized can you get?

We wanted to avoid Genova in our route to Lucca because our memories of it were that it had some very fast and confusing roads, so, after picking up the rental car in Milan (Europcar was the agency and we made sure they knew of the problems we had with National), we programmed the GPS (Antonella) to take us to Lucca on the S12 instead of the Autostrada. Little did we know that this route would take us over the mountains, complete with rain storms. It was a beautiful, but slow, drive.

It took a while to find our hotel - Lucca is described in our guide book as having a 'rigid' Roman grid pattern for the streets, but we cannot find anything rigid or grid like. There are also a lot of streets that are pedestrian only. We finally parked the car and, using Antonella, navigated by foot to our hotel, the Albergo Diana. It is a small hotel - maybe 15 rooms. The bathroom is strange, but efficient - not unlike the bathroom we had in our flat in Copenhagen many years ago - the shower head mounts on the wall and there is a curtain protecting the toilet and bidet from the spray, and a door protecting the sink. There is a drain in the floor.

  The street in front of our hotel

We got settled in and then went for a walk - the city is very busy with tourists - the Puccini Festival is alive and well, and there is some sort of modern music festival - the featured group for our first night was "Chicago"  shades of the 60s. We had dinner in an osteria - it was very good - we both had a fillet of beef with a gorgonzola sauce and we shared some roasted vegetables and roasted potatoes.

Sunday, July 27 - Lucca

Our innkeeper gave us a little postcard with the address of a self- service laundry - we haven't had a proper wash since we've been in Europe, opting for washing out in the sink. I have to say, this was the cleanest Laundromat I've ever seen - partly because the soap and all other chemicals are included in the wash - the customer just puts in the token, selects the temperature and waits until it is done.

Wow - clean clothes - how wonderful. We spent the afternoon walking around town - it is pretty crowded now because of the music festival and the impending performance of someone called Leonard Cohen - whoever he is.

  Seen in Lucca


We walked the perimeter of Lucca on the walls - it is a long hike. But, the people watching was excellent. We had an ice cream from the only restaurant on the walls, then made our way home.

  Garden seen from the walls

We had tickets to a performance of "Tosca" at Torre del Lago Puccini, about 30 km from Lucca - the performance was scheduled for 9:16 pm (I think that is sunset), It was an outdoor theater, the stage built over a lake. We had been warned that the mosquitoes would be fierce - they actually weren't too bad. Once again, the Italians were dressed to the nines - such beautiful gowns - or such weird ones, depending on whom you were looking at! We couldn't get into any of the restaurants, so we had a sandwich and a cake at a snack bar - then, eventually, were let into the theater.

It was a very professional production and the scenery was very minimalist, but effective. The music was excellent, as was the acting, but the soprano (Tosca) had a vibrato that wavered 3/4 of a tone up or down - I suppose the Italians like that, but we both found it very disturbing. She also rolled her 'R's' excessively. However, even though we were about 2/3 of the way back from the stage, we could hear most of the music, which was quite an accomplishment, given how large the theater.

  Torre del Lago Puccini

We didn't get back to the hotel until past 1 am, but we rang the bell and the owner came down to let us in - he knew we'd be late and was very gracious.

Monday, July 28 - Lucca

Our hotel room doesn't include breakfast, so we asked our host where there was a good bar - he walked us to a nearby bar and we had a couple of pastries and a cappuccino - we were really hungry after a light meal the night before.

We drove to Carrrara - this is the home of the best white marble in the world - Michelangelo got the marble for his sculptures from Carrara. It is a huge mountain of marble, in no immediate danger of running out. We opted for a cave tour - the marble is quarried in a cave instead of above ground, although above ground quarries are also common. There are many things to consider in extracting the marble - most importantly, the safety of the miners. They use a very large chain saw to make four cuts (top, bottom, sides), then a rope that has embedded teeth to make the rear cut - dangerous work at all times. The quarried marble is carried down the mountain on large trucks and kept in yards or shipped. Even though it is dangerous today, the danger pales by comparison to the times before engineers and geologists.

  Quarries at Carrara

  Inside the mountain

  Horizontal and vertical cuts are made with the large machine like a giant chainsaw. The slab is cut loose with the diamond rope and the machine that runs it.

  The rope leaves arc patterns in the stone

Back at Lucca, we had a snack in a pasticeria (indifferent) and walked around a bit - then got connected to the internet to get caught up on financial things. Later, we had dinner - a really nice penne with sausage and fresh spinach and vegetables. The Italians do know how to cook.

Some random thoughts about Italy - there are things that I love and things that make me crazy -

Things i love - the language, music, art, history, architecture, styles and food.

Things I hate - the graffiti and litter. The people who put their infants and small children on bicycles, motorini or motorcycles without a helmet (if an adult wants to ride one without a helmet, that is his/her business as long as he/she doesn't ask me to pay for the medical expenses if a head injury is sustained - he/she made a choice and should suffer the consequences, but a baby doesn't have a choice). The newspapers - a person is presumed guilty until proven innocent. I saw a headline today from on old newspaper (1978) - the US bombed Hanoi and 7 million people were killed in 12 hours - WHAT????? How about a little truth, people?

Tomorrow we leave Lucca for L'Aquilla.

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