Lucca (the jewel in the crown of Tuscany) is the best preserved medieval walled town in Europe. It dates back to Roman times, and became a Roman colony in 180 BC. As we drove up to the porto, I couldn't believe the feeling that came over us. This is pure magic. This was one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. The city walls date back to the 12th century. The one that we see today dates back to the 17th century, and is filled in with grass and trees, perfect for running/walking/biking. We walked around in the town, and Bob showed us this little shop called La Cacioteca. He said it was known for the best olive oil in Lucca. It was really described as: "the best olive oil, in the best shop, in the best city, in all of Italy, which means it's the best in the world." He showed us a bottle and put his hand up to it. It was so thick that you couldn't even see his hand through the oil. After buying four bottles of it, we were done.
Lucca was land that Napoleon won and handed over to his sister. When the plague came over the area, she became ill and was tossed over the wall, just like everyone else. Amazing to think that we were walking the streets of Napoleon's little sis, the Duchess of Lucca.
We then walked over to Piazza dell'Anfiteatro. The amphitheatre, built as the centre of entertainment outside the Roman town, is today the center of town life and the very symbol of Lucca. This amphitheater is the epitome of Italian cliche. Kids running around after pigeons, accordion players honking out the same opera overtures over and over again, and laundry hanging out of the windows. I had a glass of Brunotto colline Lucchesi, which was local to the hills of Lucca. If anyone can find it at home, you've got my Christmas and birthday present list all in one.
We walked through the square and Bob gave us the tour of where he, his wife Michelle, and daughter Hannah normally go. It was amazing to be in his routine, and he had a great time giving us the tour.
We were in Puccini country. Just hanging out in his old 'hood. Everyone loves Puccini here and is very serious about claiming him as "theirs." As musicians, walking around bars called Turandot was pretty cool, and not just because WE were geeks about it. That's the thing about Europe. Music and art geeks dominate the population.
After a wonderful dinner at Osteria Baralla, we had to hit the road. Our train left at 10:30, and with an hour and twenty minute ride home to Florence, we couldn't be late. I'm on the train home as I write this, going through the country and ready for gelato and bed.
|Cheese at La Cacioteca. Zoom in. You can't really tell from this picture, but the big one is about the size of one of my Nissan's tires.|
|Bob and Mike outside the store where we bought the best olive oil in the world.|
|Church of San Frediano|
|Accordionist...playing opera overtures!|
|Riding a bicycle built for two is Mike's ultimate goal on this trip. Hope he can find someone.|
|Duomo di San Martino|
|More info here!|
|Each column was completed by a different artist. Amazing!|
|Our waiter at Ostera Baralla|
|Cafe in the piazza|
|Bottle of olive oil...per me!|