“What is the fatal charm of Italy? What do we find there that can be found nowhere else? I believe it is a certain permission to be human, which other places, other countries, lost long ago.” —Erica Jong
“For us to go to Italy and to penetrate into Italy is like a most fascinating act of self-discovery; back, back down the old ways of time. Strange and wonderful chords awake in us, and vibrate again after many hundreds of years of complete forgetfulness.” —D.H. Lawrence
For eight days and nights at the end of March and into the Easter weekend, I was transported to another world; one filled with beauty, ancient culture, fresh, delicious food, people who spoke a musical, flowing language and were unafraid to show their emotions openly, and the most incredible works of art and architecture I have ever seen. A week in Lucca, Italy.
Here is how one webpage describes Lucca:
Located around an hour away from Florence by train, and half an hour from Pisa, Lucca is a small but significant jewel in the Tuscan crown. Lucca is nestled in among a chain of large, majestic hills (which visitors from flatter locales may call full-on mountains) and is mostly contained within the old medieval city walls.
Lucca was first settled by Tuscan people, including the Etruscans, then occupied by the Romans. The traces of the Roman amphitheater can still be seen in the centre of town, now a picturesque circle of houses around the ‘Piazza del Amfiteatro’. The city then followed the path of many Italian cities and was thrown back and forth between various monarchs and aristocrats, and by the 17th century was the largest city-state after Venice and controlled over 70 ‘districts’ in the region. This ended in the 19th century when it was handed over to Napoleon’s sister.
The main street is lined with modern fashion shops, but once you turn off into some of the smaller shadowed streets, silence sets in. The centre of the city is very like the small streets of Siena, Florence or Pisa. It is the city wall that sets Lucca apart. At the base of the city walls are pastures of grass. Around the top of the wall is a tree-lined bicycle path where people walk with their children, and elderly men circle around the 4+ kilometer perimeter. The views offered around the city wall are astonishing…the mountains loom up on every side of the city, making you feel like Lucca is a little bubble in the Tuscan countryside, a town set apart from the rest of the world somehow.
A town set apart from the rest of the world, indeed. There is no doubt that Lucca is a unique and lovely place to stay for a holiday. But for me, it was much more than that, it was a Life Experience of the most personal and transformational kind, and therefore not easy to sum up into a short blog post. Still I will try to give you a little snapshot of this special week of my life, dear Readers.
“Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life.” –Anna Akhmatova
It just felt so oddly familiar, though I had never been there before in this lifetime. The people’s faces, their mannerisms, the way they seemed to recognize me. They noticed me as I walked through the streets, I wasn’t invisible there the way that I am in Denmark. Though I stupidly went there without having learned even basic Italian, and most of them did not speak English, they were very forgiving, some were quite friendly even. I learned to say buon giorno (good morning), buonasera (good evening), è molto bene (very good), allora (well then), prego (used in many ways, mostly like please, go ahead, your turn, etc.) and of course, ciao. The Lucchese people are people of the heart. They are eccentric, elegant, love their families, care about quality. They care for their city and keep it well. There was not trash on the streets, nor dog piles. The streets are old and patterned with ancient bricks. The buildings, nearly all of them, are substantial and well-maintained. One can feel the solidity of place, the surety of time, the confidence of history everywhere one goes. There are many churches and they all contain precious artworks from the Renaissance and before; many of them were first built during the 6th and 7th centuries, then built over during the middle ages and into the Renaissance. Beautiful colored marble abounds in intricate, beautiful patterns. Images of the Madonna and Child are everywhere, as well as images of Christ, especially upon the Cross. Angels are common.
What struck me deeply about my time in Lucca was how much the people there care about quality. When I stopped at a small shop that makes pizza, calzones and other lunch items, the owner took pains to explain to me in Italian how special his food was, how it had been carefully prepared and made with original recipes. Every item I purchased was carefully, sometimes lovingly, wrapped and put into pretty bags with ribbons and specially printed seals on the wrapping. The people in Tuscany care about the things they make, sell and give out to the world in a way that has become very rare in today’s modern world. They understand very well that they live in a place with a long tradition of what is truly fine, beautiful, uniquely made by human hands, and they emulate these old traditions, passing them on to their families. They have lived in this traditional way for centuries and what a pleasure and delight it was to experience this way of life firsthand, even if only for a short week!
After the week in Lucca, we went onto Florence for a disappointingly brief night and day to take in the atmosphere and an incredible time at the Uffizi Gallery, which I will write about in a forthcoming post. When we finally got to the airport in the evening to take our flight back to Denmark, I felt truly disappointed to leave, and felt the need to call out “arrivederci!” to the nearest Florentine before getting on the plane. It was a balmy, sunny evening, the sky a soft shade of blue, the land totally green, the mountains blue-violet as the plane made its way up and out of Tuscany. It was my first trip to that lovely, gentle land, and I pray it won’t be my last.
- i love Lucca Italian School….. (ilovelucca.wordpress.com)
- Viaggi 2012: Lucca & Pisa, (amorebicicappuccino.com)