Surprisingly, a lot of people don’t appreciate Italy. I can see why but cannot concur.
If you are one of those who mark all the sights on the map with a cross, and draw a route that covers all of them in a couple of days, then you wouldn’t like Italy.
I, on the other hand, love this country. So much so that I pop into random cities every now and then for no obvious purpose, but to be kissed by the sun, seduced by the wines and fattened up by the foods.
This year I was invited to join a long-lost friend from primary school (back then when I had long hair, silver-rimmed glasses and funny teeth) who happened to be in Firenze for an exchange course. Gladly accepted. He was one of my closest friends in my prep school years. I don’t believe there was a plan drawn up. We picked Lucca to meet, and took it from there really.
Since the plane landed in Pisa, I stole some time peeking into the centre. Without a map at hand, I found my way to the Piazza dei Miracoli purely from the google map I remembered before setting off. Deserve a little pat on the back. It was 37 degrees. Uno gelato pistachio por favor. The square was swarmed with tourists, all posing to support the leaning tower. I slipped into the street on side of the square and enjoyed a good old Italian café (served by a jaw-droppingly beautiful waiter), and watched the morning go by.
Lucca was only 30 minutes away from Pisa by train. The station takes you back 30 years (not that I am old enough to know). As I waited for Lawson, the empty station swirled into slow-motion.
The city was never attacked and hence boasts a completely intact City Wall. This place was pure serenity. Didn’t have much infrastructure to speak of, and so motor vehicles were hardly seen except for the stereotypical pastel-coloured mopeds. Even if you come across a car on the streets, it is more likely to be parked bang in the middle, blocking the entire road.
We sat in a half-finished church. Lawson pointed out the green marble that was unique to Tuscany. And if he hadn’t told me, I would have missed the greenness. The interior wasn’t glamorous with sculptured pillars and low hanging chandeliers. Instead the walls were mostly bare with modest patterns on the ceiling. As if this church was forgotten half way through the construction. And this was probably why Lucca was never attacked. It was simply forgotten. I like it. We are in a world where being ugly is just bad news. How I wish I can lose the masks because nobody is looking. And there I was with an old friend in a tranquil city, I didn’t have to make enormous efforts to be loved.
Walking past St.Martin’s Cathedral, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant in a modest square. The proscuitto con melone wasn’t very good, and neither was my pasta. The cured meat didn’t have enough flavours, so the sweetness of the melon simply overpowered the meat. Carbonara is basic enough, while spaghetti was al dente, too much cream and not enough eggs in the sauce. Given the chef fell at the first hurdle, I decided not to order a secondo. Should have done my research to find a more local joint, but hey I didn’t even bring my straighteners.
A gelateria never fails to impress, though. Laughed my heart out to see melted ice cream dripping all over Lawson; laugh like no one can hear me.
Next we climbed Torre delle Ore, where we sat under the tree, overlooking the entire city for the best part of the afternoon, catching up on what we have missed in the last 15 years.
This is what Lucca is about.