Thursday 28 September – Sunday 1st October: Lucca, Italy
The drive went rather smoothly except for the maniac Italian drivers. A little rant just below! Halfway through I wanted to have lunch and asked my navigation system for a restaurant. Wow, it took me way off the route to the bleakest village you can imagine, to some pathetic sports canteen. I needed to pee and the toilet turned out to be a hole in the ground. That was it, I was not even going to have a sandwich in that depressing place. But the lady was very sweet and did not want to accept any money for the use of the toilet.
In that bleak town I found another, slightly less pathetic cafe by the side of the petrol station. Again, very friendly staff, and I had a nice focaccia sandwich and a spinach grilled thing there.
My rant about Italian drivers
- Those stripes on the road are cute but why turn them into one long one? Surely I can overtake. And I don’t need to aim BETWEEN the stripes, right? I like to have 2 wheels on either side of the stripes.
- Rearview mirror… that is to check my hairdo, right?
- Roadworks, 60 km/h?? No way man, you promised me 130 km/h at the start, and I am going to stick to it, and flash my lights at anyone going slower!
- 2 lanes turning into 1? No way man, you promised me 2 lanes! I will just push all the other cars off the road so that I can keep going 130 km/h.
- On a 4 lane highway, mmmm I like the 3rd lane from the right best. Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’….
- Hmmmmm what was I philosophizing about again? Let me step on the brakes. Oh wait, I was in the middle of a highway and now there are 20 cars behind me.
- Using the blinking orange lights, what were they for again? That is soooo uncool. I don’t do it or I will loose my swag.
- Hey wait, someone is overtaking me. Let me speed up so that they can’t, ha ha.
Okay, I could go on, but at least I survived kamikaze, suicidal drivers, Italian traffic.
Arrived at Stella hotel in Lucca just before 3pm, the reception is only open from 3pm. So I had some coffee at the nice bakery / cafe / patisserie also called Stella.
The lady at hotel Stella was very nice and we talked in a mix of Italian and English. The room is also very comfortable, good value for money and close to the center, and I only booked it yesterday. Low season, nice to have options.
What a pleasant city is Lucca! I rode my folding bike all around on the historical city wall, a 4.5 km ride.
It’s like a park really, with art along the way, and good views into the gardens that you need to pay entry for: the Botanical gardens, and the big gardens of some rich historical family. The wall was mostly a defense against floods, not so much against enemies.
I also used my bike to zig-zag across town randomly and stop at nice places.
I bought a beautiful scarf of wool & viscose mix. I also had a new, easy-to-use lock put on my bike, because I broke the key of the previous easy lock and could only use the more difficult lock.
Caffè del Mercato
I found a really nice bar: Caffè del Mercato, Piazza San Michele, 17. €6 for a craft beer, €3 for a small blonde beer, but with free tapas from a buffet: very tasty cooked things like couscous, and beans, mushrooms, broccoli, pistache nuts, grapes, small sandwich parts with cheese, mayonaise and parma ham. This way I did not need to have an evening meal.
And it had a great vibe and friendly waiters, a nice mix of locals and tourists sitting on the terrace, and locals stopping to greet their friends, sometimes in the typical Italian way: hollering at each other so that you think they are arguing, but then you see their smiling faces, LOL. I’ve been back three nights in a row!
I visited the Pinacoteca Nazionale di Palazzo Mansi, the palace of one of Lucca’s major rich families from the past, and full of art. From the outside you hardly notice it but inside it’s very impressive with lots of beautifully decorated rooms, but also with old floors that move a little as you walk.
They also had a temporary display about historical musical instruments, nice to see such old harps and pianos and all their hand-carved details from up close.
Luca in Lucca
When I came out of the palace and checked the map for my next tourist site, an Italian guy offered his help but I’d already found it. He pointed out the way anyway. Later that evening he saw me at the caffè I drank and ate at every night in Lucca, and we chatted more, and we had wine together at a place he suggested. The waiter let me taste 3 different ones before I needed to choose. And it’s nice how bars her give tapas with drinks, we got 2 types of cheese, ham, toast.
His name was Luca (in Lucca), “like a joke, isn’t it?” he said. I had made it clear from the start that he need not expect anything more, but being an Italian man he still made remarks and attempts in words, but otherwise he was a gentleman, and of course I only stayed safely out in public, in fact the wine bar was on the very same square.
And I had a great sandwich for lunch on Saturday and more drinks at that same bar in the late afternoon sun. La Tana del Boia, Piazza San Michele, 34: recommended!
Torre dei Guinigi
Climbed the Torre dei Guinigi, more than 200 steps but compared to the rough hiking paths I’ve been doing lately, this was nothing. Nice views from the top.
That evening after having the wine with Luca, I went home and watched Narcos season 3 on Netflix. 🙂 Luca was insulted that I was more interested in Netflix than in him, ha ha ha…
On Saturday I slept late and started with breakfast in the bakery / pastry shop Stella again (the hotel gives a voucher for it). So nice to see the hustle and bustle, it was really crowded now on Saturday. And complete, organized chaos. Everyone orders snacks or pastries from one bar, coffees from another, then drinks or eats it right there at the bar or finds a table, later they order more… and the shop just trust you to remember everything and tell them honestly what you had, when you go over to the cashier to pay for everything. And all this of course with a lot of yelling and hollering, as befits true Italians.
Here and there
Then I did another ride all around the top of the city wall / park. Considered going to the museum for contemporary art which has a Robert Doisneau photo expo on, but the €9 entry fee, and already having seen a Doisneau expo recently, kept me from going. Rode my bike in other parts of town and sat down in various places for a coffee here, a beer there, a ginger ale there, reading my book… all in all a pleasant day doing exactly what I wanted and changing my mind all the time. 🙂
Luca texted to see if I wanted to meet up but I need my alone time because from tomorrow on I will be visiting my friend Mario and meeting family and friends of his, so all the ‘being social’ will be fun but also quite draining for me. And one evening of hinting remarks was enough.
So after the tapas at Caffè del Mercato I went back to the hotel and finished Narcos season 3…. 🙂