Wednesday, April 10, 2013

6 hours in Lucca

A perfect way to start the day in Lucca is a walk around the old city walls - four kilometres long and providing great views of this crowded city with its nearly 100 churches and medieval towers, gorgeous palazzos and villas and apartment blocks built into medieval foundations .

San Martino Cathedral's 13th century bell tower is probably the most photogenic of all the towers.

As is the 12th century Romanesque style San Martino Cathedral.

At one stage this well fed cat engaged Rob (the cat lover) in a good long shmoozing session.  I thought I'd take a cute pic of them both but just as I was about to, both Rob and the cat spied a man taking a pee in the street below.

It spoilt my pic - but I can understand how people can come to this in Europe (taking a pee in the street I mean) - there are so few public toilets!!

Half way around the circuit we took a break at the markets near Porta Elisa (which does in fact offer a WC facility) and Rob was able to satisfy his ever present craving for roasted pig.

Back on the wall I found a very inspiring garden to admire (created in 1700 apparently) belonging to the beautiful Palazzo Pfanner (I've since learnt that this palace was used as a location in Jane Campion's "The Portrait of a Lady").

You could stay in Lucca for years and try a different restaurant every day and still not try them all. We thought this trattoria looked interesting for lunch today...... Trattoria da Sergio in Piazza Bernardini. We ordered the chef's specials - based on cod - mine was served with polenta, Rob's was with chick peas..very traditional local dishes - delicious, and beautiful apple and honey cake for dessert served with little shot glasses of very sweet wine.

Which probably made us that much slower climbing up the 130 steps to the top of the Guinigi Tower after lunch. This tower was built by the wealthy Guinigi family in the late 1300s to "add refinement" to one of their houses!  Holm oaks have been planted in a tiny garden at the top of the tower, which makes it Lucca's most distinctive.  These days the tower is owned by the Lucca Town Council.

The distinctive tower in the pic below (the one with the bell) is the Torre delle Ore - which has been telling the time for the citizens of Lucca since 1471.

This is the view to the north west. The tower of the San Frediano basilica is framed by the leaves of one of the holm oak trees growing on the top of this tower.

It's not far to walk from the tower to Piazza dell' Anfiteatro, which has been constructed on the site of an old Roman amphitheatre. Parts of the original oval ground plan and outer ring of second century construction can still be seen.  Buildings and houses were built around the ancient arena in the middle ages. Today it looks like a pretty lively piazza even on this cold April afternoon.

Along the way today we've been admiring Lucca's magnificent doors and windows.

 ...and in a temporary reversal of roles Rob has been taking a great interest in Italian gentlemen's style (although I don't know what Cary Grant would have thought about that red belt and matching shoes).

..while I have been even more interested in the Pasticceria windows.

Look, but don't eat!!

I just wish we could stay until July when Leonard Cohen, Mark Knopfler, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds and Neil Young are all performing in concerts in Piazza Napoleone - Puccini (Lucca's favourite son) will probably roll over in his grave that month!!

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