Yesterday we had the pleasure of joining our friend, Alessia our friend from Sydney, in her home town of Lucca! Lucca is a small city about a one hour drive from Florence and closer to the sea. Lorenzo has already been to Lucca two or three times, and here is the kicker, for a big comic book convention they hold each year. Anyone who didn't believe me when I said my boyfriend was a nerd... here is your stone cold proof (Mom, remember all those "books" you saw behind me? Yep, I wasn't kidding when I said they were ALL comics). Anyway, we were both happy to see the city on the beautiful sunny day and to see Alessia! She had stayed and traveled all through Australia, a bit in Bali and in Thailand for the last year. She just returned to Lucca in March. I think it was a nice relief for her to see us as well. As most of you know from watching me, coming home from an adventure like that is tough and it's always good to see friends who you can relate to.
We arrived in Lucca in late afternoon while Alessia was working, so we stopped by her ice cream shop to say hello then headed out on a walk around the city. We saw the Duomo (and Lorenzo enlightened me that Duomo means main church and not dome), then we saw the Piazza Grande, which is the main square. In Italy, most of the cities were once surrounded by huge brick walls. As in Florence, most of these walls have been torn down and just the "gates" remain. The cool thing about Lucca is that the wall is still completely in tact AND the wall is so wide on top that they have paved a path surrounded with trees and grass areas, it looks like Greenlake but instead of the lake in the middle you are running around the top of a city... it's kind of amazing. Anyway, after a couple of hours Alessia was off work and she offered to take us on a walk around the city. She showed us the main square and explained it's importance, then the main churches; the Duomo and St. Michele and a couple of others. The Piazza Anfiteatro which is a cool rounded Piazza which we walked through a little tunneled door to get into, it used to be used as an amphitheater (hence the name). I took some photos of everything so I'll post them soon!
After our walk we stopped at Betty Blu Bar for an apertivo and glass of wine, and to wait for a friend of Alessia to join us. When he arrived we moved to another bar near a church where everyone was sitting on the church steps drinking and talking. I love the outdoor attitude in Italy. It's not illegal to drink outside (although it is illegal to sit on the church steps, whether or not you are drinking) so when the air is warm everyone gets a drink and hangs out outside the bar, and so far the cities I have visited deserve all that outdoor activity so that the people can enjoy the beauty. Lucca is a very nice city, I really enjoyed being there. I would like to take my friends and family there just to show them that Italy as we imagined it does exist! It's like Florence, but not as crowded and therefore easier to enjoy for the history and for what it is today.
After we stopped for a pizza we all jumped into Stefano (Alessia's friends) car and headed to Darsena. Darsena is a town on the seaside that is full of nightlife! It is near Viareggio, which is famous in Tuscany for it's Carnivale festivities. Darsena is home to Mama Mia and a number of other very big and very eccentric gay clubs. I was reminded of the night that we went to a drag show in Seattle as part of a class assignment. The cool thing about these clubs is that the dance floors and all of the action are outside along the boardwalk. It was a really fun experience and a very good use of my people watching skills. It was funny because at one point as I was watching the crowd with amusement Stefano leaned over and asked "tutto bene?" (All is well?). I don't think he knew whether I was shocked, afraid or amused. I explained to Alessia that this kind of show is quite normal in Seattle and I am not one to be uncomfortable in these situations. Then, sadly, the rain began. At around 2am we were forced back to Lucca; I've never seen a crowd clear so fast! Lorenzo and I decided to drive home for the night for the comfort of our bed and our toothbrushes, plus we hadn't drank enough for it to be a problem. Finally home at 3:30am I could hardly stay awake long enough for Lorenzo to brush his teeth!
All in all it was a great day in Lucca and I will be happy to go back soon!! It was great to see Alessia again, to hear the rest of her travel stories, and to learn about Lucca from someone who lived there!! Sadly now, the rain has not stopped and according to Lorenzo's tell-all iphone app, it isn't showing any signs of stopping until next weekend.... oh Florence, must you be so temperamental?