Scuse! Part Two – Lucca

I had damp feet on Thursday morning! There had been an unexpected heavy dew on the grass for the morning’s dog walk and it soaked through my trainers. I suppose it shouldn’t really have been a surprise, as it was so cold last night that we ate our authentic pasta carbonara  inside. Today is the Autumnal Equinox so we are about to enter the winter half of the year. Coupled with that, we are now heading north, which means that we are inevitably, heading home. As the evenings draw in, it is feeling as if the days are telescoping in on us, as we try to pack in as much as we can to our last week away. So I am sorry, dear reader, for the gaps between my notes to you, but I don’t know where the time goes.

The town of Lucca was only an hour away from Florence. On our way we drove through a large valley filled with commercial tree nurseries. They must supply most of the garden centres and supermarkets of Europe from here. There were all sorts, of trees, exotic and ordinary, saplings and mature trees, some in the ground and some in big plastic pots. There was also some good topiary on display too. We couldn’t stop as we were on the autostrada, we also had a date with the town of Lucca.

At our 40th anniversary party, Pino, an old friend of Paul and Hazel’s and Italian, strongly urged us to visit Lucca ‘as it was lovely’ – and indeed it is! However it has the grottiest campsite we have seen this year. Even worse than anything we have visited in the UK recently. Tiny pitches, no toilet paper, no soap, no changing space in the showers, some of the showers had no doors or curtains. All it has got in its favour and the only way it can survive is that it is only a quarter of an hour from the old town of Lovely Lucca.

Lucca’s residents, well the ‘important’ ones that is, decreed in the 17th century that the old town walls should be replaced with new ones, and that now they were in the age of heavy artillery they needed to be big and thick. And indeed they are. At the same time the leaders of the town demolished several hamlets and a couple of churches that lay outside the town to give them a clear field of fire, with the result that the walled town is now set in a green park. Though the ramparts were built for defence they were very wide and the well-to-do realised that they were an ideal pace to promenade of an evening, and so to improve the atmosphere they chose to ban the hoi polloi from sharing it. Today’s Lucchese are very proud that their forebears weren’t going to stand for that and tore down the barricades and smashed up the signs and have been walking the walls ever since.

The walk around the walls is about 4km and has great views across the town and has lots of shade from the Plane and Horse Chestnut trees. It is ideal for cycling too and there are lots of shops hiring bikes, tandems and four person Surrey bikes.

After the grandeur of Florence, Lucca wears its history lightly. It too has lovely buildings. It’s cathedral, the Basilica di san Frediano has a glorious 12th century mosaic adorning its front wall. Imagine 12th Century? That is at the same time that the Normans were knocking lumps out of the Saxons and building ugly foreboding castles. San Frediano by the way was 6th C Irish monk who became the Bishop of Lucca. Puccini the composer (as opposed to Puccini the plumber) was born in the town and, judging by his statue, seems to have been an arrogant so-and-so. A couple of popes also spent their first years here too. We had arrived during the biennale festival and everywhere we went, there were large cardboard papier-mâché sculptures that had been specially commissioned for the town. The last one we found was on the site of the roman amphitheatre which is now a charming piazza ringed with restaurants and featuring live music. 

Dear reader, this far into this trip, you won’t be surprised to hear that we stayed in the Piazza dell’ Anfiteatro for a spot of dinner and strolled back to the vans in a very contented state of mind, that wasn’t disturbed even when I couldn’t find the light switch in the toilet block!

Lovely Lucca has been a smashing place to visit, it even has a rugby club, ASD Rugby Lucca, who have an English motto #togetherstandingtall, and a badge that looks as if it has been inspired by Leicester Tigers.

Piazza dell’ Anfiteatro

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