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Published: April 27th 2013
Todays gelato flavour(s) ,yes I indulged in two today - Fragola(rich in strawberries,yum) and Malaga(rum and raisin)
The surprises keep coming for us as we travel around Italy and today there was another that we certainly didn't expect but more about that later.
Breakfast was another rather 'sombre' occasion with no background music to soften the room sound a bit.Every time one got up to check the toast etc the chair legs made an awful noise on the tiled floor and you had the sense the others in the room all stared.It got to a point that we picked the chair up with hands under the seat so the legs didn't scrape the tiles.
The German couple were back again from yesterday morning.They look so serious that you want to suggest they lighten up on life.We can tell they are Germans because the guy is wearing sandals with socks a tell tale sign.
We headed off to Lucca,about 20km away, for a day in the walled old city.
We got out of the valley and noticed that there was a cycle race going on with marshalls at the roundabouts making traffic aware of the cyclists on
the road.It didn't look too competitive,like a Tour de France or anything like that but there were enough of them spread over a good distance.
We thought it a bit odd to have a race on what we thought was a work day and the cyclists didn't look like professionals. Gretch did suggest perhaps it was a holiday in Italy the same as at home being April 25th.
The wall around the city of Lucca is still all in place and very imposing.We drove through one of the portals and immediately saw a tourist sign showing the layout of the city and so decided to park the car nearby.We were put off by the sign that stated this was an 'unguarded' area but thankfully noticed an underground car park just up the road which had a cashier in the office and thought this was a better option.Not that there appeared to be any dodgy people around.
We emerged and noticed a lot of people walking and cycling along the top of the wall which was about 10 metres wide.There were also a lot of children around.Were we wrong but we thought today was Thursday and a work
and school day.
We plotted a to start out to walk around the city and as we entered where the buildings commenced we saw a notice in a shop window stating that the shop would be open despite it being 'the 68th anniversary of The Liberation of Italy'.So Italy celebrates the end of the 2nd World War as we do in NZ with ANZAC Day.There were Italian flags being flown from the windows of the buildings and it was all quite colourful.
We took in the Duomo of San Martino the principal church in the town with its rather Venetian look about it.The church was started in 1063 but what you see today is more from that built on 200 to 300 years later.As with a number of other churches in Italy there was a notice that no photos or video was allowed inside....not that anyone took a scrap of notice of that!
There were a number of large paintings from the 15th century on the walls but aside from those the interior was not particulary stunning.Perhaps we have been inside too many churches on the adventure already to notice anything else.
Then another surprise for
us.Not only do they have a National Day but they also have ceremonys where the old soldiers come out with their medals.
At our next stop in Piazza Napoleone we came upon the ceremony with a large crowd gathered.We had been attracted to that part of the very large piazza by what sounded like a mariachi band more like what you might hear in Mexico and we arrived just in time for the wreath laying and then hearing the band play more stirring music for the current day soldiers and other servicemen to march off to.There were veterens to one side but like NZ there didn't appear to be many of the age that would have fought in the 2nd World War.It seemed somewhat odd to be at a war memorial for a country that at least initially fought against New Zealanders but then of course they changed sides when they got rid of Mussolini and realised what the outcome was going to be.
For those of you readers who remember the comedy series 'Allo 'Allo and Captain Bertirelli,yes they really do where those big hats with the black feathers as depicted in a photo I have taken
off the video.So not all of what you see on television is made up just to make actors look silly!
We left the big piazza and were soon in a much smaller one where the house that Puccini,the great Italian composer of operas such as Madame Butterfly and Tosca, was born.His life is dedicated by a bronze statue to his memory.
We had lunch in a lovely café at the side of the piazza sitting under great huge white umbrella to keep the weak sun off us and enjoyed local pastries,sandwiches and cappuccino watching the other tourists go about their sightseeing.
We wandered in and around the streets stopping at a couple of other prominent churches which for some reason were closed up abd then climbed back up onto the wall to figure out a route that would take in the teatro (theatre) and the piazza that was next to what had been an amphitheatre but was now a place for restaurants and stalls selling plants and flowers.
The Via degli Anfiteatro was a mass of people out dining under big white umbrellas that seemed to stretch all over the round amphitheatre.It was a colourful sight
with a real buzz about it.
Gretchen had a money card that L,C,L,E & B had given her for her birthday and she bought a wide brimmed sun hat in white so that now we look like twins except that mine is a panama style and hers is more a safari type.We think we will be very pleased we have the hats as the summer arrives as the sun can be quite intense when you are not watching yourself.
We finished off three hours of walking with a stop at the tall Madonna statue right next to a channel of water that seemed to circulate in and around the town as we had noticed as we had been walking including being channelled through buildings.Perhaps it had been the way water for public supply had been made available in the old days prior to modern day pipes.
We felt we had done our tour of the city justice and we could tick it off the bucket list it had been on since Gretchen had phoned Leighton Smith on Newstalk ZB after our last trip 4 years ago when he questioned her why we hadn't gone to Lucca when
we had been in Tuscany.Lucca is his favourite Italian city and he takes groups here if not every year then every two years although where he stays is a bit more than our €36 per night.!
Heading back up the valley to Bagni di Lucca we stopped at a ancient pedestrian bridge called the Ponte della Maddalena, across the river to take in the 13th century construction.It looked oddly out of proportion, with the hump over the river being more towards one end rather than being in the middle.We are sure there is a reason for it but it wasn't explained in the history in English that we read.
As we had said to Marco that we would be back we dined out again although he was a bit disappointed that we didn't order the beef and just had a couple of cheap pizzas and a beer and wine instead.
Another day with a place we had been looking forward to visiting ticked off our bucket list and we weren't at all disappointed in what Lucca had to show us.
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