The first time I went to Lucca I actually fell in love with the place – the comfy cozy closed in feeling from the still standing 16th and 17th century ramparts quickly made the town one of my favorites. And of course, there was the dress. THE dress I saw in the window of some small store after closing time. The dress that I had to find otherwise I would forever wonder ‘what if’.
And so, that Saturday morning’s downpour wasn’t going to stop me. I had high quality photographs to take and ruined amphitheaters to see. I had companions equally willing to persevere and so we boarded the slow train from Firenze and persevered right on through a ride fraught with apparent pre-scheduled construction stops which caused at least an hour’s worth of a delay.
We entered through the ramparts, first under, inside and then over them, onto the plateau where so many passeggiatas take place and headed towards the central piazza.
The whole city had a hazy ambience about it of a town far away from the hustle and bustle of the modern world. Maybe it was because nothing in Lucca has changed since the 16th century, and so many of the streets, as well as the dwellings, remain almost exactly as they were then.
Everything was closed in by walls, but the city felt spacious, the stores felt grand, the streets felt decently wide. It felt like a comfortable town, but one that was elegant, and one where everything was at your fingertips or just around the corner. Somehow Lucca had managed to fit all of life’s necessities and modern world luxuries within ancient and compact architecture of concentrated alleys filled to the brim with brand name stores, candy cart stands, pizza shoppes, sophisticated gelaterias and hole in the wall bookstores that expanded inside to encompass what felt like a quarter of a block.
And right down the street, Piazza San Michele. A block’s worth of spaciousness squeezed into a nook of the city. There was no end of churches in the city, no end of towers or historical sites, but San Michele in Foro, standing in the central piazza, had the most gorgeous façade I had seen to date. Gothic arches, columns swirled in different patterns, gray stone, hints of pink coral, a harsh exterior and yet such feminine details. Archangel Michael poised on top, ready for flight, nothing but air behind him – there was no money left after the front of the church was built to raise the second floor to match it. The inside was dark, demure, and did not compare so I headed back outside to admire the exterior.
It was raining and it was cold. And it was right around lunchtime. L’oste Di Lucca (www.lostedilucca.it) on Corte Compagni 2 where it comes out of Via Fillungo right by the honey candles stand, was one of the only places open during the pausa so we gladly ducked in. The tattoria’s motto is ‘Le cose semplici sono le migliori’ (‘the simple things are the best’) and indeed, splitting a pizza and a lasagna Bolognese, I didn’t regret a moment.
A quick tour navigating the narrow alleys through the river of umbrellas took us to the nearby amphitheater, the one site I was intent on seeing, but the view of the colourful houses in a semi-circle where the amphitheater used to be was not as exciting as I thought. I concentrated on finding a postcard.
There was much more to see in Lucca despite its small size but the raincloud umbrella above us kept our sightseeing to a minimum though we were there for quite a few hours. It was time to go home: high quality photos were taken, amphitheaters were frowned at, and the dress was found, albeit at the exclusive Lucca price of €468. Yes, it was time to go home.