Hi, my name is Ang and I have a prosciutto problem. I’ll be the first to admit it. If I buy fresh sliced prosciutto from the deli, maybe 5-6 slices, hand carved, pulled down from the rows of ageing salami’s and drying hunks of pork, I eat it in one sitting. I can’t stop. I pour myself a glass of wine, pull out one piece, eat it. Boom. It’s gone. All of it. So, I’ve put myself on a once a week limit, otherwise I’m going to need rehab. Not to mention an artery clean out.
I arrived in Lucca to discover a city that I’d been dreaming about for so long. As you walk through the still intact boundary walls into the old town you’re greeted with cobbled streets lined with gelato and pizza shops. Kids playing soccer in the piazza’s, families arguing with their arms flailing about in the passionate way only the Italians have mastered. Good looking people walking fluffy cute dogs, couples enjoying a romantic evening Aperol Spritz in the lingering sunshine. The oak trees turning a golden hue as they prepare for winter and a violin player entertaining the crowds with Puccini classics.
As the birth place of Puccini, Lucca is alive with music. Nightly concerts are held in churches, buskers line the streets, students practice in their apartments with the sounds of trumpets, drums, cello’s and opera singers echoing around the old town.
I oriented myself with a walk around the top of the old wall, one of the only walls left in Tuscany completely intact (most have been knocked down in part at some point in history when the need for defences ended and the cities expanded.) The view from the wall looks back over the old town, and out to the mountains in every direction, to the Garfagnana valley and mountains in the north, and down south to the vineyard-filled hills of Tuscany. I decided to end each work day with the 4km tree-lined walk around the wall during sunset to try and work off some of the prosciutto and to stretch my legs. I only lasted two nights, I pulled a damn butt muscle walking up the hill. Ang down. Who pulls a butt muscle walking??
Lucca is the perfect middle point for exploring Tuscany. It’s an hour on the train to Florence, an hour to Pisa, two hours to the Cinque Terra and easy driving north and south. My first week was without a car, so I explored in every direction on the trains.
My first visit was to Pisa, and I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know, the tower still leans, people still do the “holding it up shot” except now they try to do it themselves with a selfie stick. I couldn’t help laughing out loud at some of the poses people had to pull to make it work. And that covers Pisa.
After Pisa I headed to Viareggio, a seaside town, known for its pumping summer resorts. I went yacht shopping and picked out a few winners that should be on their way home now actually. Keep an eye on the post please family. Viareggio otherwise was odd. It felt like stepping into an old movie set of a holiday resort. Empty streets, empty beach, 80’s signage slowly fading, and meals garnished with 90’s styled carrot florets. The place where I stopped for lunch was playing an acoustic jazz cover album which was nice until they played The Weekend song Star Boy – putting a jazz spin on it doesn’t change the fact the lyrics are full of words that could be considered rude for a restaurant in any language.
The next big adventure was the Cinque Terra, a place made famous by the American tour guide Rick Steves and Pinterest. The Cinque Terra, a series of five villages which hug the rocky coastline are the overly-contrasted, highly-saturated images you see in posters/pins/posts for Italy. I walked from one of the villages to another, up along the cliffs, a strenuous two-hour walk with over 500 steps. The views were magical and made the sweating and panting absolutely worth it, and I rewarded myself with a pizza and beer in the sun at the end. Vineyards dot the cliffs, with mini monorail systems to help the farmers move from one paddock to the next because of the steepness of the hills. There’s a stop about half way along where an old man sells fresh orange juice from the trees on his property. His home is currently for sale, so if you want a quiet, orange-juicing existence on the coast of Italy, get onto it…
The weekend arrived, and it was time for Florence, ah Florence. So damn beautiful! Filled with history, art, art-history, delicious food and an oddly disproportionate number of strikingly good-looking policeman. On the first day I wandered around listening to a walking audio tour from the Rick Steves app, learning about the history, the sculptors, the architecture and the historical families of Italy who had shaped the fabric of Florence. On the second day I dined in the San Lorenzo markets on fresh rabbit ragù fettucine, hand-made in front of me, drinking delectable red wine chatting to a Canadian lady who was on the trip of a lifetime at the age of 70. She was glowing with excitement. I then visited the Uffizi museum, built by the Medici family. The building itself is a piece of art but it also houses the commissioned works of Leonardo di Vinci and Michelangelo. There’s a few others to mention, Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus and the Adoration of the Magi of 1475, some Rembrandt, some Giotto, some Raphael…all the turtles are there…and more.
I ended my weekend sitting outside a café back in Lucca, overlooking the San Michele in Foro Church as the sun set, sipping an Aperol Spritz or two, munching on an aperitif, watching an old Nona beat her family with her handbag because they wanted to get a photo in front of the church, but she wasn’t keen on getting out of her wheelchair. They’d nearly dingle hopped her out while trying to bounce over the old cobblestone streets, so she wasn’t having a bar of their nonsense. I sat there trying to hide my laughter as the two tables beside me giggled away at the scene. The quintessential Italy is real.
Number of gelatos: 8
Number of pizzas: 5
Number of pasta dishes: 8
Number of “wow” jaw dropping moments: 16
Nugget of Wisdom
Have self imposed prosciutto limits