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Entries about lucca

Ciao Italia!

sunny 26 °C

Cruel or marvelous, I am not sure, as I look out the window and see miles and miles of beckoning beachfront. Perhaps it is both at once. Marvelous to enjoy the scenes of Italy on our last day, cruel that we have to leave it behind as it taunts and leaves us longing for more.  A perfect sunny day on the coast, a Sunday filled with people out enjoying their weekend at the beach, wide expanse of ocean blue, fishing boats and sunbathers.  All this beauty outside the windows passing by, and we cannot get off and explore

We are on the slow train from Lucca to Milan. Today is our last day in Italy and we are taking the scenic ride up the coastline toward Livorno. The scene out the windows is enough to make me want to jump out at each stop and go 'on the lam'. We cannot stay longer, our visa has run out, yet there are miles and miles of sea, and one can really never have enough of the Italian coastal towns. The rugged dark charcoal cliffs, small pockets of sandy beaches absolutely covered with colorful umbrellas and people, the glittering Mediterranean sea, a deep turquoise blue on a perfect sunny summer day in July.  My heart wells with sadness that we can't stay and spend the weekend enjoying the beach and exploring the Cinque Terre. I want to stay for so many reasons now. Lucca is less than an hour from these amazing beaches and stunning coastline.  We spent our last morning in the cafe next to our apartment... we have been many times, but I still want more. And as we are walking home, I am hit with disappointment that there are so many more places in Lucca and in the surroundings that I didn't get to see.  It is difficult to leave a place that feels so much like home, and a place that has so much to offer. Last night on our evening passeggiata, we went to the botanical gardens in Lucca. On our way, there was a spontaneous concert in the town square, an orchestra outside playing with hundreds of people gathered round. 

Perhaps we have found our love of this country after all, and are willing to overlook the sometimes infuriating parts and the challenges in order to have the good life.  It is difficult now to leave Italy, as rough as the start was, we are now truly adjusted to the lifestyle and feeling very much at ease here.  We are consistently getting by with our fumbling preschool Italian. Not glamourous, but it works. The other day we are in the train station, waiting at the coffee bar for our early morning cappuccinos, after our long trip back to Lucca from Paris.  It is busy and the baristas are rushing around. Our cappuccinos come and they are cold.  No sooner do I muse to my husband, 'gee I wish our Italian was good enough to complain and get new capps'... then I hear him call the barista and say, 'fa freddo'! (it's cold!) and explain to her that our cappuccinos are not warm and he is not having it! She whisks them away and brings us new steaming ones apologetically. I am thoroughly impressed and stunned that with his gesturing and enough language, he has pulled it off. It is essential to learn how to politely yet firmly argue your point in Italian - it is necessary to life here, and apparently, we are reaching that level of competence. To know what is appropriate to argue about, to know how to get your way without offending, to get a good price, this is quintessential Italian. This is where we are with OUR Italian, right on the verge, on the cusp of being conversational, and it is hard to leave it behind.  Our last week in Lucca, two Americans stopped me on the street and asked if I spoke English. Then asked me directions, and I actually was able to help them find the sight they were looking for. That same night, we were mistaken by a local for Italians, as she rattled away to us about Bodhi, her dog, the weather... and I said to Chris, apparently we are looking more the part these days.  It is always fun to look like you belong, and to pretend you are local for as long as the ruse lasts.  He can really play the part with his dark curly locks and tanned skin. Fairer skin and hair on me, likely never will I be mistaken for a native Italian, but perhaps as a misplaced Italian, which is our aspiration. 

The train to our airport hotel in Milan feels longer than it actually is, and we are already thinking about what our last meal in Italy will be.  Pasta? Veal? definitely antipasti and a limoncello.  Hopefully a nice half liter of delicious house wine and Bodhi will have his three favorite Italian dishes: pasta with olive oil, black olives, and sparkling mineral water. Ciao Italia, ti amo.

Posted by globalmomma 08:29 Archived in Italy Tagged beach native airport train day lucca italian terre sunny milan cinque conversations cappuccinos Comments (1)

Creativity in Italy

art, literature, and serendipity

rain 20 °C

There have been many travel books written about Italy, some of the newest are Under the Tuscan Sun, Angels and Demons, and Eat, Pray, Love. But there are more: La Bella Figura, Bella Italia, La Cucina There is a rich history of classic writers finding passion in Italy: D.H. Lawrence, Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Henry James, Ernest Hemingway... I could go on and on. Other Italian cultural greats are too numerous to list but Michelangelo, Botticelli, Bernini, Giuseppe Verdi, Donatello, Leonardo DaVinci, Roberto Cavalli, Dante Aligheri, Versace, and Giorgio Armani are a pretty impressive starting point.

When Chris and I were discussing our own 'getaway', where to go for three months while we reassessed our lives, we tossed around ideas for several different places we could go. New Zealand, England, Germany, Hawaii, Croatia, Costa Rica - there was a growing list of possibilities, but at the top stood Italy. I went to the library to do a little research on the subject of travel in Italy, and I found a massive amount of literature. At first I was disappointed. How unoriginal. Maybe we should go someplace LESS known for its culture, cuisine, art, romance, history. Maybe we could write an amazing story about someplace people had not explored, someplace few people have visited. As I thought about it, I wondered why so many books have been written about traveling in Italy, when by comparison, there are not many at all about individuals going to France or Germany or Russia in search of themselves.

Of these books about discovery and love, passion and food, creativity and desire, Italy corners the market. Why is that?, I pondered. Why don't people write books about food and love from Spain or Scotland? Then I realized: it is the place that inspires. It is in the soul of the place itself that motivates artists, evokes love stories, and invites pieces of yourself to come home again. I know this is why I wanted to come to Italy, to be in this place that has for centuries inspired creativity in the minds of intelligent authors, the hands of great painters, and the hearts of lovers. I desire to be all of these things, and being in the land that woos artists causes one to dream, to expand, and to cultivate. There is something palpably aesthetic about Italy - perhaps it is the ancient charm of the picturesque piazzas and frescoes in the churches, and all of the culture that surrounds you. But it is also in the amorous nature of Italians, the fashion, the architecture, the civilization in its entirety. It awakens elements of yourself, and allows you to focus on appetites and aspirations outside of work, home, family, and friends around which most of our time and space revolve. We are currently living in the town where Puccini, the great opera composer, lived. Other greats have spent time walking these same streets, sipping espresso and leaning on the same marble counters.

I realize after being here for the majority of three months that I have found something that I do not want to lose. I was walking around the city of Lucca yesterday, somewhat aimlessly, on my way back from the market. I stumbled into an artist studio, and the paintings inside spoke to me in a way that I cannot adequately explain. If you have ever walked into a place and realized that if you were practicing that profession, that is what your work would look like, than you know what I mean. I saw myself in every work. I related in a way that is not coincidence. It is one of those moments, like when you bump into someone on the street and know instantly that you have known them closely before, that I could feel providence moving. I have not felt that level of serendipity for a while, and it is still with me. I wish I could have bought all of the paintings in the shop and walked out with my arms full, eyes beaming. I wanted to tell the man instantly, tell your wife (the painter) I will apprentice with her. If she wants to teach me, I am willing to learn. It is not unlike meeting a guru, I understand, or meeting a soul mate. When you know it's right, you know. So that was the universe's way of telling me that I will be back in Lucca, sometime, somehow. We cannot stay longer this trip, but we will be back. And next time we come, I hope to be a bigger artist than I am right now.

Posted by globalmomma 05:27 Archived in Italy Tagged art culture love opera lucca tuscany creativity romance painter literature passion writers serendipity puccini Comments (0)

Constant love

Ahh, it is nice to be "home-ish".  Getting back to our comfortable apartment today was a long anticipated reward after that last painful 24 hours. Tonight as I am singing my son to sleep I am thankful for a safe journey and the ability to be in this place I enjoy for one more week. Our beautiful large apartment in the historical center of Lucca.  

When my son is  falling asleep, he heats up like a furnace. His head glistens with sweat, his body radiates.  When he was a baby, I was always wondering what this meant, these flushes of heat, like hot flashes, that I would feel on occasion. Then I realized it was right before he fell asleep that he would become super-warm and emit UV rays like a little super nova beaming toward Earth. It is one of the little things you store away in your treasure chest of a memory bank, the little daily things that you notice when you are paying attention... when you are in love and yearning to know someone better every day, you recognize small bits of information like this, that you know and few others know. It is the stuff of families and relationships that makes them so rich and connected.  Often I find myself applying pieces of myself to my son. He must be cold with the air conditioning blowing on him at night, because I know I hate cold air blowing directly on me. My husband, however, always thinks our son is hot. He is always removing his shirt or jacket or shoes. When I say, what happened to the hat I put on him? He says, oh, he was hot. He thinks this because he is generally warm.  We both have to continually remind ourselves that this little person is his own entity with his own likes and dislikes that are our puzzles to figure out, and he is neither him nor me, but his own little spirit. 

It is remarkable how much of me has changed in this last year and a half. My person has changed, my focus has changed, relationships are different, body is different, mind is definitely different. There are times I wonder who this new woman is, and what she did with the old me. I worry more. I am more careful. I am always considering what is best for this little person above what I want to do, often compromising and altering plans. I am no longer a separate independent unit, but I feel forever that a part of me is split and goes wherever my son goes. It is too simplistic to say that he carries a part of my heart with him. Instead I think it is part of my whole, part of my soul that goes with him. I am reminded of a time years ago, when I asked my Dad what it meant to love someone. 'How do you know when you are in love?' He thought for a moment before answering, then he said, "Loving someone is always wanting their happiness more than your own". At the time, I didn't get the profundity of that statement. I thought, 'Really? That's it? No magic, no one-and-only? All you have to do is want what is best for someone? That's a dull answer.' But now I understand it 100%, and think it was really the best description of true love that I have ever heard.

It is that simple, and that incredibly difficult all at once, to love someone so much that you wish their contendedness and joy above your own. I can feel that love within me now... That carefree independent me is gone, and this deeper, more connected yet more serious me has emerged. She has to choose new clothes, new ideas, new reflections of herself, just as she needs to be patient as old relationships adapt and form around this new person. I cannot expect my relationships and feelings to stay the same, just as I cannot expect old clothes to fit the same and feel the same. They
have to be adapted to this new self as she is growing and evolving. Love requires continual evolution and growth to survive, and the best way to do
this is to tell the truth about who you are, and to see the other for who they have become.

Posted by globalmomma 08:34 Archived in Italy Tagged new love child lucca relationships personality Comments (0)

Lucca is the best

July 20

We have now traveled Italy from heel to toe, coast to coast, and I have to say, Lucca is one of, if not THE best cities in Italy. We are now staying here for the remainder of our last two weeks in Europe, in a quaint little apartment inside the old city walls. Lucca has a well-preserved city wall made of brick that encircles the historical center of town, and has a series of doors or 'porta' that lead outside the city center. From these porta, you can give or receive directions, and they go around the city like a wheel. There is a wide jogging path along the wall that makes for a marvelous passeggiata, or evening stroll. There are joggers, baby carriages, old men reading the paper on benches, small cafes, and mostly people walking along the wall to get from one side of the city to the other. It is supremely quiet, and there is a marvelous amount of greenery. There are wide fields surrounding the walls, where kids can play soccer, dogs can run, and people can bike. The way around the historical part of town is by bike, as cars are limited inside the walls. It makes for an incredible ambiance... There is no hum of scooters, no hugging the old stone walls while a truck zips by on a narrow street. It is a city for pedestrians, and because of that, it has a wonderfully relaxed, family-friendly feeling to it. I feel at ease allowing my little boy to toddle down the street several steps ahead, and letting him roam in a piazza, while I sip a glass of prosecco. Lucchese locals are also incredibly helpful and warm people, and finding everything you need here is remarkably easy, for a small Italian town. We found a natural food supermarket (!), there are pharmacies and hospitals, great shops, and some of the finest restaurants we have visited in Italy are here. I recommend Buca di San Antonio, if you are ever in Lucca. But really, virtually all of the restaurants here are good, even those in the more touristy areas of town. There are tourists who visit this town, but not so much that it is annoying to walk down the street or that you feel the locals are jaded, rip you off, or desire that you not be there. We happen to be in Lucca this time at the height of their tourist season, since there is a giant music festival they host each July called Lucca Summer Festival. Even in this atmosphere, it does not feel swamped with tourists or overcrowded. It is as laid-back and welcoming as always. It is one of those places that invites you inside, by continually surprising you with new vistas, piazzas, and quaint cafes. The first time we came to Lucca, we were wandering without a map, and as we walked down a narrow street, it would open up into a beaiutiful piazza. Aha! this is the place, but then a little more walking, and another piazza would appear, more beautiful then than to last. It has that kind of old world charm and architecture. Maybe there are no 'big' sights here, but the historical center in its entirety is a special place worth seeing, or in our case, coming back for again and again.

Other reasons to come to Lucca: It is an hour by bus (or two hours by slow train) to Florence, another wonderful city! and just twenty minutes to Pisa, which is nice to visit just to say you did. It is also 20 minutes to the sea, and there are some great free beaches to explore with big sand dunes that might make you imagine you are in the Southern Atlantic coast, around South Carolina. The coast also has incredible fish and chips that makes it worth a visit. It is near to the Cinque Terre, Viareggio, and also a longer day trip to Milan, Parma and other Northern towns...

Why my husband and I decided to come back to Lucca was for the peace and tranquility that the no traffic zone provides, the green areas and playgrounds for our son to run around, the Lucchese food like tortelli con ragu (tortelli/ravioli with meat sauce), risotto, farro (spelt), lamb... oh, and for an Italian language class.

Posted by globalmomma 00:57 Archived in Italy Tagged food parks pisa city florence cuisine lucca terre quiet walls cinque tuscan Comments (3)

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