(Yesterday, we were in San Gimignano)
May 30th, 2009
Most cities in Italy nowadays allow limited cars in the city center. The cars belong to the residents and people on government duty. This primarily keeps the tourist traffic out and hopefully increases the life of the ancient cobbled streets. The apartment lent us their bicycles. We set out, with Rhea riding pillion.
Since San Gimignano, we had learnt to keep the itinerary light. We were saving all the art for Florence. We let the roads lead us. Whenever we came to a fork - an explosion of alleyways - we always turned into the one less crowded stopping only now and then to figure out where we were. Lucca presents a rare and precious example of an almost intact historic city center. It remains mostly Roman-medieval with the buildings of the recent 17th, 18th century managing not to upset the overall character and the balance of the city.
The day trippers, pouring in from Florence, Siena, Cartona started to buzz in around 11:00 AM, substantially changing the atmosphere.
It was time to find a a table in a Piazza and order some nice wine.
If you are having only one lunch in Lucca, it has to be in Piazza de Anfitheatro. This is the site of a 1st and 2nd century amphitheatre. Almost nothing of the amphitheatre above the ground survives other than the arc on the east (seen here on the right). The crammed buildings, like a crowd converging on a street magician, is a result of a overhaul of the Piazza were rebuilt in 1830.
The intact subterranean structures – basements and drainage – mostly in good shape were used as the foundation. The effect is spectacular and harmonious. The delicious lunch is incidental. Wanting a different angle to shoot, I asked several shopkeepers if there was a way to reach the terrace. If they understood my by now broken English, they did not show any signs of comprehension.
(Read on: Next, we are going to climb the Guinigi Tower)