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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Day 11 - Castellina, Lucca, Pescia and San Gimignano

Monday, July 13, 2009


After our usual cup of coffee this morning, we set off to the tourist information centre in Castellina, where Sophie attempted to make a reservation at the Academia in Florence for us for tomorrow. After several tries at the reservation number, we gave up. Online reservations were showing the first available after we were back in Canada.... so we will go to Florence tomorrow and see what happens.


We stopped at a different cafe this morning in Castellina and had cappuccinos and croissants. It is interesting how a little less atmosphere reduced the price considerably.

From there we set off for Lucca which was about a one and a half hour drive.

 I should mention that we usually set “Higgins” to avoid the toll roads and set it on the fastest route when travelling long distances. Today we were interested in just getting to Lucca quickly. There is a significant  difference between driving on the autostrada and the side roads and it is not just speed. The autostrada does not have the scenery that the back roads we love  offers and when it does, you can’t pull over and take a look and soak it in...or take a picture.   Traffic is fast and there are a lot of trucks – really not an enjoyable drive...but quick!

We had packed a picnic so relaxed on the grass and enjoyed it when we arrived in Lucca. Lucca is the only town in Italy entirely surrounded by walls. The inhabitants built the brick walls in the 16th century for defense. Today, you can walk (or bike) around the city on the wide shaded walkways atop the walls ( the ramparts). We parked just outside one of the main gates of the old city.



Some traffic and sign tips:

It is important to have a list of traffic signs you may encounter along the way. It is also important to know where traffic and parking is restricted. Dan and I both bought International Driving Permits and even though we didn’t officially need them, they came in handy a few times when we were asked to surrender documentation. One example was when Lucia needed it for documentation that she had to submit about us to the government. I guess they need to know who is staying at the agriturismo properties.  The other time, today, when we rented a tandem bicycle in Lucca. They asked for our passports but we said they can keep our IDP’s as security. We had a lot of fun on the tandem bikes! Dan was in front so did most of the driving and pedaling but I helped too...a little.


We rode around the ramparts and had a lot of fun. We had the bicycle for about an hour and it cost us 5 Euros. They said it was usually 10 but he liked us.



We then toured the town. Lucca was the only Tuscan town that avoided the Florentine conquest. It is the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini, and has many popular opera events as well as a recently added film festival.  Some of the old stonework above the stores is engraved with the names of the establishments that no longer occupy that space.  The stonework will say shoe store and the store will actually be something totally different....remnants of the past. Lucca is a bit of a gritty town, but has a lot of energy.


After some gelato and people watching we left the city to look for Pasquale – Dan’s barber’s cousin in a town called Pescia. We were expecting to have a nice dinner at his restaurant.

We found Pescia which was a bit of a tired old place. Dan changed into his pants in the car – I changed my shoes and Dan patted down his hair to make sure his hair looked fine – after all Dan’s barber is Pasquale’s cousin! We walked down the street where the restaurant was located – passed it ...because it was closed! One thing about these cities and towns – they all have these garage doors that cover their stores when they are closed and you have no idea what lies behind the door, with the exception of a little sign... sometimes. I suppose robberies and vandalism led to this but it doesn’t really make a nice facade or make you want to return to the place when it is open. Most don’t even have operating hours posted.

Dan slid his barber’s card under the door to let him know we were there. In the 10 minutes we were in Pescia, I was approached very aggressively by beggars and I was quite happy to leave. So our plans for dinner with Dan’s barber’s cousin were shot and off we went to San Gimignano for dinner.

Upon arrival in San G. the light was almost gone, but the 14 towers which rise above this town, make it visually stunning.
  

We are going to come back on Thursday to explore the city, so after dinner we headed home on the windy roads in the dark. Thank goodness for Higgins! It was a little nerve racking on our dirt road leading back to the farm in the middle of the vineyard. We arrived in our little parking spot tucked into the bushes and when Dan turned off the car, it was sooooo dark I couldn’t even see him next to me. There were a gazillion stars above as we inched our way towards what we hoped was our door. Maybe we should buy a flashlight...

Dan finally got the key in and we stumbled inside.

In San G. we toasted to a a great day...so romantic.....and tomorrow we are looking forward to Florence or I should say Firenze!

1 comment:

Elmo said...

Lol, I'm impressed you talked Dan onto a tandem bike, though I'm sure you looked sweet on a bicycle built for two ;)

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