Saturday, October 2, 2010

Day 12 - Lucca: What Puccini and the Iron Chef Have in Common

September 27 was a rainy day and a Monday, but it did not get us down. Rain coats on (including one for the camera - a nice little investment, and with Nancy’s umbrella) we were off to explore this tasty little morsel of a walled town. Lucca really appeals to me.

A portion of the ancient wall surround the old city. It is now a walking trail.
City street goes through arch built by Romans
I thought it quite interesting to see the army of bicycle-riding Lucchese, from teens to grandparents, maneuvering their two-wheelers through the foot traffic on those narrow streets, one hand on the handle bars, one holding the umbrella.

The rain ended, granny pedaled to a fruit and vegetable market.

Two important people call(ed) Lucca home of whom I am aware: opera composer Giacomo Puccini and the “Iron Chef” Mario Battaglio. Were he alive, I am certain Puccini would feel quite honored to have so many bars, cafes, hotels, gift shops, and museums named in his honor. Sorry Mario, I know you are the man, but we saw nothing named after an “Iron Chef” within the walls of the old city. I’m guessing there may be other people of note from this ancient city, but who could be more significant than Puccini and Battaglio?

Puccini's statue, his home directly behind the old gray-bearded fellow

Today’s highlight? That’s easy - bellying up to the bar for a caffĂ© lungo at Di Simo CafĂ© in Lucca. My friends know I love coffee houses. This one is old, really old, and classy. It has an air of late 19th century elegance. And - it was Puccini’s favorite, his Black Dog Coffeehouse.

Yours truly with his "lungo" - like a double espresso, but slightly weaker
I must also mention that we ate a frate (pronounced frah - tay) purchased from a vendor in the city market. A what? A frate - a specialty of Lucca, a sweet pastry that is shaped like a doughnut, looks like a doughnut, is fried like a doughnut, and is rolled in sugar like a doughnut. The taste reminds one of a cake doughnut with a hint of lemon flavoring. But, it’s not a doughnut, or even a donut, it is a frate.

Not a doughnut, but a frate
We also happened across an old-world bakery (Amedeo Giusti Panificio) that has been featured in "Travel and Leisure" magazine. We indulged in some sweet treats from that place on several occasions, a nice side-benefit of making a home base in Lucca, then doing day trips out from there. 
A plate of buccellati, photographed through bakery window

One final note - if any of my faithful readers just happen to have friends in the Lucca city council, you might send them word about the dog poop problem. The city supplies little plastic bags that would be familiar to US dog-walkers to folks and their fur pals on the lovely walking path atop the circular wall. But I saw more than one tourist (including my Nancy), step in the gooey stuff on the city’s piazzas.

A photo of Lucca's Duomo (cathedral), because one can't do a blog page about an Italian town or city without including something about at least one of its churches.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for a marvelous blog of your trip. I was in Italy for a few days back in the '70s. Visited Florence, Pisa, and Rome but didn't see much because I had to keep an eye on the 44 teens that were under my charge. Blessings!

    Marilyn T.