Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The view from Lucca (Letter #4 from Italy: April 23, 2013)

Our initial plan for today is to head to Pisa. When we get on the train in Pieve San Lorenzo, we confirm with the conductor that we need to get off in Lucca and change trains. When the train pulls up to Bagni de Lucca, we get off and nod at the conductor. He nods and waves as we get off. Within a few minutes, we discover that Bagni de Lucca is not the same as Lucca, and we have gotten off too early. No problem. We will walk.
We follow the signs to Lucca (again, no distances noted). Not for the first time, we suffer under the “it can’t be that far” delusion. However, we have adopted the motto “no wrong way” and enjoy the exquisite sights along the way, the most notable of which is the Ponte della Maddalena, a beautiful stone bridge dating back to the 14th century. 

We cross the bridge and enter a town we think might be Lucca (it is not). It is the tiny village of Borga de Mozzano

We stop and ask a couple of Italian men who are engaged in conversation how far it is to Lucca. Their initially wordless expression tells us it is farther than we anticipated.
“Auto?” one of them says, turning an imaginary steering wheel with his hands.
“No,” I say, pointing to my feet optimistically. They laugh and shake their heads no. I ask for directions to the nearest train station, which, as luck would have it, is just down the street. We check the schedule (20 minutes until the next train), and grab a quick sandwich and our first gelato at a nearby café. We are soon back on the train on our way to Lucca. Pisa will have to wait until tomorrow.
Lucca is a charming city, still protected by a fortress wall, although, as Rick Steves’ book tells us, it has not been under threat since 1430. Atop the ramparts is a wide path for walkers and cyclists overlooking the city.
We rent bikes and cycle the ramparts, stopping to take photos or simply admire the sights.

At one of our photo stops (to admire a palazzo below), I notice a young man, about 16, explaining in somewhat hesitant English the history of the palazzo within view. A man videotapes his explanation while a woman stands nearby and whispers English translations when he gets stuck for a word, much like a prompter behind a theatre curtain. 

The teenager tells of how the original owners of the Palazzo went bankrupt and had to sell. He finishes and looks to his teacher, who prompts him with a “Follow me!” that completes this segment of the video. They turn to move on.
“We enjoyed that!” I call after them. The woman turns, clearly pleased. “You understood it?” I assure her we did. She explains that she is here with her class; they are creating an interactive English tour of Lucca that they will post on the Internet. She calls out to the boy in the video, explaining in Italian that we understood and enjoyed this portion of the tour. “Thank you,” he says with a smile. We leave them to finish their tour, as we continue ours of this beautiful city (bella citta)!

1 comment:

  1. I'm really enjoying reading this story so I might not call you for two weeks.