Sunday, May 24, 2009


On our trip we had 1 night that we hadn’t booked any room anywhere. We were planning on taking advantage of the beautiful Tuscan hills and just pitching our tent in a field somewhere or something. Instead of sleeping in cow patties we decided to take a slight detour to a little medieval town called Lucca. It is near Florence, Pisa, Siena, and Parma. We had to take a train from the lovely Cinque Terre back into Florence and catch another one to Lucca. We stayed at the Hostel (an experience we don’t wish to repeat) and spent an evening and a morning there. Not to be really closed minded but it was really creepy and weird having 65 year olds and 17 olds in the same dorm room. This experience we hope to forget due not only to the significant age differences among the nomads but also Slad and Vidor the dancing techno twins (don’t ask).
Before Italy was united in 1929, the major Italian cities were independent states. The major ones near Lucca were Florence and Pisa. Smaller towns like Lucca were constantly under threat of invasion from the major city-states and, like most small hill towns in the area, the people of Lucca built a wall to protect themselves. After cannons were invented, they spent several years and a third of their GDP for the construction period building a massive high-tech wall. The wall stands today and is Lucca’s major attraction. The historical center is still completely enclosed by the massive, 100 foot thick wall and they Renaissance gates are still the only way into the center. The Lucchese boast even today that their wall was so effective that the only time they had to defend the city was against a flood. It’s pretty hard to argue with. Now, tourists rent bicycles and ride around the wall. It takes about an hour at a leisurely pace and provides riders with beautiful views of the medieval city. We rented an embarrassing tandem bike and rode around the whole wall among the cypress trees while ringing our dual ding-a-ling bell multiple times at pedestrians.

In one of the churches in Lucca, the mortal remains of a local saint, Saint Zitae, are displayed in a glass case. She was a servant in one of the rich households of Lucca and gathered up bread scraps from the house to feed the poor. The story is that one day her master demanded to know what she was carrying in her apron going out the gate and when she opened her apron, it was filled with flowers. Lucca displays flowers prominently to remember their Saint by.
Lucca has been populated since Roman times. Their main piazza, Piazza Anfiteatro, is oval shaped and the entrances are evenly spaced at both ends and the middle of the piazza. It was a large roman theater at one time and many of the Roman arches remain part of the architecture of the current piazza. Many of the churches in Europe are built on former Roman temples because hey, if it’s a good place to worship for Romans, it’s a good place to worship for Catholics. One of the churches in Lucca recently had the area under its floor excavated and the archaeological remains uncovered. Now it is possible to go under the floor of the giant church and see Roman mosaics and the remnants of the Terme, or baths, along with paleochristian baptismal fonts and crypts. The monstrous church is held up by a complex series of girders and pillars that supports the floor. Everything under the floor is well preserved and under very moody lighting. It is so unlike anything in the United States. We found that to be one of the best things we did in Lucca. We love LUCCA!

Our connection here is problematic and costly and so we won't be posting pictures for the next few days but we will go back and add them when we leave our current place.

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