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Day 4: Fast & Slow

April 7, 2012
by

It was hard to wake this am in the cold basement, so once I did, I had to rush to fit in a quick shower and a quick macchiato and breakfast cookie (yeah, that’s how I knew Italy is for me – it’s perfectly acceptable to eat a cookie, often more than one, for breakfast… Everyone does it, and certain brands are even marketed as breakfast cookies!!),

to catch a quick ride on the tram, and quickly buy a train ticket and run across to the platform to jump on the train just as the doors were closing!

Then I sat down, gained my composure, and enjoyed the view from the window and we slowly passed out of the Firenze environs and headed out into the lush Tuscan countryside. Unfortunately, in all the rush, I forgot to validate my train ticket before I left Florence, but the conductor was nice enough to reduce the penalty from its normal 40 euro fee down to 5…

About an hour into the green scenery, I descended the train at Lucca, a quaint town that has been in existence since Roman times. It is still encircled by a tall brick wall, and it felt very magical to enter from the grassy ‘moat’ and go up through the wall’s ramps, stairs and passageways.

Once at the top, I pretended to be one of the stylish septuagenarian locals who were walking, biking, or reading the newspaper in the sun along the top of the wall. I ended up walking almost half way around the town before I decided to go in to check out the city.

I rambled through town, checking out the different piazzas and campos, and the impressive architecture. Inside of Chiostro Della Cathedrale, I got to listen to the organ player practicing his tunes.

I decided to head towards Torre Guinigi, and on the way followed my nose (literally!) to an old bakery where the proprietress still wore an old school uniform and cut each piece of focaccia to size as it was ordered.

I enjoyed a most delicious version with tomatoes outside from a little bench in the shadow of the tower, and watched as the lunch rush started piling in.

I climbed to the top of the tower and rediscovered the power of perspective, seeing the same spot where I sitting just a few minutes (and many steps!) before, seeming miniaturized… It was so nice to look out over the city with the tree-topped tower to myself for a few minutes, checking out the buildings, courtyards, gardens, and further afield, the mountains, before a cute middle-aged couple climbed up and I decided to descend to give them that same magic feeling of solitude amidst the city…

I passed by the Puccini school of music (he is a much celebrated resident, born in Lucca in 1858) and stopped to absorb the sounds of pianos, violins and arias wafting out of the open windows on this sunny, breezy day. After quite a few, I felt the pull of the sights of the city and kept walking, seeing the churches, museums, and amphitheater, snapping a few pics of things I liked along the way.

With the energy from an early afternoon coffee (the one with the racy saucer!), I headed back to the train station to continue on in my adventure. I wanted to visit another town before heading back to Florence, and made the decision between Via Reggio by the sea and Pisa by which train came first… Pisa won by almost 40 minutes, so before I knew it I was back on the train (with a validated ticket this time!!)

I didn’t have an enormous amount of time, so caught the bus towards that famous tower. Even though he wasn’t gentille, the driver made sure that I got off at the right stop after a quick tour of the city along the river. Though I’ve seen it in pictures many times, I was taken aback by how sharply the Tower of Pisa actually leans! (This picture in fact, barely does the angle justice, but I have opted for beauty over accuracy :))

I bought a ticket for the top and as I waited for my group’s time, I kicked off my shoes and laid down in the grass of the Campo dei Miracoli. It felt nice to take a load off!

You can feel the slant of the tower as you walk up the WELL worn stairs (so much so that some of them look like spoons/bowls.

If you go, wear your shoes with some grip. My ballet slippers almost gave me a wipe out on the way down!)

Normally I’m not scared of heights, but I think the angle was giving me vertigo! I had to hold on tight all the while I was at the top taking pictures for a sweet, but random, group of tourists.

Once down, I headed back to the train station on foot, past the University of Pisa, the main shopping drag, and across the river, stopping for an obligatory gelato 😉

I watched the sun setting over the Tuscan hillsides from the train window back to Florence, and then went to meet Nadia and her girlfriends at Osteria Diagelo for beers and apertivo, telling stories and laughing about life in an amalgam of English and Italian… It was a perfect ending to the day!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kate permalink
    April 8, 2012 1:15 am

    great post! love the details. feel like i was there…i would love to hear more about the marble apartment buzzers….

    • April 8, 2012 9:33 am

      Aren’t those so gorgeous?! It was just something that I noticed as I was walking, and I loved the script and the buttons and just everything about it! It feels very handmade and luxe at the same time, and I wonder if those people are still residents of the building, and if so, how long they’ve lived there (and what their apartments look like!)… It’s so fun to create those little narratives in your head.

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