The charm of Lucca’s shops

A recent question on a travel forum asked what was so great about Lucca, why did so many love the town?  The other day I had to wait around for a while in Lucca on a very cold morning. To kill time and with that thought in mind I took some photos of whatever struck me as special about Lucca. When I looked at them later I realised many were of shops. This surprised me as I’m not a girl who much likes shopping. But then I realised most were food shops-which makes much more sense!

Lucca is our nearest ‘big town’ and no matter how many times I go I find it always enchanting. Lucca isn’t about ‘must see’ sights and that’s a big part of its appeal, it’s still real. It has a lovely atmosphere and feel to it, a great place to just stroll around, any time of year.  It is enclosed by 4.2km of intact walls  and nothing within the walls  is modern, nothing jars. I think the quaint, traditional style of these shops is a huge part of the charm of Lucca. The fact that they are unchanged for decades. These are small, unique, family run businesses, a far cry from  impersonal multi-national chain stores.

I always aim to buy foccacia at steam bakery Amedeo Giusti. Often I don’t manage it- because the tiny shop is usually so incredibly packed and I’m not always patient enough! But it is worth braving it,  their breads are excellent and so fresh. As it was early morning on a very cold day I was lucky to find it almost empty.

At Giusti I bought foccacia bread and cenci which are special pastries for carnival. At the Chifenti bakery on via San Paolino I succumbed to another seasonal treat, frittelle, which are sweet fried balls with rice, crema or nutella fillings. Unable to choose I had a mixture!

I had to include the vegetable tarts in the window to save readers from the mistake I made when I first bought one-of thinking that these vegetable tarts were savoury! Maybe the fact that they are surrounded by chocolate, cream, almond and fruit tarts should have been a clue! They are sweet vegetable tarts, a Lucca speciality.

The most well known Lucca sweet speciality is probably Buccellato, a fruited aniseed bread, lovely toasted with butter. Most bakers in the town offer it, some specialise in it, like this one on Piazza San Michele.There are a lot of bakeries in Lucca, these are just a handful, plenty more to choose from. And there are other shops, albeit not as high up on my personal shopping priorities! This one I don’t go in, china and glass is not my thing, but I like to stop and admire the exterior.

I always like to pop in for a look around Le Sorrelle in Piazza Anfiteatro, it has wonderful tablecloths in vibrant fruit designs, also scented soaps and herb based beauty products.

I don’t know the name of this shop on via San Paolino, and I’ve never been in, but I love the fact that it exists! It sells all kinds of useful implements. There are sickles for cutting, each with a slightly different blade from different areas of Tuscany, and special tools for gathering truffles, olives and asparagus. Pans for chestnut flour cakes, glass flasks for cooking beans, knives for opening oysters -where else would you find such things?This shop probably sums up Lucca, what I mean by it being ‘real’. In some  popular towns tourism has eaten away at the true nature of the town, and shops are full of souvenirs and ‘tat’. Of course there is some of this in Lucca, but not much, most of the shops in Lucca cater for their traditional Lucchese clientele and the tourists are incidental. The shops aren’t fake ‘olde worlde’, they are genuinely unchanged and original. When a tourist goes to Lucca they can feel they are ‘living’ in a real town, doing what the locals do, even if it’s just for a few hours.

Getting there. Lucca is 24km from Bagni di Lucca and can be reached by bus or train. It also easily reached by public transport directly from Florence, Pisa and Viareggio. Bus drops within the walls at Piazzale Verdi, train is just outside the walls, only a minute or two. By road use the A11 autostrada and park in the large car parks outside the walls. Do not attempt to drive inside the walls.

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Posted in Days trips, Food in Tuscany, Lucca, Tuscany, Winter | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

Snow! Where’s Mr. Tumnus?

This is what we woke up to this morning. Magical isn’t it. I’m like a little kid when it comes to snow. On days like this anyway, when I don’t have to go out in it unless I want to and it doesn’t inconvenience me! And I haven’t been outside yet,  all these were taken from the windows. For now I’m staying warm indoors, appreciating the beauty and looking for Mr. Tumnus.

Mr. Tumnus is the faun in ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’, he meets Lucy as she arrives in Narnia, beside the lamp-post. Look at the photos-I have a suitable lamp-post, so where is he?

When I grew up, in Sussex on the South coast of England, we hardly ever had more than a token few flakes of snow, and so C. S  Lewis’ wonderland was enchanting to me.  Now that I get to see some proper snow here in Tuscany, Italy it always makes me think of Narnia.There are footprints in this one, but probably not Mr. Tumnus, more likely one of the cats !

The snow started here rather tentatively yesterday afternoon, but was only just starting to settle by bedtime so I wasn’t sure how much we would wake up to. Looking at the depth on the table it looks to be quite a bit.

We only get one or two days like this each year here in the Lima valley so I think it’s time to go and build a snowman now.

UPDATE – Have ventured out as far as the garden now. Here is my snowman!

Posted in At Villa Rosalena, Bagni di Lucca, Winter | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 41 Comments

My son eats snails!

Thankfully not the kind a child might dig out of the mud but the properly edible type!

The first place he ever ate them was the Osteria al Ritrovo del Platano. We stopped by one day when passing to look at the menu. He kept pestering to go there and try them. Pester power won and we went, thinking he just wanted to try them out of kiddie gruesomeness and he’d get it out of his system. But he not only ate them all but with very apparent relish. Ever since whenever it’s his chance to choose where to eat he chooses there. He’s since eaten snails at other restaurants, but this place is the top choice for him. He claims they are bigger there. And as this was his first snail experience this for him is exactly how they should be.

I can’t tell you what snails are like to eat. I’m a vegetarian. According to my son the snails are chewy and he likes the texture with the garlicky buttery sauce they are cooked in. He doesn’t eat meat either, but he loves seafood. The first non veggie food he ate was clams from his dad’s spaghetti alle vongole at age 5 so maybe snails aren’t too big a jump from shellfish. In order to sort the snail eating thing out in his head he defines himself as someone who doesn’t eat mammals!

I suspect he also likes the ritual involved. The snails come on a special plate with an indentation to hold  each snail and there are tongs to hold the snail steady and a special pronged fork to winkle them out of the shell.

Osteria al Ritrovo del Platano is a small restaurant with a small but well chosen menu. Game features particularly and local Garfagnana specialities.  Obviously I don’t have the snails! My starter is always the warm black truffle eggs, and then maybe truffle pasta, or maybe a cheese platter.

The walls are decorated with memorabilia of Giovanni Pascoli, a famous Italian poet who had a house nearby at Castelvecchio from 1895 until his death in 1912. Pascoli used to frequent this osteria, and surely it cannot look that different from  his day, still having a rustic charm.

The Osteria al Ritrovo del Platano is at Ponte di Campia on the SS445 Garfagnana road which runs alongside the Serchio river, north of Lucca, Tuscany. It is between Gallicano and Castelnuovo di Garfagnana and also easily reached in 10minutes from nearby Barga via Castelvecchio Pascoli.  From Bagni di Lucca it’s 25minutes drive. http://www.osteriaalritrovodelplatano.it/

Pascoli’s home at Castelvecchio is now a museum

Posted in Eating out, Food in Tuscany, Garfagnana | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The empress, the devil and the moon.

I wish  the Tarot Garden was nearer. I’d love to go there often. But I’m in Northern Tuscany and it’s about as far south in Tuscany as you can get, about a mile from the border with Lazio. It’s like a theme park for grown ups, who can justify it as ‘Art’, though equally appealing for kids. Mine said it was ‘bonkers’ and they’re right, and that’s what’s so great about it. It’s fun. It’s wacky. You just have to smile!

The Tarot Garden was created by French artist Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002) She describes visiting Gaudi’s Park Guell in

Barcelona  in 1955 “I knew that I was meant one day to build my own garden of Joy” and that’s exactly what this  is, a Joy. This place is so tactile, there’s no sense of barriers or  ‘don’t touch’. These pillars inside The Emperor are just irresistible to touch. I loved the chillies, the boys predictably like the skulls!

The Emperor, apparently, is the card for masculine power, for good or for bad. The sculptures represent 22 Tarot cards. I know nothing of Tarot cards. No matter. It’s enough that there was spiritual meaning for the artist. For me, they’re just fun. Niki de Saint Phalle has achieved her aim of a garden of Joy.

I don’t find this devil very scary,  in fact he looks rather jolly. Niki de Saint Phalle wrote that working on it scared her. She was living inside one of the largest sculptures at the time, the  Empress, nicknamed ‘the Sphinx’, and had visions of hundreds of devils swarming around the Sphinx. Whilst that may well be the product of an artistic imagination, I loved seeing inside the Empress, which had been turned into her home and studio while working on the project, complete with working kitchen and bathroom

The sculptures vary considerably in size, from the house sized Empress to human sized and down to ‘the Star’ shown above inside the Empress/sphinx. The sculptures are set amongst the plants and the landscape, to interact with nature.

I love all these big bottomed, big bosomed, curvaceous ladies, makes me feel in good company!You can tell this place was designed by a woman, there’s a sense of the power of the feminine running through it. ‘Justice’ (with ‘injustice’ locked up inside her) maybe has too rigid a brassiere for comfort though!

The Tarot Garden  is bonkers, but bonkers is an entirely good way. And very inspirational. To think of one woman having the vision, then making it happen in a very remote corner of Tuscany. Work began in 1978, the garden opened to the public in 1998. That’s truly a labour of love. Niki de Saint Phalle wrote that it was “My destiny to make this garden, no matter how great the difficulties”. I’m so glad she did, the world is surely a better place for having joys like this garden in it. It is off the beaten track, but well worth seeking out, especially if you are looking for somewhere to please ALL the family!

TOP TIP!Take a bottle of water! We found it very hot, dry and dusty and there were no fountains to drink from.

Website http://www.nikidesaintphalle.com/

How to get there.

Il Giardino dei Tarocchi is in localita Garavicchio, Pescia Fiorentino, near Capalbio, in the Province of Grosseto, about 5km inland,  very close to the border with Lazio. Reach it on the via Aurelia SS1, exit at Pescia Fiorentino. Head left, should soon spot the park!

Open April to mid October.

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Wet feet in the woods with Red Riding Hood

What do you see here? Handy stepping stones  to jump across a stream or icy cold winter mountain water that no sane person would go anywhere near in mid January?  Want to look closer?

Looking a bit colder now? Let me tell you it was! This weekend I hopped and jumped and stumbled over about 8 such streams, and occasionally missed and got wet feet. But thankfully ONLY wet feet! My fear had been slipping and getting my whole self wet and very, very cold. Could so easily have happened, I’m definitely not the most sure footed! It started so innocently, with wanting to go for a walk. Note the word ‘walk’, no mention of scrambling over rocks or jumping icy torrents.

We headed for the nature reserve of Orrido di Botri, the deepest canyon in Tuscany. The canyon is only open June to September as there is too much water the rest of the year, but we knew there were a number of marked trails around the area. We took the route to the left of these buildings following the red and white markers of the CAI (Club Alpino Italiano).  Notice here I’ve used the words ‘trails’ and ‘routes’, that’s the benefit of hindsight! Beforehand I somehow had the word ‘path’ in my head, quite forgetting that mountain enthusiasts of the CAI probably didn’t have the same vision as me of what a walk might involve!

Here’s Red Riding Hood, looking lost in the woods (also known as youngest son with hoodie on). You may be thinking surely we took a wrong turn, there’s no path there, just trees and rocks. We thought that too, but every so often there would be a red and white marker on a tree or rock so we knew it really was the route.

Okay, so a bit stony. But then the route hit a series of  mountain streams,  and the bank was far too sheer to go up. This meant crossing the streams, stone to stone. Fun in summer maybe, but rather daunting in mid winter. Here’s Rod about to jump, notice the fallen branch in the top left of the picture.

Whilst I was till crossing this little stream I looked up to find Rod balanced on that branch! Across another rather wider stream. Crazy man! At first he was going well, but then almost lost balance. He made it in the end. There was no way I was going to cross the same way, I had to try the stone hopping, but this time missed and got one wet foot. But only one, and only a foot.

Not too far past this we gave up, it looked to be just more and more of the same, crossing small but icy streams within a larger river bed. It had been kind of fun up to that point, but now there was the prospect of having to return exactly the same way, re-crossing every stream. But where to cross?  This was a wide section and needed careful selection of the best spot.

We made it back to the car, relieved that none of us had slipped in the icy cold water and with something of a sense of having had an adventure. Driving back we were rewarded with the mountains being bathed in a wonderful evening glow.

We stopped to enjoy the awesome scenery at a bend in the road heading back to Montefegatesi. There was a cross and a photo of young woman. Beneath it a plastic chair. Someone must come to this spot to remember her.

The village of Montefegatesi is always enchanting, perched on its rock almost like an island. It was getting a bit late to stop, so just tantalising glimpses from the road this time.

Getting there

Orrido di Botri can be reached via Tereglio or Montefegatesi, both stunning villages either side of the Val Fegana (valley) soyou can make a very scenic circular route.

FromLucca head towards Barga on the SS12 then SR445 until the roundabout for the Val Fegana and Tereglio, SP56. This is proper road all the way to the Orrido di Botri.

Or, from Lucca north on SS12 until Bagni di Lucca, then behind the park in Bagni di Lucca take the road signed for Montefegatesi. Shortly after Montefegatesi the road becomes a rough track, but okay for a normal car if the weather is good.

Montefegatesi can be reached by bus from Bagni di Lucca, 3-4 buses per day.

Posted in Bagni di Lucca, Garfagnana, Tuscany, walking in Tuscany, Winter | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Winter Walk

Time for sunny winter walk! The weather gods are smiling on us again, gone is the grey and now we are having those beautiful crisp sunny days that remind us winter really can be okay! So I’ve temporarily set aside dreaming of summer beaches and gone for walks. We had a few hours to spare in Lucca waiting for no.1 son and I remembered Debra’s post about the Nottolini aqueduct http://bagnidilucca.wordpress.com/2011/11/29/its-not-roman/

We drove into the San Concordio part of Lucca and simply looked for acquaduct, and then somewhere to park. I’d guess we started about a quarter of the way along from the Lucca end of the aqueduct. The aqueduct runs for just over 3km from Lucca to Guamo and was built from 1823 by Nottolini to bring fresh drinking water from the springs in the foothills of the Monte Pisani to the city’s fountains. A path runs alongside which is completely flat and ideal for a walk, cycle or judging by the tracks, horse ride.

The 12 metre brick high arches make for impressive companions, there were 459, but now 6 have been removed to make way for the A11 Autostrada. Not only are they architecturally impressive but inspiring also as a monument to something built for the benefit of ordinary people. There were two water channels running along the top, with two different qualities of water. The water doesn’t flow on the acquedotto any longer but there must be some pipes bringing spring water along the route as many locals stopped to fill cratefulls of water bottles at the taps along the route.

The aqueduct ends at the Tempietto di Guamo. This cistern was the connection point for waters from 18 springs. From here you can trace the straight route of the aqueduct as it runs over the plain to Lucca. The backdrop of the Apennines and Apuane Alps north of the Lucca plain is clearly visible. It makes a good spot to understand the ‘geography’ of the Lucca area.

The path doesn’t end at the Tempietto. The waterworks continue underground with conduits, wells and inspection chambers. I understand there is a park dedicated to Nottolini, but we didn’t get very far beyond the aqueduct this time as it was starting to get darker and colder! Time to turn back.

The return was unexpectedly lovely as the winter sun was fast disappearing and bathing the mountains in the distance a deep purple, and the flat farmland along the route in a pinky glow. This goat bouncing rapidly up a tree to peer down at us from a superior position of height was a nice shock.

Did you spot the moon in the these four pictures? It’s not quite a full moon. Of course it looked so much larger and brighter in real life!

As you can see we got back to the car just in time, it was getting a bit dark to see very much!

Although we’d driven to Lucca this walk would be easy to do without a car as the aqueduct starts near to the train station in Lucca. The distance we walked took us 35 minutes to reach the other end of the aqueduct, and I amble along very slowly!So I’d guess to allow up to an hour each way for the whole length, plus however far you want to go after the aqueduct ends. We only went about minutes further, so will have to go again-I always want to reach the very end, just to see what’s there!

Posted in Lucca, Tuscany, walking in Tuscany, Winter | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Marble, Bronze and Beach – Pietrasanta, Tuscany

Still feeling a bit wintry today, so I’m continuing my look back at last summer’s sunshine and trips to the beach! One very hot afternoon we wanted to go somewhere not too far, somewhere we hadn’t been before, with a little something of cultural interest to offer, but most importantly within easy reach of water to cool off afterwards. We pored over the map and came up with Pietrasanta. It hit the spot perfectly.  As we parked the car we saw our first sculpture, this figure below.

This first encounter set the tone of the whole town. All over Pietrasanta there are sculptures and works of art, some permanent, some temporary. Pietrasanta is a mecca for working artists with many marble workshops and bronze foundries and this vibrance gives a unique feel to what would otherwise be a fairly standard Tuscan town.

I liked this frame for the street, I like that you can step through it and engage with it and it reminded me of the ‘stargate’ in a film watched long ago, I hoped it might be a portal to another world, but sadly not!

When we arrived it was that lazy, post lunch, all closed up time of day and the town semed empty and very sleepy. Many of the shops and galleries were closed but the signs indicated they would open again for the evening and well into the night. There are many galleries in Pietrasanta, and we peered in through a few windows, including the one below. I’ve thought hard what to say about these pieces, and have finally come to the conclusion it’s best to say nothing!

The reason for Pietrasanta’s artistic importance is it’s proximity to the marble quarries of the Apuane Alps. Most famously Michelangelo used local marble for ‘David’. A plaque above this bar shows where he stayed in 1518 whilst seeking out the perfect marble.

Of course the town has traditional art in the its churches like any Tuscan town. the baptistery font in the Oratorio di San Giacinto is undoubtedly impressive, though perhaps the cover is a bit too much!  The cathedral of San Martino is 14th century, not impressive externally but inside was beautifully and subtly frescoed later in the 1800s by Adamello. I had good fortune as I entered, unexpectedly I heard a haunting Ave Maria, played by a violinist accompanied by the organist. No one else was there. I guess they were rehearsing but for me it was one of those perfect, beautiful moments.

In contrast is the church of the Misericordia. I stumbled across it accidentally and knew nothing about the frescoes there but was fascinated by them having spent many years using medieval doom paintings in history lessons to British teenagers. I ignored heaven and only photographed hell. I’m not sure what that says about me! Afterwards I looked them up, they are by Fernando Botero, a Colombian artist and were painted in 1993. Here’s the ‘Door to Hell’

Moving on from hell to the beach! Pietrasanta is only 3km inland from the Versilia coast and has it’s own beach resort, Marina di Pietrasanta. Many locals were heading to the beach along a bicycle path. As we were in the car we went a little further,  to the dunes of Forte dei Marmi. Forte dei Marmi is a very exclusive resort but just before  its lungomare becomes that of the next town, Cinquale, there is a  WWF protected wildlife habitat of sand dunes. Here the usual Italian beach resort stabilmenti (pay beaches with umbrellas and sunloungers) are prohibited and the beach itself is a free public beach. It can be quite packed there as free beaches are few along this coast but the sea is lovely and the backdrop of the marble mountains of the Apuane Alps is magnificent.

The final picture goes to our last sight of Pietrasanta as we passed on our return. This voluptous lady sits in the middle of a traffic roundabout. This is how I most like to enjoy art, unexpectedly and part of real life and leaving the galleries aside, that’s what Pietrasanta offers. It’s not a ‘must see’ kind of a place but makes a refreshing day for those who either have already done the must see lists or those who prefer to avoid the well trodden paths of tick box trips.

Getting to Pietrasantsa.

By car- For quickest route pick up A11 and A12 autostrada direction Genova at Lucca, exit Versilia  (From Bagni di Lucca 1 hour.) For more scenic route, north of Lucca head through Camaiore. For most stunning but longest route take the road over the Apuane Alps from Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, making sure to stop of at Isola Santa en route.

By train – Pietrasanta is the on the Genova to Rome rail line, and easily reached directly from Pisa in 25 minutes. Coming from Lucca change at Viareggio or Pisa San Rossore.

Posted in Art, Beach and River, Days trips, Summer, Tuscany | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Beyond Tuscany – Lerici, Liguria

As the New Year starts I find myself looking back over  2011 and I’ve realised there were many other places I meant to share and didn’t get the chance at the time. January is a quieter month  so I thought I’d play catch up, and as it’s wet and dreary today it will serve to remind me of the joys of summer! So let’s head up the coast a little into Liguria and specifically to Lerici.

Initially I didn’t quite ‘get’ Lerici. It seemed very familiar and yet not quite right. Then I realised the lay out of the town reminded me very much of Torquay in Devon, England, a place very near where we used to live. Torquay and its bay are known as ‘The English Riviera’ so fair play to Torquay, it is certainly very reminiscent of the Italian Riviera. But what Lerici has in place of Torquay’s penguin collection is a  C12th polygonal castle which superbly dominates the town and looks dauntingly impregnable.Inside the castle has been put to use as a museum of paleontology following local finds of dinosaur footprints. As a mother of boys I’ve visited way too many dinosaur and fossil musuems! This one didn’t rank high for us, but at least gave the chance to see inside and offered some excellent views across the bay.

A tunnel giving access to the castle was being used as a gallery for artwork by a local school, each had copied a famous painting but added in Lerici Castle. I don’t know if they are always on display there or if it was temporary but they were great fun. Here’s a few of my favourites.

When I really ‘got’ Lerici though was when we swam at Venere Azzurra free beach. With the bay curved around there were amazing views to be had bobbing in the warm gentle water. I wish I could show how good it was looking back from the sea, but instead here’s looking from the beach outwards, just imagine a little bit!

Thebay, which curves around from Lerici via San Terenzo to Portovenere, is known as ‘the Gulf of Poets’ as Shelley and Byron spent time there. Living here in Bagni di Lucca which also has such strong associations with the english romantic poets I enjoy the sense of following in their Italian footsteps a little.  Lerici has the more famous and poignant association of being the place Shelley was returning to by boat when he drowned in a storm aged only 30. Sadly it will take more than a dip in the same sea to make a poet out of me, so the last words on Lerici should go to Shelley.

‘And the coolness of the hours
Of dew, and sweet warmth left by day,
Were scatter’d o’er the twinkling bay.’
Getting to Lerici

By car- from Bagni di Lucca (1 hour 20minutes) or Lucca, Lerici is easily reached by the autostrada A12 direction Genova, Exit at Sarzana. From Sarzana exit it’s about 10minutes drive to Lerici. The town is closed to traffic. There is a large paying car park with a shuttle bus into the main part of town, or a few minutes on foot to Venere Azzurra beach.

By public transport-the nearest railway stations are La Spezia and Sarzana, then by bus http://www.atcesercizio.it

Posted in Art, Beach and River, Beyond Tuscany, Days trips, Liguria, Summer | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Christmas is coming!

The kids finished school yesterday, which means Christmas must be nearly here. It’s late to break up, but they don’t go back to school in Italy until after Epiphany, so this year that means no school until January 9th. But for me personally, December has been one long run up to christmas, mostly focused on things to eat!!!

First was Barga Cioccolata. This nativity scene  is made from chocolate, it’s very clever, but I’m not sure it seems quite right to eat the baby jesus! Barga Cioccolata is a 2 day Chocolate festival the first weekend of December and signals for me the start of the festive season, Christmas and chocolate having a rather too strong link in my mind. Barga  is a medieval hilltown in the Garfagnana, here is Barga, made out of chocolate!

I’ve seen chocolate salami fairly often but this was the first time I’d seen Chocolate Mortadella. It looks very convincing. It was a bit too sickly sweet though. I did buy quite a few choccy goodies, some for gifts and some to ‘save’ for Christmas. Needless to say none survived long enough to make it to Christmas. I was able to hide them from everyone else, but unfortunately I still knew where they were!

Next on the festive food trail was ‘Il Desco’. This event in showcases speciality foods of the Lucca province and is held over 4 weekends from mid November to mid December at the Real Collegio near San Frediano in Lucca. Each weekend has a theme such as chestnuts or beans, the final weekend when I went was ‘bread and oil’ and things to go with them.


Approaching drums announced the arrival of a  sbandieratori group or ‘flagthowers’. It doesn’t matter how often I see these displays here in Tuscany I still find them absolutely enchanting, such skill. They started as a whole group, then the two real stars performed, first with two flags each, then three and finally four flags. and no, they didn’t drop them once!

I’d be embarrassed to admit how many photos I took to try to catch one with the flags mid air! They were much faster than me and my camera.

This last week running up to christmas has meant several shopping trips to Lucca. It has a wonderful atmosphere all year round but seems especially magical at Christmas, doing it festively yet with class.

The next two are opposites, but were my favourite ‘decorations’, one is the window of a ceramic shop, the other is alongside San Michele church

So that’s December! Now it’s time to wait for Santa and hope for snow. The last few years we’ve had snow in late December, but this year so far only 10 minutes worth. This was last year.

I’d like this on christmas day, perfectly timed, so I can look out on from warm and snug inside but not have to go out in it! Fingers crossed!

Season’s Greetings, Buon Natale and Happy Holidays!

 

Posted in Events, Food in Tuscany, Lucca, Tuscany, Uncategorized, Winter | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Lucca Comics and Games

Here are three of our guests this weekend on their way out for the day! This somewhat unusual attire is because they were on their way to Lucca for the annual Comics and Games event.

This four day event brings young people in huge numbers to Lucca to visit the many exhibitions. And many dress as their favourite character. Most of them I don’t recognise not being a comics reader myself but that doesn’t matter at all, I love to see the costumes and to admire the time, effort and dedication so many have put into creating them.

Many of them clearly love to pose, and relish someone asking to take their photo so they can get into role. It must be like being a celebrity for the day. With the added possibility of wearing a mask if you want to remain anonymous. who knows maybe this chap is an accountant for the rest of this the year!

 

The group efforts are amazing, the amount of co-ordination they put in to perfect their look. And to pose together of course!

Some go beyond just dressing themselves, they build a ‘vehicle’ too like these, Mario Karts and Wacky Races I recognise, the guy with the ship I’ve no idea, but you’ve got to admire the effort, that’s a lot of cardboard boxes!

The walls that encircle the historic centre of Lucca make a great backdrop and a good spot to pose. The sniper is pretty scary, he was there motionless everytime we passed.  He seemed to be aiming at spiderman and his orange haired friend. Tinkerbell is more to my taste, I think she may just be the real thing, if you believe in fairies!

Lucca Comics and Games last for 4 days at over the last weekend in October. The juxtaposition of this venerable historic city with all this wackiness is brilliant, it shows that Lucca is not a ‘museum’ with only its past to offer but it’s a living, breathing, exciting place. And I love the fact that this event draws huge numbers of young people who completely take over the whole town and yet the atmosphere  feels so safe and is entertaining for all ages. In this picture below you can get an idea of how packed it was, yet everyone was good natured and in the mood to enjoy the fun.

And finally, continuing my current obsession with how beautiful Autumn is, I hope you are noticing all the glorious fall colours of the trees around Lucca! And you can see how warm it is still this year by the lack of coats!

http://www.luccacomicsandgames.com/

Posted in At Villa Rosalena, Autumn, Events, Lucca, Tuscany | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments