Well, folks. It’s either take down the Christmas Tree or write a blog post.
I’ve been putting off posts because my heart is still tender with loving, gushy feelings around the entire Italy adventure. We’ve got two photo collages up on the hearth room wall, with more pictures on the way.
That Yessa is photogenic.
Some of our favorite photos from the trip.
Having those photos up for me to see all the time has been cathartic. I’m ready to think of the trip through the lens of lovely memories.
Hence, let’s talk about our time inside the walls of Lucca.
To recap, Lucca is important to our family because Buddie’s Dad’s father was a little boy in Lucca. Monkey was excited to look for signs of the family connection in and around the town.
For the beginning of our time in the Lucca area, we found an apartment inside the old walls where there would be enough space for just our family for one night, and then we would have the joy of welcoming Grandma and Grandpa Vermont to our adventure for a week.
We hopped off the train at the Lucca station and made our way toward the walls. It isn’t immediately evident where the “Main gate” is, so we followed a sidewalk around to a hidden staircase, and meandered our way up and inside the city.
The Annual Lucca Comics and Games Festival took place shortly after we left the area, and we saw evidence of the city’s massive preparation for the influx of 250,000 people throughout our stay.
When Buds and I went out later to look for a grocery store, we did find the main gate, and had the opportunity to watch a semi drive through. A bicycle guide went ahead of the semi to stop traffic since only one car can go through at a time. We believe the semi was carrying supplies for the festival.
Looks easy from this angle.
We didn’t find a grocery store outside the walls until later, but we did find a little, impressively well-stocked grocery a few blocks from the apartment. The availability of fresh, delicious food throughout our trip was such a joy.
This apartment was a great space. Ample room for all of us. A place for card-playing, for Buds to work, for kids to spread out with books, computers, a great kitchen to cook in…it was wonderful.
The stairwell up to the apartment.
The front door from the outside.
The inside of the front door-it was well-protected.
Looking down the hallway once you walked in the front door.
The master bedroom Buds and I shared.
The kitchen, which was its own room, with a door to close it off.
Yessa through the kitchen door. Photo by Grandpa.
Looking back at the kitchen when standing by the table and window.
The tucked away washing machine.
The living room
The children’s bedroom. We moved the extra bed from our room down here.
The room Grandma and Grandpa used after they joined us.
The larger of two bathrooms.
The shower space in the larger bathroom.
We had some rain while we stayed in this apartment. Buds and the younger two kids and I headed out one morning while Monkey slept in. The goal was to find the grocery store, but also to have our morning cafe and pastry somewhere fun. We found a delightful cafe, and all of us had something delicious to eat, but the Buster couldn’t find anything that looked good to him, so he chose a treat when we got to the grocery store.
The treat turned out to be scary Franken-food that we were all intrigued to see him try.
Nutella and pretzel sticks, but with “orange juice” in half of it.
He was willing to give it a try.
The pseudo orange juice was a scary, scary chemical mixture. We won’t be trying that again.
In the midst of the downpour, Monkey decided it would be a great idea to collect rainwater to use for experiments later on. She and Yessa braved the drops with a big bowl and found great gushing fountains of water coming out of a ruptured downspout.
Soggy mission accomplished.
Then the wait for Grandpa and Grandma. We knew the general time they would arrive in Venice from their tour, and which train to Lucca they would likely catch, and though we had been able to email with them, it was still a waiting game. The kids took turns hanging out the kitchen window in the rain to watch for them at the end of our alley, just in case they weren’t able to find us.
Do you see them?
They found the apartment quite easily, though we were all happy to yell with excitement to be sure they saw us.
We had only a few days in this apartment, and we made the most of it.
We walked all over the city.
Walking on the walls
Playing “Kings In The Corner”
Buds, Yessa, and L.M. and L.P. were game to climb to the top of the “building with the trees growing on top.” Here’s a great explanation of the tower provided by a random person on the internet.
It’s estimated that in the Middle Ages, there were about 250 “tower houses”, or torre, in the province of Lucca. These towers can still be found all over Tuscany (the little town of San Gimignano is especially known for its 13 remaining towers) and they were meant to symbolize the wealth and power of their owners. The 44 m tall Torre Guinigi was and still is the most important tower in Lucca, and one of the very few examples left in the region. It was built for the Guinigi family who once ruled over Lucca and defended the city against the Medici of Florence, which helped Lucca retain its independence until the 18th century. The tower has become one of the city’s most famous symbols, especially thanks to its rooftop garden that can be seen from all over the city.
Buster wasn’t interested in climbing the stairs, so he and I settled in on the outside stoop to people watch, tell stories, and enjoy quiet time together. A good time had by all.
Climbing the tower
In the step counting contest, Yessa was the big winner with the closest guess (220!), and Buds and L.P. both got some great pictures.
On another excursion, we picked up chestnuts from the copious chestnut trees that grow all along the outer walls. L.M. put in a good faith effort, aided by internet videos, to turn them into a toasted chestnut treat. Didn’t work out, but it was interesting to try.
Buds and I had accidentally walked off with one of the keys to the Venice apartment, so we wandered to the Poste Italiane and took a number.
It’s no small choice in which number you take.
What you can do at the post office.
We only wanted to mail a package, but we could also have paid a number of utility bills, deposited money into our bank account, or even purchased a new cell phone and cell phone plan. It took about 30 minutes before our number was called, but we were making ourselves laugh, so it went quickly.
The woman who helped us was incredibly helpful, even though her English was sparse, and our Italian non-existent. Smiles, gestures, and three people who laugh easily go a long way.
The keys made it back to their owner, so we did something right.
On another excursion with the crew, we had a grand time at a local playground.
What a long teeter-totter!
In our wandering around town, we did find one shop with our last name on it. And the phone book certainly had more of our clans-people than back home.
The phone had lots of our relatives…
One shop we found with our name.
The woman inside the shop didn’t know anything about the name above the door, just that it was a long time ago. Monkey, and all of us, were excited to see it, though.
Finally, our time inside the walls drew to a close. Buds and I walked over to pick up the two rental cars we had for the next few days. We carried as much luggage as we could on that trip, and to reward ourselves stopped at the most wonderful little cafe for an espresso and pastry. It was run by a husband and wife. She chatted with the customers and gave out the pastries. She’d call down the coffee orders to him and he’d pull them from the shiny espresso machine. Then he kindly carried them out to us.
It was so sunny and so peaceful and such a happy place. We spoke of returning here again someday. As we did of many places on the trip.
Bless you google maps for this photo.
Buds and I happened upon his photographer Father as we made our way back to the apartment.
The snapper gets snapped.
I believe there was one last stop of gelato on our way out of town, then off we went to load up the cars to head to our farmhouse outside the city.