Saturday, 2 December 2017


It’s about 4.30pm, the light is fading and a mega gale is whipping up around the house we’re staying in. There’s a roar of sound coming from outside, trees are being buffeted left, right and centre, and, inside, things are creaking and groaning in a somewhat spooky manner. It’s a good night to be inside writing, wrapped up warm, with a nice cup of tea! The lights are coming on one by one across Lucca below us. It’s cozy, but this definitely has all the makings of a horror movie. To make matters worse, the paintings in this old house have eyes which follow you as you walk up and down stairs. One in particular, a woman with a long, Art Deco body covered in 1920s jewellery, has the wide-eyed grin of a lunatic!

We’ve been in Lucca all day, a rather fine medieval walled city, which I last visited with Stephen Twigg back in 1998. It turns out that my memories of the place were largely false. We were here during a massive holy festival and I remember standing in an enormous square watching an effigy of the Virgin Mary being carried proudly through the streets. We didn’t pass a single place which fitted any of the places I remember to the extent that I’m beginning to wonder whether I’m superimposing memories of Seville from a similar time!

We used our phone’s Sat Nav to get us there. The voice has obviously only been programmed to recognise English road names, so there were some hysterical mis-pronunciations of Italian street names, all executed in a plummy English accent. I particularly enjoyed her “Via Stradone Di Camigliano” with “via” as in “viaduct” and “Di” as in “Princess”! Via Lucchese gets announced as Vya Loo-cheese!

Within its city walls, Luca is largely pedestrianised. It’s not a city which possesses the staggering beauty of somewhere like Florence, but the lack of cars makes the winding, twisting lanes very pleasurable to get lost within. We wandered around the shops and stood at the bar in a cafe drinking coffee and tea. It’s considerably cheaper to stand with your coffee, I’m told, than it is to sit down with it. You learn something new every day!

We went into Pescia for a bite to eat this evening by which point the gales had died down. This is an intensely rural spot and there are very few main roads. On our way back, we got stuck in a traffic jam caused by a pylon brought down by the winds. The fire brigade were there and the electricity wires were duly lifted off the road and propped up on a makeshift structure. We were held up for about half an hour. It’s just as well they managed to get the road flowing again as there wouldn’t have been any other way through for us and we’d have been sleeping in the car!

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