Friday, July 3rd:
Friday morning I walked back to the train station to buy my ticket for my train travel to Bologna on Sunday. I prefer to purchase my Eurostar tickets in advance whenever possible so that I don't need to worry about a train being sold out. I also don't like to have to stand in line waiting to buy the ticket the day of train travel and this train station does not have the automatic ticket machines except for the little machines for regional trains. I walked a different route back to see a little bit more of Lucca and ended up on the wall for part of my walk.
I had lunch at Trattoria da "Leo". I really enjoyed eating at this trattoria, not only for the good food but also for the service and warm welcome each time I arrived. The owners remember my name and enthusiastically say "Ciao!" each time I arrived. I ordered penne pinoli pomodoro e basilico (pasta dish with pine nuts, tomatoes, and basil) and had a slice of torta di mele (apple cake) for dessert.
In the afternoon, I visited the Palazzo Pfanner garden and residence (you have the choice of visiting one or both when you purchase the ticket - 5 euros for the combined ticket). I had not heard of this palazzo before but became curious after seeing the beautiful gardens while riding my bike around the wall. It was pretty difficult to find, but after asking a few people, I located the palazzo on a little street near the San Frediano church (Via degli Asili, 33). Thre are 14 eighteenth-century statues made of marble from Carrara that depict the gods from Mount Olympus in this garden, a fountain in the middle, lemon trees, and beautiful bushes of flowers (forget the name now but I took photos). In the residence, an antique collection of medical and surgical instruments which belonged to Dr. Pietro Pfanner (1864-1935) was displayed. Looking at these instruments made me very appreciative of our current medical system.
For dinner, I made a reservation at Buca di Sant' Antonio. This restaurant is located near the San Michele church. Before dinner, I walked around a few of the streets near Buca di Sant' Antonio and discovered the panificio I remembered visiting in 1999 during my first visit to Lucca. I was pretty excited to find this place. I took a few photos of it back in 1999 and remembered the very kind man that worked there.
I had a wonderful dinner at Buca di Sant' Antonio. I ordered ravioli di ricotta alle zucchine (ravioli filled with ricotta cheese saute topped with grated zucchini and a few cherry tomatoes), capretto nostrale allo spiedo con patate arrosto e sformato di carciofi (baby goat cooked on the spit with potatoes and artichoke pudding), and fragole con panna (strawberries in fresh whipped cream) for dessert. The goat meat was good but strange to eat as I have not eaten meat like that in a long time. I sat next to a very nice family from Philadelphia and enjoyed our conversation during dinner. I was soooo stuffed when leaving Buca di Sant' Antonio.
When I returned to my B&B, Francesco (my friend from Empoli) called and confirmed our dinner Saturday night in Lucca. His family was staying in a little town near Viareggio. We had been in contact and hoped to meet while I was in Lucca since he would not be in Empoli while I was in Florence. I walked back to Trattoria da "Leo" to make a reservation for Saturday night and then went back to my B&B and called it a night.
Saturday, July 4th:
Saturday, I visited two of the very important churches in Lucca, the church of San Giovanni, which was built in the 12th century and partially remodeled in the 17th century but still has some Romanesque features and the main cathedral, San Martino.
Inside the church of San Giovanni, you can go underground to see the archaeological excavations dating from the first century BC through the eleventh century AD including Roman remains, part of an early Christian church, and a medieval crypt. Very cool!!
After enjoying my interesting visit to the San Giovanni church, I walked over to Lucca's main cathedral, San Martino, which is located just around the corner from the San Giovanni church. Unfortunately no photos are allowed inside this church, which is too bad as there are a couple of amazing sights - the Volto Santo and the 15th century tomb Ilaria del Carretto, a masterpiece by Jacopo della Quercia.
Next to the cathedral is an interesting museum I also visited. There is a cumulativo ticket you can purchase for 6 euros to visit the ruins, the museum, and part of the cathedral where the Ilaria tomb is located.
I went to Da Felice for lunch. I ordered both a slice of cecina pizza and a slice of pizza margherita. The pizza margherita was surprisingly good for a place that sells pizza by the slice. I thought the cecina pizza was just ok (it was a little too bland for my taste). After lunch, I went back to my B&B and packed and hung out for most of the afternoon at my B&B.
Saturday evening I met my dear friends from Empoli - Francesco & Irene and their two children, Sara & Gabriele. We walked around Lucca for a bit and then went to Trattoria da "Leo" for dinner. I ordered spaghetti aglio, olio, e peperoncini, which was delicious!
We walked over to Gelateria Santini for dessert. I thought the gelato was good there but the woman serving the gelato was not very friendly. When I asked for a taste of the pesca (peach), she gave me a not so nice look. Francesco also noticed the look and thought her attitude was pretty bad.
I had a wonderful evening catching up and spending time together with Francesco, Irene and their two children. I was amazed at how much they grew in one year. Sara is quite the little lady now at age 5 and Gabriele who is almost three has a fun personality. Our visit was much too short but it was so nice of them to drive over to Lucca to spend the evening with me.
Lucca started showing films in a little piazza on Wednesday of the week I arrived. The cost if 5 euros. The Millionaire was playing Saturday night. It took me a while to figure out that The Millionaire was the Italian name for Slumdog Millionaire. Strange that the Italian name would be an English name but still a different name. I arrived just as the little boy was in the outhouse. It was fun watching this movie in Italian. I have seen it before and so I could understand much of the movie (some of the dialogue in Italian, and of course the storyline).
I had a fabulous time in Lucca. I could have stayed there for weeks and was sad to leave after 6 nights but also excited to return to Bologna.
**I am now in Stresa and the computer at this hotel is crazy! I am not sure how much I will be posting from here. I might end up trying to use my iPod Touch instead to do some posts. Well, I am off to have dinner.