Saturday, July 3, 2010

La Bella Italia + Lucca & Our Tuscan Winery

Lucca was our final stop during our trip to Italy, so this shall be my last installment in the "La Bella Italia" reviews!  I hope that you all have enjoyed reading about my latest travels, seeing my pictures, & imagining what it was like there!  It's been fun for me to relive the trip & look back on what my favorite parts were.  As a side note before I forget, if you'd like to see some 360 degree views of Lucca, check out this website here!  The internet is amazing!

Lucca lies in the region of Tuscany & became a Roman colony in 180 BC.  Traces of the city's amphitheater can still be seen in the Piazza dell'Anfiteatro {shown below}.  In 1805, the city was overtaken by Napoleon & his sister was set to rule as "Queen of Etruria".  As taken from Wikipedia {the all-knowing source, right?!}:  The walls around the old town remained intact as the city expanded and modernized, unusual for cities in the region. As the walls lost their military importance, they became a pedestrian promenade which encircled the old town, although they were used for a number of years in the 20th century for racing cars. They are still fully intact today; each of the four principal sides is lined with a different tree species.  The part about the walls being used as a race track really stuck with me!

The Piazza Dell'Anfiteatro
We spent our time in Lucca strolling through the shop filled streets of the Old Town, all of which is surrounded by the solid & unaltered Renaissance era walls.  There were almost as many churches as there were shops--our tour guide {who was a bit crazy, I might add...} joked that we would be visiting all ninety-nine of them.  They were all very pretty, but not spruced up for us tourists.  Some of these churches even dated back to the 8th century.  It still strikes me as incredible to look at these large & beautiful buildings & to know that people long ago spent their entire lives to make them.  And that they did such a good job that these buildings still stand for us today.

The Cathedral of Saint Martin, begun in 1063.  This church was so large {& the street so small!} that I had to back down an alley to try to get all of it in my shot!  It was almost a success.  Notice the many different columns along the facade.  "There is a legend to explain why all the columns of the façade are different. According to the tale, when they were going to decorate it, the inhabitants of Lucca announced a contest for the best column. Every artist made a column, but then the inhabitants of Lucca decided to take them all, without paying the artists and used all the columns." {Wikipedia}
One of the many squares in Lucca where you could eat lunch at an outdoor cafe & watch passersby.
While I am sure that I could have stayed in Lucca longer than we did, it's probably a good thing that we didn't.  There were too many shops!  I'm more of a window shopper myself, though, so Don needn't worry :)

One of the city's most famous residents: Puccini, the famous opera compose {La Bohème and Madama Butterfly}.  The house he was born in is the red brick building in the center.
I'd also like to add that while in Lucca, an old Italian man tried to pick me up with the line, "I thoughta you werea my friend's awife!"  Right before I stood up to go, after his asking where I was from, he said, "Maybe we aget together this aweekend?"  "No," I said.  "I'm going home!"  "To see your aboyfriend?", he replied.  "No," I held up my left hand.  "My husband!"  The man's face looked as though he'd heard the world's most horrible story as his hand flew to his chest & he said with alarm, "That's aterrible!!"  Italian men are all they're made out to be!  And never again will I wear a dress in Italy without my husband by my side!  Oh, it was sure funny though!

Fattoria Il Poggio
Perhaps my favorite evening of all our evenings in Italy was this night, our last.  We spent it at the beautiful & scenic vineyard of Fattoria Il Poggio, in the heart of Tuscany.  Please, if you are ever in this area, stop by this lovely place for at least one glass of wine.  Soak in all that is Tuscany: the grapes, the tall skinny trees that to me are Italy, the bubbly Italian men & women, the music, & oh, the food!  Our meal was so large & divine!  Bruschetta, fresh olives & sundried tomatoes with bread & the vineyard's own olive oil--to start!  Then homemade lentil soup & homemade macaroni as our second course.  For the main course we had sausage, split ribs, herb roasted chicken...  And dessert?  Hard almond cookies to be dipped in the vineyard's very own dessert wine.  This hours long food heaven experience was concluded by a small glass of their limoncello.  And, if you can imagine this, there was a man singing Andrea Bocelli right outside for what I think was a wedding rehearsal.  After dinner, as we walked the beautiful path back to our bus, the evening was made even better by the fireflies that seemed to be saying goodbye from amongst the tall trees!  Can you tell that I loved the Fattoria Il Poggio?!

I bought myself a bottle of the dessert wine, a bottle of the limoncello, & a bottle of their own balsamic vinegar.  All for &euros;30.  It doesn't get any better than that!

Ciao, Italia.  I shall see you again someday, I'm sure! 
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