by Melinda Gallo

Arriving in Lucca

After our short train ride from Florence, we hopped into the first taxi we saw. The taxi driver drove quickly through the narrow streets almost side-swiping a few tourists who were walking and looking at a map. And then we almost hit an elderly woman on her bicycle as she came out of a side street. The driver slammed on his breaks as we pulled up to a building and said, "Ecco ci qua." (Here we are.) I was relieved. I kept trying to look in front of him as if I could steer us from danger and lift his foot off the gas pedal somehow.

We arrived and the host, Giulio was already downstairs waiting for us. I don't know how he knew it would be us or that we were coming, but there he was ready to help us. I presented myself since we only communicated via email. I kept bothering him about his Internet connection, which when it's written on a hotel's Web site, it usually means they have a phone jack that you can use to connect your computer to.

But, I wanted more. I asked if they had an ADSL line and they offered us theirs. I told them that we can bring our Wireless router and hook it up if they don't mind. They kindly agreed and so I brought them my favorite chocolates from Florence.

He gave us a map with a few of his favorite restaurants marked already. I hadn't really done much research on Lucca before we got here. I just knew that it's a small, less-touristy town in Tuscany that I liked a lot the last time I came here.

We walked around town before dinner and were pleased with the pedestrian streets lined with shops. The main street in town, Via Fillungo, has bicycle riders who try to go as fast as they can weaving through the unsuspecting crowds. They ring their little bells, which basically means "I'm coming!" You can't do much, but try to constantly hug the buildings and not walk straight out of a door into the cross traffic.

We sat in the Anfiteatro (Amphitheatre) where the buildings are built around a round area and had drinks at an outside bar. The sun was out to warm us up, but so was the wind to cool us down. The streets were not that crowded with people, but everyone around us was a tourist. French, American, German, and British.

We decided to go to one of the restaurants that Giulio suggested. And if I had one suggestion to make about Lucca, it would be to not go to this restaurant. It wasn't that the Japanese lady at the door judged us both and began to talk in broken English or that because we didn't have reservations she seated us outside in the cold where I had to eat with my coat on. It was the bad food, from start to finish.

We left as soon as we finished our main dish. No dessert for us tonight. Too cold outside in the back garden and we didn't want to gamble that the only thing good in the entire restaurant would be dessert. It wasn't worth it. As we left, we walked through the restaurant, which had numerous empty tables. Of course, we wouldn't have even thought of sitting outside, but the restaurant was so highly recommended that we thought we could bear the cold for great food.

We went to a bar on the way home that had some pastries and bought a few along with a bottle of water. We ate our desserts in our fantastic suite and talked about everything we liked in Lucca.

To finish off the night, I had a bath in our bathroom, which is the size of our living room in our apartment in Florence. I felt I could soak in it forever. And if it wasn't for my skin getting all wrinkled up, I probably would've.

I sat in bed listening to the sounds of the city, which were minimal. No cars, no people, just silence. What a great place Lucca is, I thought. Clean, peaceful, and beautiful. A great place to live, I'm sure.

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