The plan was to spend two weeks in Lucca, a Tuscan city of about 90,000 people that lies 50 miles west of Florence. In his quest to master all the languages on earth Mark would study Italian for two weeks with his old college friend Mary Beth while I would hang out. Mark & Mary Beth kept their end of the deal but I took the opportunity to spend most of those two weeks back in Minnesota.
Lucca is an interesting city, but perhaps better for my four-day stay than Mark’s two-week sojourn. There is some interesting history: Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus met here in 56 BC to reaffirm their triumvirate that ultimately led to Caesar taking sole power (and then getting killed). The city was, for several centuries, and independent city state and, after Venice, the second-largest city state with a Republican constitution. And one of the city’s most notable features is that the medieval walls remain intact and today are topped with a great elevated parkway for walking and running and reading and hanging out.
Today Lucca is a major tourist destination for those passing through Tuscany. Mark and I had been here twice before, but both times just on day trips so we figured this time it made sense to linger a bit. The problem for Mark was that apparently it’s a little small to justify two weeks. The old city walls encase an area of narrow, winding streets with some good restaurants and lots of fancy shopping, but ultimately there’s not a lot to do or things to explore. I had the notably strange experience of arriving in Italy from Minnesota feeling strangely “at home” here – I’ve spent more time in Italy in recent years than in Minnesota, I guess – but Mark was ready to get out.
Part of his problem was that he didn’t like the apartment we rented for two weeks. It was a huge flat – entrance hall, big kitchen, massive living room, three bedrooms, servants quarters (seriously), and a small balcony with access to a clothes line so you could feel like a real Italian hanging clothes to dry – but a little shabbier than it appeared in pictures. The big deal, though, was that there was no air conditioning. With daytime temperatures up into the low 90s and night temperatures in the low 70s, that meant it was just too hot in there. I suspect that’s extremely common in Lucca’s many older buildings but that didn’t make it any better. It was just too hot.
While I was in Minnesota Mark and Mary Beth hosted a few guests. She was in Italy largely because her 13-year-old son Luca (crazy coincidence, huh), participates in an annual summer music festival in nearby Garfagnana so during the weekend Luca and Sven (the father/husband) came to visit. And entirely coincidentally another old college friend of Mark & Mary Beth’s, Lisa, was in Italy too so she stopped by for a couple days.
Lucca: nice old town surrounded by intact city walls, good tourist infrastructure, Italian classes, and good friends. All good. But too hot without AC if you’ve become spoiled. As we have.
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