Archive for March 27th, 2004

Back to my roots

Thursday evening I meet up with Silvio, his friend Francesco and a girl whose name I don’t quite remember, at Francesco’s house. Francesco can’t speak any English so I seize the opportunity to get to know him better since it is a good opportunity to speak Italian without the other person lapsing into English. I fall in love with his apartment, the interior of which he designed himself. The initial architecture is certainly medieval, with curved sort of brick ceilings and chestnut beams here and there, and he has very tastefully added a modern touch… It’s a perfect marriage of old and new…. Ikea in Siena, I joke to myself. We eventually find ourselves at what I think is the worst bar in Siena. 80′s white-trash rock is blaring out of the speakers, and I’m not sure what to make of the patrons… The four of us are having a wonderful time people watching. Due to the wine tasting, I am drinking ‘hoca hola’ and being very sober. Francesco is a heavy smoker and eventually it gets to my nose and eyes so I have to leave. This means it’s my final goodbye to a gracious friend and city guide, Silvio. We get a student to take a picture of us outside the bar and go our separate ways… I am a little bit sad but hopeful that we will be able to hang out again in the future.Friday I am surprised to find myself emotional as I leave school. It’s the last time I will see the professoressa and my other classmates. It is difficult to hold back my tears and I finally let them flow, regardless of who can see me. This school has become a big part of my life, even if I have only spent two weeks here. I have a chance to give a big hug to Una my roomate and our other friend Alejandra… I want to linger but I have to hurry home and get packed so I can get to Lucca at a reasonable time.

It is hard to leave the now empty bedroom in my now former apartment. I had really made it mine in such a short matter of time, and I have become accustomed to staring at Siena’s beautiful Duomo every morning. How am I to cope now? I know I need to hurry, but I take my time to sadly breathe in my surroundings one last time. I just make the 1:10 pm bus to Florence and relax, though tearful as this means I am leaving Siena. I have truly come to think of Siena as home, and the people of Siena have played a major part in this, as they have been so welcoming to me with open arms. My heart is heavy and I stare out the window, trying to think of other things.

I arrive at my hotel in Lucca around 5:00 pm. The hotel, ‘Casa Alba’, has several flights of stairs, about which my Lonely Planet book could have warned me before, since I pretty much have my house on my back. After I lug my whole life up the stairs and catch my breath at the lobby, the signora at the hotel is gracious and warm, and notices right away that I have quite the Italian name. She is impressed that I have come to Lucca, where part of my family is from, and even though she can speak English, she speaks Italian with me, knowing that I have been working so hard at studying the language.

After situating myself in my small room, I meander to the Chiesa di San Frediano… in front is a beautiful and much restored 13th century mosaic. Inside is the preserved body of Santa Zita, a local saint… it’s the first time I have seen a real saint in the flesh (or lack thereof), and while I should be looking the other way in disgust, I find myself staring. She is absolutely beautiful, and maybe I can attribute it to the fact that she is a saint. I am intrigued to learn more about here.

I wander to Casa di Puccini…the house where the famous composer himself was born and grew up. Mostly it’s framed pictures and scribbled sheet music, with some beautiful furniture, but then I enter the Turandot room. There in the center is the piano upon which he composed Turandot. I glance to my left, and then my right…and I touch a few of the piano keys very softly. (giggle inserted here)… I can’t help it, I didn’t come all the way to Lucca for nothing!

I find myself in a wine bar called ‘Re-Wine’ (ha ha). I order a glass of Rosso di Montalcino and immediately someone comes up to me and begins to speak German. ‘Non parlo tedesco,’ I say, even though I understood everything he said. We chat in Italian instead and I find that he is half Lucchese, half German. His name is Luca, and I am tempted to ask him if he lives on the second floor, but I hold back, figuring that perhaps he has never heard of Susanne Vega.

I have a nice chat with my cousin Stefano, one of the Lucca relatives. He has to leave for Shanghai for work, so it turns out we can’t meet up. I have a dinner of Cotoletta alla Milanese and Patate Fritte and go to bed.

I wake up Saturday and wander through Lucca, catching the beautiful Romanesque duomo and other structures, not knowing what they are since I don’t have my guidebook with me. I decide I really like Piazza Napolean.. it’s large and rectangular, full of children chasing pigeons.

I know I have to leave soon for Milan and I am sad, as I really haven’t had the change to get to know Lucca better than I have. But I leave with quite a positive impression, and I know that I will definitely come back. The people here are just as kind as the people of Siena…and Lucca’s men are the most beautiful in all of Italy, if you ask me…(wink, wink)…

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