December 6th, 2004
Saturday morning I set out for coffee and a small walk before heading to Lucca, since I’m not sure when I’ll see Siena again. The rain is coming down in sheets and I’m not sure I’m looking forward to having to travel in such weather.
I struggle to fit everything into my suitcase and trudge off to Piazza Gramsci to catch a bus to Florence, where I will then take a train to Lucca.Â I’m happy and sad at the same time. Upon my arrival at the tabacco shop (where you buy bus tickets) I find that the owner has slipped away for a while to grab a cup of coffee. Gee, that’s nice. Luckily coffee only takes a few seconds here in Italy, and I don’t have to wait long.
On the train from Florence to Lucca, I realize with anguish that I’ve forgotten to stamp my train ticket in one of the yellow validation machines at the station. Knowing that this can result in my having to pay a nice fee, I get proactive and find the conductor to explain what I’ve done. Alas, I still have to pay 5 Euros but at least my conscience is clear.
My dear relatives Stefano and Gina pick me up at the station in a black beetle (one of the new ones) and we’re off to their apartment for pranzo, lunch. I’m feeling shy at first and struggling to adjust to their Lucchese accents, but they go out of their way to make me feel very welcome. Their apartment is lovely and spacious and full of paintings, as well as a very affectionate cat. I’m relieved to eat some home-cooked food. We dine on two different types of ravioli, as well as some cooked greens. It’s exciting for me to acquaint myself with “new” family members, and we’ve lots to talk about. Stefano is quite handsome, with dark hair, clear brown eyes, and an infectious smile. When he speaks he is animated and there is a friendly tone to his voice, making it pleasant to listen to him. Gina is simply beautiful, with a head of brown curly hair that I’m sure many must envy. Her manner is relaxed, and her speech is quiet…she is a doll.
Despite the miserable weather, it is decided that we shall drive to Pisa, as it’s not very far from Lucca at all. I am satisfied to see that the leaning tower does indeed exist and is in fact leaning. As the afternoon is so ugly, I regrettfully don’t take any photographs. To my surprise, it’s actually possible to go inside and climb to the top. Neither of us are too excited about that and opt to enter the cathedral for a peek around, followed by a stop at Piazza dei Cavalieri. I am particularly impressed with the Scuola Normale Superiore, and I shall now blantatly plagarize someone else’s description from virtualtourist.com, using the magical art of cutting and pasting.
Palazzo dei Cavalieri by Helga67
Description:This impressive building catches the eye the moment you enter the square. Palazzo dei Cavalieri has a beautiful faÃ§ade with above the door, the arms of the Knights of St. Stephen, and busts of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany. In front of the palazzo stands the statue of Cosimo I de Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany.The building was originally the knights’ military training quarters. Now, it houses the Scuola Normale Superiore, the institute of higher education founded by Napoleon in 1810. The Scuola Normale is unique in Italy in that only the best handpicked students are admitted to its courses. Many famous men have studied here, for instance, the first Italian who won the Nobel prize (1906)
After our quick peek-and-see journey to Pisa, Stefano takes me to the house of his parents, Anna and Dodicino, with whom I am to stay for 2 nights. As soon as I enter the house, they dote on me like I’ve never been doted on before and we are soon joined by other relatives who live next door, Graziella and Gianfranco. We are all happy to finally meet each other, and the energy is high. We gather in the livingroom and they are full of questions. Everyone is talking at once and while I’m ecstatic to know my relatives in Italy, the experience is a little intense for me. There is a big discussion on what I like to eat for breakfast, and nobody seems to believe that I’m perfectly content with bread and jam.
Before we meet Gina back at the apartment for dinner, Stefano takes me on a walk through the centre of Lucca, which is just what the doctor ordered for me. I enjoy having this time with my cousin (actually, his mother is my grandmother’s cousin, so I’m not sure exactly what we are, but I’ll just call him my cousin), and I hope to have more of these moments. I’m rather embarrassed because the heels of my boots are so loud against the wet concrete, and the centre isn’t all that busy, so I am pretty obvious. At their apartment we dine on squid in a red sauce, first on bread, then with spaghetti. Gina is amazing in the kitchen, though she doesn’t seem too quick to agree. That evening, they take me to my first fashion show, where a friend of Gina’s is exhibiting her designs. The show is in a warehouse, full of loud music and models as big around as sewing needles and as tall as giraffes. The clothes are fun and eclectic, and it’s an amusing experience for me. Being the person I am, I find myself critiquing the models (‘this one walks too sloppy’, ‘that one turns too fast’). Before I know it, the show is over and Gina and Stefano have taken me back to the house of Anna and Dodicino.