Lucca, Italy – July 7 (Day 1):
Note: I had trouble with the blog-manager service provider. We hope the website is now working correctly!
In Florence we had to change trains …. from a high speed, reserved coach to a bunny hopping, scramble-on, multi-stop, 3rd class coach …… and we only had 3 minutes to run from platform 12 to platform 3 …… we made it! Actually the air conditioning on this train was better than the train we just got off.
When we got to Lucca it was 33°C (felt like 39° with humidity), so it was taxi time again …… no dragging luggage on these streets in this heat ….. 20 minute wait for a 5 minute drive.
We have to see Franco at the Puccini Hotel to get the keys for the VRBO suite. He assists us up the 70 stairs into the two floors of suite …… boy is it hot in the suite. Franco comes up again and helps turn off the heat so the air conditioning works properly….. yes the heat was on!
We wandered and ended up at a little restaurant called Osteria da Rosolo. Great meal, absolutely fabulous service ….. Salvatore kept us in stitches throughout the meal, joking and making many great recommendations. He was a great foil for Brian, Taylan and Christa – quick and as sharp as a tack! We highly recommend them for a meal …..
After dinner, we walked pass the main square and took pictures of the concert posters …….. major music festival going on with groups like Ringo Starr (and his “All Star” band), the Hollywood Vampires (Johnny Depp, Alice Cooper & Joe Perry), Lenny Kravitz, the Gorillaz, Roger Waters (from Pink Floyd), etc ….. quite amazing …… didn’t know it was on! Unfortunately, the acts available while we are here were sold out ….. not fair.
Even though it’s in the middle of the old city of Lucca, you can’t hear any of the concerts unless you are within 100 meters.
To cap off the evening, we watched the Russian / Croatia world cup soccer game outside, at a restaurant in the same square we are occupying. The game was interesting but not as interesting watching the rabid fans ….. the expressions were priceless! The Croatians won …. good for them.
To finish the travel day, I blog what we have done ….. apparently not tonight – the website website is not accessible to add the write up for the day. I’ll check it out tomorrow…… maybe.
(Finally fixed four days later …….)
Lucca, Italy – July 8 (Day 2):
Pisa day! …… not the food – the tower …… go there by local train – you have to admire the Italians resilience and ingenuity to travel this way day in and day out. It took us (Christa) a good twenty minutes to figure out the ticket machines – but we got there on time …… again it was extremely hot. We tried to stay in the shade as much as possible …… hard to do with so many open spaces.
The ingenuity comes with them knowing when and where they can jump the train without a ticket ……. so far, on all the local trains we have taken, no one has checked whether we had a valid ticket. It seems the only ones they check are the high-speed, inter-city trains, although the train to Cinque Terre appeared to have armed police when we took it a day later.
When we got to Pisa, we escaped at the San Rossore station …… pretty desolate – yet there were a lot of people getting on and off …… very hot again. The GPS said 770 meters, but it felt more like ¾ of a kilometer.
In front of the gate to the piazza, there were multiple vendors hawking all sorts of trinkets …. the usual trash, that tourists love. Once you (oops, just got interrupted by the ticket checker, wanting to validate our seats … pardon me for a minute) get through the gate – it’s dodge and weave through the numerous people taking their novelty photos (individual & group).
The tickets to book a time to climb to the top of the Leaning Tower can be purchased in the long brown building, at the second entrance on the right. Pretty straightforward …. pick a time, indicate the number in your party, pay and then wander until 10 minutes before your scheduled reservation.
At 10 minutes Line-up outside the tower entrance. Wait until called, go in climb the 251 steps to the top. Admire the view – take some pictures – return to earth. The price was very reasonable, 18€ to go up and 0€ to come down (I guess in case someone decides to come down the fast way without paying.) All money goes to the preservation of the monuments.
Our time was for 3:45 …… and we got the tickets at 2:20 so we calculated it was beer-o’clock ….. with munchies. The ladies did a spat of “catch and release”. The kids were more successful at “catch and land”. They got both large and small stuff for their buddies.
The view from the top is impressive and you don’t really notice the tilt (I’m inclined to believe). We got pictures of the town below from all angles and of course the six bells ….. the other tourists are very obliging to take your picture if asked, they’ll even use your camera if you loan it to them.
Note that they no longer ring the bells as the vibrations were causing structural damage. Don’t want it to topple it with people inside.
Legend has it that the gods were mad at the clergy and Zeus decided to teach them a lesson by pushing on the tower ……. to topple it, but then relented and let it stand.
From there it was back to the San Rossore station and try to figure our way back to Lucca ….. Christa managed it again with minutes to spare. The train was packed so we stood for a portion of the way.
Once back at home base, showers, freshen up and rest before dinner. We decided on a new place in what the locals call the coliseum (not) a circular opening surrounded by buildings with four arch ways for access. There must have been 15 open restaurants in the space ….. and to the delight of the kids, hundreds of geckos on the building walls.
Heading back by a circuitous route we come across a point where we can see and hear parts of the Ringo Star show just as they start playing “Yellow Submarine” …… again the kids are surprised and happy. Christa and Harlow put on their own little dance show …. bravo.
Afterwards, while the kids watched a movie – Brian, Shayne and Christa had a few Canadian Club night caps …… and chatted it up with two couples from England – Loraine, Michelle, Nick and “Brat”. Interesting stores (probably some woppers) were exchanged ….. a great time had bye all.
Lucca, Italy – July 9 (Day 3):
Third day started with a quick meal around the corner and then more train travel …. this time to Monterosso in the Cinque Terre. Three stop, two train changes and just over 2 hours time. Great sand on the northern beach. The kids loved it overall better than Venice’s Lido beach.
After a quick late lunch and some souvenir shopping, we jumped the boat to Vernazza …. just a short 20 minutes.
When we arrive we get to see some amateurs cliff diving (it’s not a cliff and it’s more like jumping) …. bravo to them! The whole boat applauded, disembarked …..
…. and we are doing more souvenir hunting. You have to realize this is not window shopping, most shops don’t have windows, just doors …. and door shopping just doesn’t sound right. When we’re shopped out it’s head to the train station to check out the schedule & price.
Christa’s default job now ….. which she performs very well ….. bravo Christa. She manages to get tickets for the next train scheduled in an hour and then convinces us to hop the train ….. we do have the tickets, even though it’s for an hour later …… besides it’s too crowded for the ticket agents to get through the train.
That was a full day ….. and they have the streets blocked for the festival, so we go back to the Coliseum area restaurants.
After the kids retire, the guys go for a beer … what else and to watch the semifinal World cup game (England & Croatia). Again interesting to watch the fans …… Croatia wins.
Lucca, Italy – July 10 (Day 4):
Last full day is relax and recoup day. The ladies want to shop …. Brian needs to fix the blog and Taylan & Harlow want books. So it’s divide and conquer …..
Brian works with the service provider to fix the blog – they did a program update that invalidated admin privileges for some users …. Brian’s site was one impacted …. after 70 minutes they decided the easiest fix was to restore a backup to Sunday ….. when that didn’t work they restored to Friday. Some of the blog and some picture were lost but could be re-added. Success! Now to catch up with the others and have some fun.
Late afternoon, while the ladies are still shopping Brian and Shayne take the kids to the old medieval tower (Torre Guinigi) with trees growing on top. It’s only 430 meters away and 241 steps to the top. Another hour spent, but well worth the effort.
After finishing catch and release we go to dinner …. and a band goes by dressed in traditional medieval costumes.
Medieval bands and flag bearers
More Medieval bands
It was as if they were preforming to give us a farewell sendoff. A nice way to end the night.
Lucca, July – July 11 (Travel Day):
Packed and ready by 9:00 so we can catch the 10:30 train to Florence to transfer to the Rome/Naples train at 12:38. At 9:45 panic starts as the taxis have not arrived …… the police have blocked all major roads for the Roger Waters concert. Finally one taxi arrives at 9:50. Just enough for the luggage and three people ….. the ladies insist they can walk while the guys and Harlow take the taxi. Their logic is the guys can manage the luggage better at the station, while Harlow is not well and they can carry her if necessary.
So they start walking and the taxi heads for the town exit ….. unfortunately with the major roads blocked, we end up going all the way around the old town walls – a taxi ride that should have be 8 minutes turns in to 30 minutes. The ladies arrive 2 minutes later, they were also blocked at every turn, having to take multiple detours.
Check the train schedule for platforms and hustle all the luggage and family through the underground to platform 4 …. with 5 minutes to spare. This leg of the train is unassigned seating, so we get as many together as possible ….. poor Harlow still not well and the heat & rocking train don’t make it any better.
We make it to Florence on time, but have to wait for the connection as it is 10 minutes late. Harlow is still ill so we rest as much as possible in the heat.
Finally the platform is posted and we can load our luggage on coach 10. In one and a half hours we land in Rome where the Grads get off for two days before they head home on Friday. Brian and Gerda continue on to Naples to catch the Hydrofoil for Sorrento.