Tuesday, May 24; Camigliano. We’re more than a little embarrassed that so much time has passed since we arrived in Lucca without a post. In part, that’s because we were exhausted from our labors. The first task on arrival is to open up the villa, cleaning out the nine months of mouse droppings (and worse, if a bird has made its way down a chimney) and accumulated dirt. Given the centuries-old, uneven stone floors, this means vacuuming and mopping every room we plan to use — and a path to the rear bath where the shower is located. That takes about three days if we don’t want to kill ourselves (which we don’t!).
We can hardly complain about the weather, however. We left Cambridge after a week of cloudy, rainy weather in the 50s and stepped into a full week of sunny, 85 degree splendor.
But let’s back up! We left Boston on Swiss International at 9:40p with perhaps the smoothest trip yet. Thanks to Deb’s quick thinking, we realized that we had bought our tickets before they changed their baggage policy to one 50lb bag per person; so we were able to bring four in all and we really didn’t take full advantage of it. Nonetheless, we had a great deal more than last year:
The only disadvantage of Swiss Int is that one changes in Zurich where the prices are breathtaking, as we discovered two years ago when visiting. This time we paid what is without a doubt the record-breaking price for a cappuncino at the airport: 5.85 euros (that’s $8.50). Good thing we’d packed some deviled eggs for breakfast!
Once at the villa, we unpacked the kitchen and washed the dishes! Note the wonderful old stone sink (placed about knee-high for Americans but just right for turn-of-the-century Italian widows) with the clever dish pan arrangement.
Our tradition is to have our first meal at our favorite local restaurant, Corallo in Porcari, twenty-years ago an overnight stop for long-haul truck drivers, but now rather more spiffy.
Always good food, including our favorites: spaghetti alle vongole:
and pizza con mascarpone, speck e rucola.
We had a couple of nice visits with our wonderful friend and helpmate, Beate, a German woman of extraordinary language skills who has spent the past 26 years in Lucca, lately as a primary person at the local tourist office. We joined her for a quick meal in Lucca (Piccolo Mondo self-service):
and enjoyed a lovely dinner with her at the villa when she recounted the fabulous long trip she took through the US in 1964.
We went on Thursday to the Lucca Vespa dealer and picked out our scooter for our travels: a 300cc “Super” with every available luggage rack. (photos when we pick it up!) Deb was particularly pleased to have a new helmet since our old ones had seen better days.
On Sunday, we agonized over whether to return to our favorite “serious” restaurant, Cecco in Pescia, founded in 1906 and since then the go-to place for your wedding reception or other serious occasion. Highly professional waiters and very good food but we’d had a disastrous experience there last year with the proprietor’s unruly children screaming at the next table. In the end, we did go and had a lovely meal: asparagus risotto:
capeletti in brodo:
and our favorite pollo al mattone (their specialty):
If that chicken doesn’t look like much you need to imagine a crisp skin (quite evident) with meltingly soft and juicy interior, well marinated and quickly cooked in a very hot iron frying pan under a heavy brick. (We’ve tried to duplicate this at home but American chickens are too thick to make it work; perhaps we should try guinea hens.)
We had several trips into Lucca where we enjoyed our favorite stand-up pizza slice joint, Felice’s (can you find us in this picture?):
They make a Tuscan specialty, cecina, a chickpea flatbread:
as well as the most delicious generic pizza you’ve ever tasted; how they can raise something so ordinary to such a superior level is for me a real mystery.
More very soon! (We’re off with Antonio to pick up the Vespa; since non-residents can’t own motor vehicles in Italy, he has to be the formal owner!)