Day 3 of the Italy trip found us heading north from Rome into the beautiful region known as Tuscany. Our first stop was the medieval town of Lucca with its defensive wall originally built to keep out the neighboring feuding village of Pisa.
Although entirely different from Rome, we loved this ancient city with its warren of narrow streets. The original village was founded by the Romans in 180 BC. The 4 kilometer wall that encircles the city center was built during the Renaissance era and remains intact. No longer used for protection, the top of the wall is now covered in grass and planted with trees. It is a popular place to walk and ride bicycles.
Our group dispersed as soon as we passed through the massive gates, everyone free to wander about, shop, and find lunch. Elissa, Dayan and I veered off to the left, in search of a café. Dayan wanted to try an Italian pizza. We found a delightful ristorante that offered great choices for all three of us.
Dayan’s assesment of Italian was that it was “interesting”. He declared it fresh tasting. And found it more difficult to eat than US pizzas. The crust was not crispy and he ended up folding the slices up to make less of a mess.
We were captivated by Lucca. Elissa and Dayan climbed one of the many towers within the city, the tallest one actually, with trees growing like wild hair on the flat roof. I remained below to take a pic. They had a great view of the town with its piazzas and cobblestone streets lined with three and four story buildings. Shops occupy much of the ground level spaces with living quarters above.
In spite of the antiquity of Lucca, the little shops offer a wide assortment of goods for sale, including name brand clothing, electronic gaming systems and everything in between. We enjoyed our time in this town that offers a peek into the distant past, while providing everything its citizens need to continue living in a thriving community.
The highlight of our evening was visiting a Tuscan farm, with vineyards and groves of olive trees. Fattoria Il Poggio produces a dozen red and white wines and extra virgin olive oil. We toured a vineyard, inspected 50 year old olive trees that are considered young, and learned how olives are cold pressed to create the oil.
We were then led to beautifully prepared tables set up outdoors in long rows beneath a protective roof, and served a five course dinner, made from fresh local ingredients, and accompanied by wine, olives and olive oil from the farm. We sat with our “family”, the 43 members of our tour group.
The night became magical.
As the food was brought out, course by course, and the wine was consumed freely, shyness with each other disappeared and we chatted and laughed together, like family members reunited after scattering around the globe. Dayan tried his first glass of wine, a dry white, and wasn’t impressed. He decided wine takes getting used to. He sipped on a small amount. This young man doesn’t need alcohol to lose his inhibitions about talking to people. He is naturally good at that, and conversed easily with our table mates.
However, some in the large group who have been extremely quiet or constrained opened up tonight and the meal was a merry event. And the food just kept coming. Our gracious tour director contacted the farm ahead of time and the chefs prepared the most extravagant five course plant based meal for me, offering gluten free bread and spaghetti and wonderfully flavorful veggies.While the others ended their meals with rich desserts and a sweet red wine, I had a delicious bowl of freshly chopped fruit. I was extremely grateful to Fattoria Il Poggio for the extra effort it took to make sure I dined healthily and well.
Day 3 ended with a bus full of talkative people headed back to our hotel, discovering how we are different from one another, and what we all have in common. Our desire to tour this gorgeous country is what has brought us together, in time and space, and that shared interest is forging connections that feel familial.
Tomorrow this newly forming family heads to Cinque Terre, five villages on the western coast most easily accessed by boat. It promises to be another glorious day in beautiful Tuscany…Toscana Bella.