After our Hungarian travel adventure, Italy was the quintessential chill pill. That’s not to say it lacked drama, however, for in an annoyingly characteristic manner I goofed up reading the Rome to Florence train schedule and we missed our train. No biggie, as there was another one in 45 minutes. Due to an Italian rail strike, however, that train didn’t connect well with our local ride to Lucca and required us to spend a couple hours lunching at a fabulous trattoria across the Arno in Florence. Nice problem to have.
Our arrival in Lucca was around dusk, and the AirBnB accommodation was perfectly situated for 3 days of walking around and reconnecting with this ancient town. The host even left us a nice chianti on the table for all our troubles. The focus of this stop was to revisit the small town of Cerasomma, a 15-minute bus ride from Lucca, to research in and around the birthplace of Sooney’s great grandfather, Salvatore Granucci. We then planned to rendezvous with Alicia who spent the week visiting friends near Siena. Our current genealogical information on Salvatore is limited to an obituary from a SF newspaper we found online and a gravestone we visited in a previous visit to SF. The headstone memorializes him and his wife, Candelaria Estrada, and his birthdate conflicts by several years with information written in the obit. Hence our desire to learn more at the source, perhaps even seeing original birth records and the such. No such luck. We did, however, have a lovely walk into the nearby hills and met another Granucci at a local bar who told us all about his immigrant family members who settled in South Africa. No connection.
We had a couple days in in Lucca with beautiful weather and in no time familiarized ourselves with the commune’s layout. Late afternoon sunlight illuminates the town brilliantly and walking upon the ramparts surrounding the town was a daily occurrence. Years earlier we’d visited as a family and attended a memorable 3-hour concert by Neil Young. He performed in a large piazza and was into his “grunge” period featuring angry, loud and definitely non-Italian sounds. Sooney stuffed her ears with tissue and lamented how difficult it must have been for the residents of the apartments enclosing the piazza. At the time, we speculated his anger may have been exacerbated by the controversial G-8 summit being held concurrently in Genoa where an Italian youth was killed during a demonstration. After a break and to a significantly smaller crowd, he returned to play an absolutely gorgeous set of his acoustic tunes. We walked right up to the the stage and sang along.
On this visit our live music was a little opera and never enough of Alicia singing her lovely songs. While in Lucca, a highly talented soprano and baritone had their well-intended operatic performance compromised by the terrible acoustics of the concert hall—a repurposed church with 360° stone surfaces bouncing music everywhere but into our hearts. We’d arrived earlier and settled into a nearby wine bar for a glass of the local red. While reading the program notes for the upcoming concert, our waiter surprised us by serving an antipasto tray that we’ve learned is a standard fare in both Italy and France. These late afternoon aperitif events have become a regular pastime, not only to sit and enjoy passersby but to tide us over until a typically late Italian dinner. Following the performance, we walked around looking for a highly-recommended restaurant and were surprised to have to wait, even at 9:30. But that’s the way locals eat in Lucca and it gave us some time to wander around the quiet streets, the hard soles of my racy Italian sandals reverberating off the stone pavers.