Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lucky in Lucca...

I know many of you wonder why on earth I chose to live in Lucca over anywhere else in Italy (or the world for that fact). If you want to go back to the first blog I ever wrote, you’ll find out what helped me to decide to come here to work. But, if I didn’t have to work ever again, I would still want to live in Lucca. I will try and add at least one tidbit about Lucca in every blog to help you understand why…

First and foremost, Lucca is beautiful. There is so much to see and do here and even though many people are finding out more and more about it, it is still fairly tourist-free. It is a very sophisticated little city with many amazing designer clothing shops, mouthwatering specialty food shops, coffee bars, and its fair share of churches and towers. And, it is very much Italian. Very few shop owners or staff speak English and if you don’t know Italian, good luck to you. Thank goodness I’ve been learning for quite a while so I get by fairly well.

And, since Lucca is still considered a small city, don’t even think about trying to find a store open before 4:00 p.m. on Mondays or after 1:00 p.m. on Wednesdays. The stores are generally open the remaining days (except for Sundays) from about 9:30 in the morning until 1:00 in the afternoon, then closed from 1:00 to 4:00 or 4:30 for lunch. They reopen at that time and close around 7:00 p.m. during the winter months – until 8:00 when it’s tourist season. The majority of stores are closed on Sundays. That means if I need any food items for Sunday or Monday morning, I’ll need to be at the store no later than 6:30 p.m. on Saturday. Don’t even think about being in the store at actual closing time!

Now, some of you are probably wondering why I think this is cool. Now that I’ve lived here a while I’m used to the schedule and have learned to adapt. It’s nice to know that I have to be fairly on a schedule and also nice to know that if I don’t want to be disturbed during the hours when everyone else is at home, I can be alone.

When I go out (which is often), there are several cultural and special events happening in Lucca each month. This month, there is a Camellia flower exhibition; a gardening exhibition; many, many concerts, an Italy Sudoku Championship; and an exhibit celebrating 700 years of the famous local manufacture of terracotta featuring masterpieces by Brunelleschi, Della Robbia, and Desiderio di Settignano.

The Summer Festival in Lucca in July is always a huge hit for people all over the world. A few of this year’s headliners are Anastasia, Lenny Kravitz, Franz Ferdinand, James Taylor, John Fogerty and Burt Bacharach.

Speaking of concerts, one of my pet sitters is a young woman who is also a harpist. She has been playing with many symphonies in the area and was asked by the Portuguese Symphony to fill in for two weeks while their harpist was on maternity leave. She returned on Sunday and her harp is still in my living room where it’s been since I left back in December. She’s been coming to practice a couple of times daily and it’s like having my own private concert. The dogs sit on the sofa next to her and begin grooming each other and promptly fall asleep the second she starts playing.

I made brownies from scratch this week and the Italians loved them! The women are just like American women in that as they were tasting each bite, they were trying to determine what ingredients were in them. I found the perfect gelato – fiordilatte (flower of milk) – to top them with and it was a perfect match.

I didn’t want to risk eating the rest of them all by myself so I took the balance upstairs to my lovely neighbor to share with her rowdy students. She was so pleased that I got lots of kisses and last night she knocked on my door to give me something she made from scratch as a thanks for my generosity. She told me it needed to be put in the refrigerator when it cooled down so I’ve yet to taste it. It faintly smelled of pot roast gravy and I had a friend taste it to make sure it wasn’t. Most of you know I am a vegetarian so that would have been totally gross if I had actually eaten it.

How did I get lucky this week? I started my first private English lessons and they have been a huge success. I will be teaching two students four times a week for an indefinite period. I also posted my ad all over town and expect to get a large response since many business owners are preparing for the tourist season.

And, the long awaited date with Marco finally happened. I met him before I left for the States and he patiently sent me text messages and e-mails asking when I’d be returning home. We’ve had two dates now and he seems like a very nice guy. He is Italian and was raised in the States. He spent every summer in Italy from the time he was 6-months old and moved here permanently about five years ago. So, he’s Italian and speaks perfect English so it’s nice to be able to communicate freely.

Now for the first tidbit: Lucca is the birthplace of composer Giacomo Puccini (La Boheme and Madama Butterfly). There are many statues, restaurants, shops and buildings dedicated to him throughout Lucca and this year they are having the first festival dedicated specifically to Puccini. Concerts and recitals featuring Puccini’s music are being held every day of 2009 in his honor. In fact the “Puccini e la sua Lucca” festival is considered the only permanent festival in the world.

Oh, and girls...the hot colors that are "in" right now are all shades of lavender and a beautiful coral.