Saturday, March 28, 2009

Camellia Festival and More...

Lots of stuff has been happening these past few weeks. I lost my two new English students because their restaurant is opening full-time and, through them, I gained new students. The newest student knows no English so it should be lots of fun. He is an architect here in Lucca and as a world-wide business traveler, decided to learn English because he is sick of having people translate for him.

I also met with a few women that may be able to help me in my field of design. They were referred to me by Italian-American friends. Since most of you know that interior design is my passion and one of the main reasons I moved to Italy, I was thrilled to make these new connections.

I started an online group when I first moved to Lucca to meet fellow expatriates and local folks who want to meet Americans. Through it, I’ve met some really nice friends.

A new friend and group member, Maria, has been visiting from the States and is staying nearby at her friend’s bed and breakfast. Maria and I have been very busy walking all around town and trying small cafes and wine bars. We found a great little deli that has the most amazing Zuppa di Farro (Farro Soup) I have ever eaten. Zuppa di Farro is a local soup that is served at most restaurants in Lucca. What made this one special is their secret ingredient was truffles (the mushroom type – not the chocolate variety).

Last weekend, Maria and I went to the local Antiche Camelie della Lucchesia – the annual camellia festival – in S. Andrea di Compito. It was absolutely breathtaking! There were camellias growing all around the beautiful, quaint hilltop town. It took us at least 3-4 hours to complete the tour, which meandered through the little single-lane streets all over town. In one tented area, there were well over 300 varieties of camellias displayed in single vases.

This weekend, the tops of the fortress walls were closed in several places for the annual Verde Mura. There, local vendors were selling many types of plants, gardening supplies and beautiful items to place in your gardens. Lucca definitely has seasons and the locals take pride in being able to share the fruits of their labor (or in this case, flowers and plants).

I found out something very interesting today. Back in 2005, I came to Lucca with several other women on a tour with my friend and dream coach Serenella Leoni. Serenella has her own travel business – Toscana Mia, and arranges amazing trips to Tuscany.

On our 2005 trip, we were introduced to a woman who let us tour her palazzo (palace). It was really beautiful and we felt honored that she allowed us this privilege. Well…I found out today that the woman was my good friend Ilaria and the palazzo is her home! I met Ilaria after I moved to Lucca and speak with her every day. She is the sister of my other friend Margherita. It just goes to show you what a small world it is – especially in Lucca!

Serenella is also a columnist for the San Francisco Examiner in San Francisco. As a native Tuscan, her column is about all things Italian.

Serenella recently asked me to write an article about the life of dogs in Lucca. I am proud to say that she had my story published this week! It was really fun to be able to share pictures and stories about Ruby and Ginger, my little wiener dogs. They are truly loved here – by me and all the locals. As I explained in the article…I am just the person who holds their leashes.

And, now for your Lucca tidbit (taken from a local booklet on “What to See in Lucca”): “Lucca is one of the few cities in the world to preserve its enclosing walls intact. Out of all of the city’s treasures and characteristic features, the circle of walls is without a doubt one of the most fascinating and evocative elements of Lucca’s millennial history. Three subsequent and progressively wider boundary walls were built through the centuries, starting from the 3rd/2nd century BC.”

Yes, you read correctly – that’s BC, not AD!