Situated about 45 minutes to the North West of Pisa is the fortified city of Lucca. Like most Italian cities, the origins of Lucca date back to the Roman era. The old town is encircled by intact walls from the Renaissance period.
These walls have been converted into pedestrianised areas so it is possible to walk around the whole town along the walls.
We arrived in Lucca on a rather gloomy afternoon and walked through pathways set inside the walls into the town. I was elated to find out that the town streets and squares were being used to host an Antiques Fair.
After spending the whole summer longing to stumble upon something like this at home, I had to travel to Italy to make my dream a reality – and all this without even planning it. Things could not be better. The only drawback was that there was no way I could take any of the big pieces home without breaking the bank in shipping costs. So I had to content myself with viewing and taking pictures of the wares and of the uniquely beautiful surroundings. Few Antiques Fairs can boast such a backdrop as the Pisan-Romanesque duomo of St Martin.
Like many other towns in Tuscany, the streets in Lucca are narrow and lined with high buildings. Stalls for the Antiques Fair were spread around in every possible nook and cranny but especially in the piazzas. All sorts of wares were on sale: china, mirrors, jewellery, carpets, linens, paintings, musical instruments, books …
Those of you who have been to yard sales or antiques fairs will not be surprised by this, but it was the first time I came across anything of this sort and I was literally mesmerized. I felt like taking the whole town with all its stalls back home with me but I have to content myself with the memories … and the photos …
Off the beaten track we came across the church of San Romano and then walked on to the main shopping area of Lucca situated around the church of San Michele and Piazza Anfiteatro. The church was built on the site of an old Roman forum and construction started in the eleventh century. The original intention was for the interior to be much higher but money ran out so part of the façade of the church sticks out into the air like a disused prop from the movies.
The elliptical Piazza Anfiteatro is built on the site of the old amphitheatre and the buildings form an oval around a large central space.
The shopping streets around the piazza were bursting with people doing shopping or just out for a stroll and a chat in that typical Mediterranean way that I know so well.
Another attraction in Lucca is the house of composer Giacomo Puccini, who lived there for a number of years. Puccini’s house is open to the public but snooping around the antiques fair took too much time and there was none left over to go and find the house.
As dusk fell and the shops and restaurants turned on their lights, the golden glow from the premises created patches of light on the darkening streets, reminding me of those bygone days when weary travelers would look for the glow emanating from some inn or tavern to rest and eat.
And like the weary travelers of old, we made our way to a nice restaurant to eat a delicious plate of pasta washed down with some cool Chianti.
Leaving the city through the old deserted passageways and tunnels in the walls, I could understand what it felt like to walk around hundreds of years ago in the dark streets with flickering street lamps as the only source of light.
I had walked towards Lucca with some trepidation as I was not aware of its charms but I walked away with the promise to return for a longer stay.