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A Trip to Italy (and maybe some runs) Part 5, Lucca and Puccini

The narrow road to town

When this trip first came on the radar, I had one thought: opera. After considerable research, it came down to two words that go together SO well: Lucca, Puccini. SO, it was on and today, Monday was the day.

My morning began with a run down the hill into town and around. Two things about this were important. 1) The town is cute with maximum charm and 2) I could recon the right move so that getting “lost” would become a thing of the past. Well, success on number 1, ehhhh, maybe a couple more days until the route became second nature. As runs go at this time of my life, it wasn’t bad. My knee lived through 7 miles despite the long climb back, and I was ready to meet the rest of the day.

We loaded up two cars (hey, I have AC in mine!), and headed for Lucca, a wonderful town about 15 miles to the West. After negotiating the challenge of paying for public parking, and prepping for the heat (it was going up to like 95), we were on our way to a day within the walls of Lucca.

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Lucca was founded by the Etruscans in around 180BC. It was, in fact, the site of the alliance known as The First Triumvirate, a political agreement between Julius Caesar, Pompay, and Crassus in 60 BC. Go ahead, look it up! Anyway, Lucca sits within the Walls of Lucca which were built in the early 16th century. The Walls are intact today and surround the city. While we did not explore the walls on our walk that day, I would explore them a bunch the following day.

I LOVE LUCCA! I could have easily been convinced to rent a flat and hang out there for a long, long time. While it is loaded with classic cathedrals, piazzas and the usual drill, it had a much homier feel than Rome, Florence, or Siena. Having said that, our first Lucca meal experience left quite a bit to be desired.

Hot and thirsty, we dropped into a little place ticked in a corner of a dead end. Looked like the perfect place to hang out, have some great food, and enjoy a taste of Italy. Wrong, Wrong, Wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I know that Americans aren’t beloved in every corner of

the globe. And I know that every one of us has an invisible (to us) brand on our foreheads that must say “Obnoxious American,” but hey, that’s not me. I’m trying to peacefully get along, respect the locals, enjoy this wonderful area, and understand the greater good. AND…. don’t we still get a few points for getting rid of Mussolini? (Okay, sure, I rooted for Lance Armstrong to crush Marco Pantani at the Tour, but hey….).

The rest of the day, awesome. Fabulous shops (bought a silk Italian tie), great pottery, awesome old buildings all leading up to the goal, the opera. In the end, I walked another 6 miles. 

Lucca is the birthplace and home of Giacomo Puccini, one of my three favorite composers of opera. In his honor, every night, at the Church of San Giovanni, a “recital style” opera would be held. The theme would change with one night being A Night at the Opera, Puccini and Verdi, Puccini’s Women, and our performance, Puccini and Mozart. It did not disappoint.

There were three performers: an excellent pianist named Diego Fiorini, an engaging Soprano named Fabiola Formiga, and a booming Baritone, Michele Pierleoni. She came on for the first piece and sang like heaven. Just when I was positive it couldn’t get better, HE came on in a voice that ROCKED the place. They sang from Le Nozze di Figaro (Mozart’s finest in my opinion) and DonGiovanni while delighting us with Puccini’s Tosca, La Boheme, Le Violli…. among others (unfortunately no Madama Butterfly). WOW!

An outdoor dinner at the plaza near Chiesa di San Michele in Foro was the perfect end to a fabulous day/evening. The opera made me smile. I was able to wear the opera smile for a few days, and can even conjure it up right this moment.

All in all, the best day.