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Travel Journal: Italy, Day 5

Yesterday we decided to stay in Lucca and explore some more. We started by taking the walkway by our apartment up onto the wall that surrounds the central city. D & D have said that its about the size of Lake Calhoun in circumference, which is hard to believe.

As a tourist, the walls are nice (in the same way I've heard the canals in Venice are nice) beacuse they keep you contained - you can wander around for as long as you want with no fear of getting lost. We got nearly all the way around - a great way to start the day - when Doris called to see if we wanted to go to Pontedera (where the Piaggio factory and museum is) in the afternoon, then to Montecatini for dinner.

With our new plans, we decided to come down from the wall and check out a few of Lucca's towers. We started at Torre Guinigi, a tower with trees growing out of the top. We climbed up, and got a stunning view of the city - terra cotta rooftops, balcony gardens, and all the citizens of Lucca on their way home for lunch. Everyone here closes up shop at 1pm sharp and doesn't come back until 4pm sharp. Then, they reopen until 8pm - at which time everyone clears out for dinner. One minute the streets are bustling, the next it's a ghost town. It's rather unfortunate for us beucase we've been getting a late start (I say no alarm clocks on vacation unless absolutely necessary), so by the time we're hitting our stride, everyone's closing down. Ah, who cares - it's vacation!

Okay, so we left the first tower and went a few blocks over to the Torre del Ore. It's a taller tower, built by the city with a clock and bells on it. We climbed the 207 stairs (which look like they haven't been inspected for safety since the 1100s) and checked out the inner workings of the clock (super cool - all the little gears and stuff just like in action movie clocktower fights, except not as big).

The top of the tower was great as well - J said, "Wouldn't it be great if the bells went off while we were up here?" Sure enough, a few minutes later...BONG....BONG...thank God it was only 2pm. When the bells went off it made me vibrate like something from a cartoon.

After we checked out the towers it was time to find lunch and head to Tofori. We went to Turandot (same place we got sandwiches the other day) and went to the Mulino.

We spent forever in the car to Pontedera, and I kept dozing off like a toddler. I feel like my jet lag had mostly worn off, but I do get very strange and powerful nap urges at strange times of day.

Once we finally got to Pontedera, it turned out the Museo Piaggio isn't open on Tuesdays! Bah.

We hung around Pontedera for a while, but there isn't much to see there (it's a pretty blue-collar town), and with my current state of (un)employment I'm not much in the mood for shopping.

Our next destination was Montecatini, where Doris & Doug got married a few years ago (my family went, except for Austin and I - who had neither the money nor the vacation time). The city itself is a famous spa town - Montecatini Terme. "Terme" (Tare'-may) refers to thermal baths.

We continuted past there and up the hill to Montecatini Alto, which looks like it's straight out of the movies! Well, many things here look like they're out of a movie, but this...even more so: a gently sloping cobblestone street with a statue at the top, narrow streets branching off from it, and restaurants with outdoor tables lining both sides. All of it lit like a movie set with streetlights suspended from wires hanging above us.

We ate at the Teatro di Risorti, where D&D had their wedding reception. We met the chef, Fulvio, and his wife and their daughter (who was our waitress). While we were having dinner, no less than THREE tour groups came walking up the street, mostly senior citizens from Germany.

Ok, the food report:
Breakfast: Creusli & rice milk again. No tea, as we're not supposed to be drinking the water because of the blackout.

Lunch: My new favorite - the Caprese sandwich. I'm very proud of myself for stumbling through Italian well enough to get the people at Turandot to make Jeremy a sandwich with tuna (tonno) and no cheese (senza formaggio). A funny side note: once they figured out what I wanted I saw them take a Caprese sandwich, put it on a plate, and bring it to the back kitchen. A few minutes later, a tonno panini came out. It took me a minute to figure out that they just took the mozzarella out and replaced it with tuna. God, I love Italy.

We also picked up a bag of anise chips from the market. They're hard to describe, but apparently they're a specialty of Lucca. They're similar in taste to fortune cookies, but thinner and with a definite anise flavor. They're flat and round, though they sometimes fold and curl during the cooking process. They're yummy.

Dinner: Dinner was a special type of pizza in Montecatini. I can't remember what it's called, but I had a buffalo cheese and tomato pizza that was amazing. Once again, very simple ingredients with an extraordinary taste. The crust, like much of the bread I've had my sandwiches on, was crusty and lightly salted. There was a base of olive oil, a bit of buffalo cheese (this is apparently mozzarella made from water buffalo milk. How does one milk a water buffalo?), then covered with a generous layer of overlapping slices of tomato. Doris and I shared some local white wine, then after dinner we each had a small glass of Sambuca. My first taste - it's quite good!

Another wonderful day on vacation. I'm trying not to worry about money, or about what I'm going to do with my life when I get home. Or how broke I'm going to be. Gaah.

Posted October 1, 2003 11:54 AM