Today was our smoothest travel day yet. We got ready, packed, and cleaned the apartment as we had done twice before. I missed Florence even before we had stepped out our door. Passing the duomo for the last time was a difficult thing to do, and we stole a couple final glances over our shoulders as we headed northwest toward the train station. Our packs were heavy but manageable, and the heat was much more bearable than yesterday. Straight to a self service station we went after entering the noisy station, knowing the drill by now. The first machine we tried did not accept cash, and the second required almost exact change, but eventually we had a ticket and were prepared to decipher which platform our train would arrive on. I checked one of the stationary boards nearby and found that platform 5 was the one we needed, heading to Viareggio, Lucca being the second to last stop. The train wouldn't depart for almost another hour, so we hunkered down against a wall near track 5 and ate our lunch of salami and rice cakes. Around a quarter to 1:00, the train still hadn't come in to the station, so we double checked the live display boards and found that the platform had changed to track 8. It was already in position, so we verified our ticket and boarded the train. The cargo shelves overhead were too small for our bags, and anybody else's, so we had to set them on the seats across the aisle. Thankfully the train was fairly empty so we didn't feel bad taking up extra seats. We offered the floor space below our bags to some American women who were struggling to find space for their luggage.
The train ride lasted less than an hour and a half. I caught up only a bit on my journals before the train slowed into Lucca's station. We hopped off, descended below the tracks and back up to street level, then attempted to get our bearings with the map. Eventually we simply decided to use our intuitions, which were much more helpful than the Google map directions we had printed. As we walked further, we soon realized that we were currently outside the city walls, which, preceded by a green, manicured lawn, rose up rustically before us. We followed a gravel path around a bend in the wall, and were faced with another wall. As we continued, we discovered a tiny door in the brickwork which was in fact the opening to a tunnel which spiraled lazily back toward the city. Another doorway and a short stairwell later, we stood atop the Lucca city wall, which was lined with sturdy birch trees, split in two by a bike path. Even our first impressions of Lucca were positive. Again we put away the map and let our previous research and instinct lead us to the apartment. It was no difficult task to find the antiques fair we had been anticipating, as it was spread out among the streets and small piazzas within a five-block square radius. With glances at items calling for closer inspection, we made our way between the white tents and ristorante tables to via Cenami. We had no trouble finding our apartment number, and pressing the button beside the door, were let inside. Past the dark entryway, we stood at the fork between a stairwell to our right and an open courtyard with an elevator to our left. Fortunately, a man was exiting the elevator just as we looked out, who motioned us in, and turned a key to send the elevator to the second floor. We stepped out onto a small entryway which opened into several rooms, and were greeted by Claudio, the manager. He spoke quite decent English and was rather friendly as he showed us two options of rooms we could take. We opted for an attic room, which is small but unique, with a low slanted ceiling which you have to watch out for while using the bathroom. He gave us a map with a list of local restaurant recommendations, and the wifi password, which was most helpful. Breakfast is also provided in the morning, and fruit and water are also complimentary.
After settling in a bit, we headed down to the street to tackle the antiques fair. The number of tents packed into such small spaces was amazing in itself, but the amount of items laid out beneath each tent was the most surprising and intriguing. We only sampled a portion of the fair, but the range of items we saw was great. From glass vases to war memorabilia.
Ultimately, we spent close to an hour sifting through hundreds of old post cards, searching for ones of our cities which suited our fancy. The older the better. In the end, we found great treasures from the 1920's - 40's of five cards, Rome, Siena, Florence, Lucca, and Paris. The oldest is marked at the year 1925. Each is not laminated, with the wear of time and the intrigue of some Italian citizen's scrolling inkwork on the back. All for €5. What a great find. I plan to frame them together when we return to the states.
As the vendors began to zip up their tents and cover their treasures in tarps, we followed Claudio's directions on the map to find a good place for dinner. The first place we tried didnt open for dinner until 7:00, and as it was 6:30, we tried the next place, called Gnam Gnam. It's a very interesting, modern place with excellent food. I ate something similar to my meal of last night, and Erik finally got his sufficient portion of lasagna. A very filling meal of high quality.
Dessert was a bit harder to find. I've been hankering for some panna cotta since I've only had it once in Rome, and it took us a couple circuits around the area to find a place that sold it. It was completely worth the wait. Possibly the best I've had. Though I still had the munchies evens after dinner and dessert, we strolled slowly back to our place on Al Tuscany, where I was finally able to update my blog. If our short day here is any sign, I am looking forward greatly to our time in Lucca.