i have finally identified the smell that surrounds lucca. it is the very faintest whiff of a blend of wisteria, night blooming jasmine and tomato sauce. it is everywhere you go and it is intoxicating. there is also a sound to lucca. absent of any mechanical noises such as cars, buses, or jack hammers what you hear a lot of are birds, or in our case, what we thought was just one bird. there a a song bird that lives in our garden and just always seems to be there, but not in an annoying way. she always seems to be singing but we only seem to hear her when we are in the mood for her. the other day we were in the garden looking up in the tree attempting to get a glimpse of her, when we ended up meeting our neighbor carolina instead. carolina, in her very broken english, told us that she was seventy-five years old and that she was born in her house in lucca and she planned to die there (though not in the next three months we were hoping). she said that she had heard that california was a very nice place but probably not as nice lucca. we told her they were both beautiful but very different. we invited her to come visit california. she laughed. we said good-bye to our neighbor and our elusive song bird and went out to find the guinigi tower.
the guinigi tower is a medieval tower with trees growing on top. it is quite a climb up, thank god for all those hours at the gym, but just as i got to about fifty steps to the opening the stairway got really, really narrow and my two old friends, claustra and phobia joined me. i had to turn around and walk back down leaving howard and about twenty-five german tourists to enjoy the view together. after howard emerged, we were wondering the streets when we suddenly heard a song bird of a different type. the most beautiful baritone was poring out of the door of an ancient building on a tiny street. of course we couldn’t resist. we poked our head in and there we met matteo. matteo is a young opera singer who had trained in the church school next door. after traveling the world singing, he has returned to lucca and is trying to resurrect this de-sanctified church (with the help of his friends and family) and turn it into a performance space. he invited us to a party and performance the following night and of course, we are going. he also told us that the maestro, who gave the free concert in our square the other night, is universally disliked by everyone one in lucca. i was happy to see that even in italy, my bullshit detector was still working.
after meeting with matteo, we went to the market where howard bought yet more cheese (thank god for crestor) bread, orange juice, water,ham and other essentials and headed home for a home cooked lunch and a nap. after our nap we headed out once again, this time for yet another small miracle in our square. we discovered, in our wall, a tiny machine that spits out money. now, at home, we would call that an atm machine. that is what they are called here as well, but all atm machines we have ever seen, were attached, in some way, somehow, to a bank. this machine, in the piazza san giovanni, just floats there, by itself, giving out money. a miracle, no?