sundays in lucca are very special. yesterday morning we awoke to find that an entire children’s village had been built in our piazza, courtesy of barilla pasta. the company, as a publicity stunt, was giving out free biscuits, coffee and juice, had a center set up for children to color, and a very special kitchen for children’s cooking classes. needless to say the piazza was jammed. the village remained today, and so when we left our apartment this morning we were greeted with the squeals of happy children. a very pleasant sound on a sunday morning. i don’t know what they put in the milk here, but we have not once, heard a crying baby or a toddler throwing a tantrum. i just think italian babies are so doted on, without being spoiled, that they have nothing to cry about. on saturday nights, at ten o’clock, the whole town is out, walking around socializing, including babies and children of all ages, and you do not hear or see one cranky child. amazing.
at any rate, the next square over from our piazza was a craft fair that took over two piazzas. i bought a really adorable handmade dress for magnolia. we kept walking and about two piazzas later we came upon piazza san michel. the entire piazza had been turned into a toy wonderland. there were all kinds of games and activities for anyone who wanted to participate. there were pogo sticks and stilts and board hockey and building blocks and fishing games and bean bag tosses and on and on. there were lots of people playing, of all ages, and very few were tourists. it was just a sunday, family day in lucca.
after our afternoon nap, we went for a long walk ending up in lucca’s botanical garden. not a “not to be missed” attraction, but it was such a beautiful day, that wandering under the beautiful specimen trees, and sitting beside the carp pond, made up for the lack of excitement. on the way home, we passed piazza napoleon. piazza napolen is the largest piazza in lucca and the site of it’s summer music festival. this year they are expecting tom petty, nora jones, and tony bennett, just to name a few, so you can imagine the size of this square. today they were having a flag throwing contest. in every tuscan town we have ever been there is a tradition where they dress men and boys, in the dead of summer, in the hottest costumes they can find. they are medieval outfits of velvet, with long sleeve, high neck shirts and tights. if that weren’t warm enough, they top the whole look off with large floppy, velvet hats. dressed this way, they march around whatever square they happend to be in, to the accompaniment of a drummer and then they proceed to throw giant flags in the air. two and three at a time. it is a form of juggling and they are judged on their abilities. i must admit that after the first two or three times you see a flag thrower, the thrill is gone, but somehow, they still seem to draw a crowd.
we walked quickly past the flag throwers in a hurry to get to piazza garibaldi where a crowd had already gathered in front of our favorite gelato shop. this is the best part of the day. mothers, fathers, grandparents, and teenagers all get together around four-thirty for a gelato break. there are tables and benches set out, under giant umbrellas, and everyone sits, to see and be seen, and eat their sweet treats. howard has me convinced that since there is no cream or eggs in gelato, it is not fattening and i am willing to believe him.