yesterday was hot. i mean like 92 degrees hot in a country that, on principle, disdains air conditioning. i left the house early in the morning to walk three squares over, in hopes of getting a manicure and pedicure with the only manicurist in town. i thought i was pretty used to the way the piazzas in lucca transformed themselves overnight into every thing from flea markets to sports venues, but i was shocked when i walked into piazza napolean, the largest square in lucca. it had been completely converted to a giant outdoor entertainment arena, with bleachers, an enormous stage and lighting, all in preparation for the lucca summer music festival. it begins on the 29h with a concert by tom petty.
at any rate, after checking the arena out, i continued on to the hair salon, arriving ten minutes later, dripping wet, only to be told that the manicurist was not in that day and they were not sure when she was coming back. i put my “ballet slippers” and “lalapalooza” nail polish back in my purse and headed home.
having been invited, by the parents of a business associate of howard’s, to dinner last night at their converted farmhouse, in the hills about twenty minutes outside of lucca, we were renting a car. it was too hot to go anywhere exploring, and we had both decided that we probably shouldn’t try to deal with the crowds at the beach in forte dei marmi. by the time we had walked, in the blazing heat, to avis, we had convinced ourselves that maybe we would just drive around in the car, with the a.c. on high, and just kill time until dinner. then, while waiting in line at the car rental, we met this charming couple from melbourne, who told us what an amazing time they had had, the day before, at the beach. the totally empty beach. apparently, regardless of the weather, italians do not go to the beach until the season begins, and the season doesn’t begin until july. that was all we needed to hear. we jumped into our rented alfa romeo, raced back to the apartment for our bathing suits, and were on the beach by 12:30. paradise.
after lunch, a beautiful salad with a view of the sea, we were escorted to our piece of beach. for 40 euros ($60.00), we were given an umbrella, two beach chairs, and two flat canvas “sun beds”. we declined the offer, for 25 euros (35.00), for towels. there are hundreds of beach clubs, next to each other, up and down the coast. each club has different colored umbrellas and chairs, but they are all lined up exactly the same, with rows of chairs and umbrellas as far as the eye can see, in every direction.
after we settled in and looked around, we realized there were only about twenty people at our club, that could easily hold two hundred. it was blissful. the air, while still warm, carried a soft breeze and under the shade of the umbrella the temperature was perfect. when we walked down to the water, that too was a perfect temperature. getting wet, with no towel, was not a problem. by the time we made it back to our chairs we were practically dry.
reluctantly, we left the beach at four in order to get home, shower, change and make our way to dinner in ponte a mariano. amazingly enough, we followed the directions given us, and arrived right on time, at the piazza where we were meeting our host, who was then going to lead us to his home. at seven o’clock, we were still driving in bright sunshine, and as we traveled up and up the narrow, winding mountain road (there are lots of narrow, winding mountain roads in italy) we couldn’t help but be struck by the views. my only problem was trying to keep howard from over – admiring the views and driving off the side of the mountain.
15 minutes later we arrived at their two hundred and fifty year old farmhouse. after listening to their renovation horror stories, and still dizzy from the ride up the mountain, i was cured of all fantasies of buying an ancient farmhouse, in a quaint little town, and retiring to italy.
our hosts were warm and gracious. the wife was an excellent cook and dinner, washed down by two bottles of wine, was delicious. we couldn’t believe it, when we looked at the clock to see that it was past eleven. while our host had led us up the mountain, apparently getting down was up to us. he pointed us in the right direction, but on a different road than we had come up. “this road is a little bit steeper but much faster than the road i led you up. and it is so late, you probably won’t run into any oncoming traffic”. a little bit steeper? the hairpin turns were so narrow, that twice we had to back up in order to make the turn at all – once backing into a giant boulder. but we made it home, returned the car and were in bed by midnight – exhausted but filled with memories of yet another amazing, but hot day, in italy.