ast i left you, over a week ago, howard was about to grill on our new bar-b-que. i am happy to report that we did not blow up the house and dinner was delicious.
the rest of last week was filled with new friends – jeanette and russell from manchester and regula. we met regula over a month ago. she and her husband live in switzerland but keep a home here in lucca. they spend about three months a year here, one month being july. she called us when she arrived and we decided to have dinner. she suggested we meet at her apartment for an apperitif before dinner. she lives just a few piazzas over from us, so we knew exactly where to go. when we rang her bell, a tiny wooden door, right on the street opened. as we stepped over the threshold, we left the cobblestoned streets of lucca and entered a page from architectural digest.
regula is an architect and interior designer. she had taken a former stable and silk factory and turned it into a stunning three bedroom flat. with the original, high, brick, coved ceilings with thick wooden beams and stone floors as backdrop, regula used her considerable talents to mix the old with the new in creating a fabulous space. her garden was amazing as well with pear and magnolia trees, a wide swath of lawn with all kinds of flowering and fragrant plantings. really a charming and amazing space. dinner was fun and ended with promises to do it again this week, when her husband arrives.
the rest of the week we spent around lucca, walking the wall, chatting with new friends, going to a free concert on the piazza napoleon, and just plain relaxing. on saturday, our friends ron and merle arrived and then the fun began. we have known ron and merle over thirty years and have always had a wonderful time together. we ate and drank and laughed a lot. on saturday night we listened to the nora jones concert with them from a special table at our favorite restaurant, giglio. the next morning we left lucca at 11 a.m. for the two hour drive to penzano, in chianti, for lunch at solociccia. solociccia is the restaurant started by dario the famous butcher of penzano. we have met him before, both in penzano and in california, and he is quite a character. his restaurant is a beautiful space, right across the narrow street from his butcher shop. it is only open a few days a week and you must make reservations well in advance. there are three or fours rooms, each with a communal table of fourteen. the menu is entirely meat, served with a diagram of a cow, showing exactly which part of the animal made up each dish served. we left, stuffed to the gills and was only able to have, hours later, a small gelato for dinner. the next day, we drove to a nearby medeaval village, montecarlo, for lunch, where ron ordered a liter glass of beer. i think you can tell by the photo that ron needs a crash course in weights and measures.
yesterday, after three nights with us in lucca, we drove with them to their next stop, pietrasanta. once there, we ate the best chicken any of us had ever eaten. the restaurant is just on the main square of the tiny city. it is called marcelleria and you had never tasted anything like it. howard and i had been there once before and were thrilled to have another go at the amazing dish.
after lunch and the requisite bottle of wine, we all went back to their hotel. they had a charming two room suite, just enough room for the four of us to each have a space to nap. after a one hour siesta, we made our way out to the nearest gelateria. after our snack we made our way to the main square to ogle and admire the amazing botero exhibit. the enormous statues loomed over the sunny square and seemed like the perfect spot for these incredible works. the exhibit continued into the nearby church where smaller pieces were displayed, as well as walls of botero’s paintings and drawings. while originally from colombia, botero calls pietrasanta home, and he is certainly a special addition to that city.
finally, at around 7 p.m., with much hugging and kissing, we bade farewell to our dear friends, and boarded the train to lucca. as luck would have it, we sat across from a young man from aberjerzan (i know i misspelled that but i don’t have the correct spelling. all i know is that is formerly part of the soviet union and borders the caspian sea.). a charming and fascinating young man who made the thirty-five minute ride home seem like nothing. as always, and we have said it over and over again, forget the food, wine, weather, monuments or shopping, it is the people we have met that have made this experience so extraordinary. not a day has passed that we have not met and connected with at least one amazing person. for example, the other day howard went for a bike ride. on his travels he ran into a friend, both literally and figuratively, and ended up on the ground. no damage done, just a skinned knee, but everyone around helped him up and back on his bike. about two hours later, howard was in the vegetable market when a total stranger came up to him and, with no english, somehow managed to convey that he had seen him fall, a few hours ago, and just wanted to make sure he was o.k. incredible!
a further example of the kindness and generosity of the lucca population, the other day our doorbell rang. it was benedetta, our landlord’s daughter. she came to tell us that she was going out of town for two weeks and would not be here when we left. she wanted to say goodbye and gave us an enormous bottle of olive oil from her mother’s farm. we hugged and thanked her. there was not a dry eye. in three months we have really grown to love and care about so many people. so many people who have been so warm and welcoming to us.
we have just eleven days left until we depart this magic city and we are hoping to make the most of it. i will keep you posted.