it has taken me almost a month to write this last post. it has taken me that long to process this incredible experience. coming home was quite a culture shock. going from the airport to gelsons to pick up a few things for our apartment, i felt as though i were on LSD. the bananas were so big, and so yellow. and could we talk about the tomatoes? all the fruit and vegetables were so beautiful and yet looked as though they were on steroids compared to their brothers and sisters in lucca. we were so used to going to the cheese store for cheese, and the produce market for produce, and the bread store for bread, gelson’s suddenly seemed like a giant food amusement park.
the other adjustment was the noise. since there are no cars in lucca and no nearby airport, we rarely heard cars, horns, screeching brakes, blaring radios or the room shaking sound of a plane overhead. living in l.a., or any large city, you grow used to the hum of a city and don’t even notice it. after you have been away for a while the sound is deafening.
and then there was the pace of our days. everything was slower and easier. lunches were longer, walks were for the pleasure of walking, not just to get our exercise in, and those afternoon naps – mama mia – how i miss those naps.
the last night in lucca we went to hear tony bennett perform in the piazza napoleon. antonia, tony bennett’s daughter (and joanna’s best friend), and a wonderful singer herself, was opening for her dad that night. she left us four tickets at the box office and we were able to invite our friends regula and pers. before the concert, we had made a reservation for dinner at our favorite restaurant, giglio. as we were led to our favorite table, under the stars and bordering the beautiful piazza giglio, we noticed an ice bucket with a bottle of prosecco resting in it. “what is this” we asked a smiling paula and sylvia, the two owners. “it is your last night. we wanted to say goodbye and tell you that we hope you return. you must return next year in september.” “why september?” we asked. “because in september, there is a very special festival in lucca. all the lights are turned out and the town is lit with candles. there is music and processions. it is very beautiful and very special. all luchese’s from all over the world come home to lucca in september. you are lucchese now, you must come home.” well, that was the beginning of a night of laughter and tears and much hugging and kissing.
the concert was remarkable, under the stars, tony bennett never sounded better and we were so very proud of antonia. we couldn’t have asked for a better last night. the next day came too soon, and when bruno came to take us to the airport, it was not easy to close our apartment door for the very last time. we took one long look around our piazza san giovanni hoping to imprint the memory of this special place in our brains. the thousand of photographs that howard took will, forever be a wonderful reminder of our time, but it will be our minds that hopefully will remember, forever after, the sights and sounds and incredible smells of this very special town.
right now, writing this blog, lucca seems very far away. i can not believe we have only been home three and a half weeks – in some ways it feels as though we never left – and yet, at least once a day, a wonderful lucca memory will cross my mind and i know, that no matter how many years will pass, contessa sadowsky’s time in lucca will live with me forever.