Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Lucky Lucca

Lucca - a town 80% of the way from Florence to Pisa has the most astounding (and complete) city walls I have seen. The top is wide and paved and invites a 4k bike ride around the top. [photo].

But the "tourist experience" in Lucca leaves a lot to be desired.  The vendors seem to be busy in conversation and -belatedly - imposed upon to sell you something.  It's the 500 year anniversary of the walls - this month - yet the middle of the town is under construction (in preparation for the great 501 celebration?).  And, in all my travels, I have never seen a timer on the (dirty, pay) toilets that limit you to 3 minutes then a loud alarm goes off (Donna heard it upstairs) AND YOUR LOCKED STALL DOOR COMES OPEN!

We got off at the train station and wandered across town. There were no signs for tourist info and the huge info center had only a tiny sign (large other signs) so it's very hard to find (and it's internet does not work).

Welcome to Lucca!

All it took was a Frenchman to get us back on track. A store said it was selling truffle oil and had free tastings.  The man inside was friendly, helpful, a GREAT salesman: we ended up spending €50 on oils, drinks, and sauces.  He offered to hold the bags for us so we didn't have to carry them 4 hours and volunteered that he did not close for lunch.  Only then as we were checking out did we find out that he was French!  Ah, France!   Je revien!

Then we had an awesome experience, followed by a second: first, there is a tower in Lucca that is 600+ years old and has trees on top. We climbed it and took some amazing photos into the city.  Second, we walked over to the old Roman amphitheater which has been converted into a beautiful plaza.  I had eggplant parmigiana and a cold First (beer) while Donna had a chicken salad and we shared a cheesecake for dessert.

We returned on the bus. In reading the transportation options I read that the only good way to go was the train; another said thesame about the bus.  Faster? Some said "Train" while others "Bus". An unusual degree of disagreement. So I decided we should find out for ourselves. And report here.  A couple of external factors: train €7 bus €5.  Italy in general and Lucca in particular seems to assume that everyone reads Italian and that most signs are unnecessary since no one is a tourist.  So, finding the train is easy: they need train tracks. Finding the bus is hard. The bus to Firenze says "Lucca" on the front. The stop has a tiny sign saying bus stop but it describes a route to Pisa (the other direction). There are no officials to ask and the bus pauses just long enough for the people to get on.  We were lucky to find it: we arrived 10 minutes early but only found the spot and identified the bus with 30 seconds left.  The bus IS quicker: about 65 vs 75 minutes. The seats are not as comfortable, the leg room is much less, and we were jostled left and right quite a bit.  Unless I was on a really tight budget where €2 made a difference, I'd take the train. 

. Faster

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