Savoring the sweet life in Italia: reveling in the sights, smells and sounds in Lucca!
Italia! You can’t say the word without conjuring up all manner of wonderful images: Renaissance palaces embellished with colorful frescos; silky smooth marble statues that stand proudly in front of public buildings; crenulated medieval towers that rise high into a piercing blue sky; sun drenched ruby red tomatoes that drip with sweet juices; church bells that sonorously clang and vespas that ferociously whirrrrrr, like the hornets that they are named after.
When I am in Italy my senses are heightened by all the sights, smells, tastes and sounds. Sometimes Italy can make me feel calm, serene and satisfied, other times it can leave me breathless, disoriented and craving to discover more. The first time I traveled to Italy was to study Renaissance art in Florence. Although I was there for only six months, the experience of living amongst Italians made a huge impression on me. The more I basked in the music of Italy’s accents, light, art, food and wine, the more I became enamored by the Italians and their language.
My quest to know more about Italy, her language and culture, has prompted me to return time and time and again to “il bel paese” and I have traveled all over the country from the Alps and the Dolomites to the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Adriatic ocean. I have visited big and small cities, and have lived like a local with friends, participating in festivals and local rituals, as well as engaging in day-to-day household routines. Each time I return to Italy the experience is rewarding. Italy never fails to disappoint; she is full to overflowing will all manner of things that tickle my senses and “dietro ogni angolo” (around every corner) I am continually making new and wonderful discoveries. Take for instance my recent stay in the delightful Tuscan town of Lucca. It took just one step inside Lucca’s medieval walls to feel embraced and intoxicated by all the marvelous sounds, smells, sights and tastes that this Tuscan city has to offer.
Sounds. Everywhere I went in Lucca I heard compelling sounds; the air was filled with laughter, chatter and music. People joked and conversed in the piazzas and the out door “trattorie” and music from street musicians floated on the air and echoed in the alleyways. Church gongs rang and bicycle bells chimed and each morning a friendly man passed under my window calling out “Buon dì!” (Good morning). Fountains splashed pleasantly calming the nerves and ambulance sirens blared “bee booo bee booo” elevating one’s blood pressure! An evening concert in a local church enveloped me in the dulcet melodies of Puccini and I found myself humming arias composed by Lucca’s famous musician, as I biked the path on top of wall the encircles the city. The sound of the Italian language was also music to my ears and I reveled in the harmony of all the lovely notes. People were kind and generous and paused to chat with me all over town. I made friends with shopkeepers and folks I met in the piazzas and parks, as well as with the delightful Mario, who always has a good word for you and will often sing you a song should you run into him in the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, in the heart of Lucca.
Smells. The aromas of Lucca are intoxicating. It is hard to resist the heady fragrance of a warm “cornetto” and a hot “cappuccino” at the local bar in the morning, the enticing scent of a warm bowl of “farro” (barley) soup from an out door caffè in the afternoon, or the perfume of a bitter sweet orange Aperol in piazza Napoleone right before dinner. About the city there is a pleasant bouquet of aromas concocted not only of dusty bricks and lush green trees, but also of fancy colognes and the fragrance of rich earthy shoe leather from the classy shops in via Fillungo.
Sights. Lucca is filled with beautiful things to see and the city glows with rich warm colors. Climbing to the top of “il torre Guinigi”, the tallest medieval tower in the city, you will be treated to an incredible view. From this bird’s eye vantage point, gazing over the jumble of yellow buildings and terracotta roofs, you will begin to see in the distance the purple and teal hues of the mountains of the Garfaganana. The view is best described as “mozzafiato” - it takes your breath away! Art is everywhere you look in Lucca, from the statue of the lovely bare breasted signora, known as the Pupporona in Piazza S. Salvatore, to the ornate facade of S. Michele that stands in the spot of the ancient Roman forum. Not only can you see traces of antiquity in the curvature of the Lucca’s walls, but you can also see signs of modernity in the remnants of graffiti left over from Lucca’s annual Comics & Games festival, or the street art chalked by local street artists in the piazzas.
Tastes. My tastebuds were kept quite happy during my stay in Lucca. I enjoyed fine wines from the Furbiano, Buonamico and Fattoria Sardi Giustiniani wineries and I dined on delicious ravioli, sformatini di verdura, pasta and panna cotta made by myself under the tutelage of my lovely friend Eva. I also sampled roasted meats, lardo, maccheroni and cacio a peppe from restaurants like Canuleia (in via Canuleia) and of course pizza by the slice from the local hot spot - Pizza da Felice (in via Buia). And yes, there is a wonderful assortment of gelaterie all over Lucca to keep your sweet tooth satisfied! From “pesca” (peach) to “stracciatella” (chocolate chip), each day I tried all the delicious flavors that I could fit into “una coppetta” (a little cup).
Lucca is a delightful place to experience the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Italy. Like so many other enchanting Italian towns from Liguria to Puglia, after spending time in Lucca your senses will be filled to the brim! There is much for you to discover and savor...”ma state attenti!” (but be beware!), it only takes a short time for you to be craving more. I for one can’t resist the allures of Italy and will soon be returning to drink up more of her charms!
Melissa Muldoon, is the "crazy linguist" - la studentessa matta! She has made the study of Italian a lifestyle choice. A day doesn't go by in which she doesn’t listen, read, write, speak or work on Italian. She takes great pleasure in sharing her language learning journey through the Studentessa Matta blog, the podcast "Tutti matti per l'Italiano" and through Italian Language Immersion programs in Italy that she organizes with Italian Schools & event planners. The Matta blog explores Italian culture & language in a light & fun way, as well as provides language learning tips. The podcast features clips of native speakers & is designed to help auditory skills. On the Matta Facebook page she shares news of Italy, culture, travel and language tips. Her trips are designed to give participants a chance to live and study in Italy and to immerse in language and culture.
Thank you, Melissa, for this fabulous guest post about the sweet life in Italia!
Website at: www.studentessamatta.com
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