The ancient church bells rang out 12 times. Ding dong, ding dong. It was only mid-day, but I was already halfway through my second round of gelato. The town was finally starting to wake up; bicycles in motion, children running down the street, old women hanging their laundry out to dry. It all came together to paint a landscape reminiscent of every Lucca postcard I had ever seen – a city of perfect chaos.
The red-top roofs set a warm tone, begging me to explore the narrow alleys and tiny, unpretentious trattorias on offer. The city walls wrapped themselves around me, sheltering me from the rest of the world. Inside felt like a haven; a throwback to an earlier time, when people still knew their neighbors and took nothing for granted.
Decades of rain, wind, and summer sun had left their mark on the buildings’ less-than-perfect facades, gracefully aging them. The cracks spread to connect each level, joining the storefronts with the apartments above.
I had intentionally left my guidebook in the hotel room, hoping to see Lucca through my own eyes. I wanted to get lost, eating and drinking my way down the cobblestone streets and speaking to the people who made the city’s heart beat.
I didn’t have to look far – those people were the street cleaners, the postmen, the waiters, the shop owners. The children, the parents, the teachers, the elderly. Everyone’s story had one underlying theme: Lucca was their home, Lucca was their pride. And it was easy to see why.
A glass of chianti, some hearty lasagna, and a few “Ciao bella’s” later, I found myself dreading the next morning, when I would have to bid farewell to that beautiful corner of the earth. But the night was still young, and the pistachio gelato across the street was calling my name.