When summer had already disappeared from the southern shores of the UK, in Tuscany it held on well into September.
It’s no secret that I love the parts of Europe that touch the Mediterranean sea: terracotta roofs, the constant chirp of cicadas and most of all the warmth that allows you to sit out well into the evening with a drink and some amazing food.
But I’d never visited Tuscany before – maybe because I thought it would be too busy.
Lucca is the kind of place that’s probably filled to the brim with tourists in the middle of summer – there were still a fair few of us knocking about in September, but it felt like the walled city was returning to its residents.
Space on the pavement is obviously at a premium, with even the smallest backstreet restaurant cramming ten tables in between parked cars and the back of a church.
All along the walls and in unexpected spaces around town, gigantic human sculptures appeared. Some decorated with puzzle pieces, others with swirls. I later found out it’s part of an exhibition by Rabarama, to celebrate 500 years of the city walls.
As I was wandering around Lucca, disappearing down narrow back streets or enjoying the view from the walls, one image kept popping into my head. A few years ago there was a series on the BBC called ‘Francesco’s Italy’. Francesco da Mosto, an Italian architect, drove round Italy in a convertible red Alpha Romeo Spider. On one of his trips he drove his car into an oval piazza, where he met an opera singer who sang something by Puccini (a Lucca local) to demonstrate the great acoustics. Of course I had to find this place…
Sadly there was no sign of Francesco, but Lucca has a beguiling charm that makes it an easy place to spend a few hours just wandering and enjoying the atmosphere. Life under the Tuscan sun never seemed more appealing.