Part 1, Rainy day road trip to the walled city of Lucca…

Lucca aerial view in the “borrowed” photo.  The remainder of the photos are all ours, some blurred due to the pouring rain.

After commenting in Sunday’s post regarding the recent lack of soaking rain, we took off on Monday morning amid an ominous looking sky. Would our long-awaited road trip to Lucca be spoiled by rain?

We were driving around the walled city of Lucca in the pouring rain looking for a parking spot.
As we made our way around the exterior of the walled city of Lucca, we traveled under this canopy of trees.

Halfway down the mountains, we realized that we should have brought the umbrella in the stand by the front door. Do we turn back calling it a day or forge ahead risking getting soaked?

As we waited our turn to enter the one-way road to gain access inside the walled city. We’d waited long enough for the rain to stop and the sun came out.  We were anxious to get inside before it started again.
The walled city piqued our interest to the point that we were determined to find a decent parking spot close to the entrance. The rain was pelting the windshield and we didn’t want to walk any further than we had to without an umbrella.
I took a photo of this street sign near where we first parked outside the walled city of Lucca in the event we had trouble finding the car later.  This is the general location that Tom perused looking for a place to get change for the required parking sticker.

With the unpredictability of the weather changes in these hills, we hadn’t bothered to check the weather report having found it be relatively inaccurate when doing so. 

Once inside the walled city, we encountered several dead-end one-way roads requiring that we back up long distances. Cars were only allowed in specific areas with no signs indicating dead-end roads. Patience prevailed.

Sunday was by far the hottest day and night we’ve experienced since arriving in Boveglio six weeks ago. The night was steamy. The fan and opened windows offered little relief as we tossed and turned most of the night.  Monday morning, as we prepared to take off on our road trip the heat and humidity were unbearable. 

Would the rain ever stop and would we find a place to park?

The more we drove around, the more the rain picked up.

Hoping to leave around 10:30 am, we decided to leave early if only to get into the air-conditioned car. I can honestly say I don’t recall being that hot and uncomfortable since the day we visited the White Mosque in Abu Dhabi while I was sick with that awful virus and required to wear the long black abaya while the temperature was well over 100 degrees. 

Having poorly planned for the rainy day, our frustration level grew as we drove around looking for a place to stop.  Surprisingly, we both stayed calm and cheerful.  Gosh, that helps in these situations, doesn’t it?
As we maneuvered our way down the mountains through the usual hairpin turns Tom was mindful of the numerous signs warning “roads slippery when wet.” As the rain began to fall on the windshield in giant drops, we looked at each other wondering if we should have postponed our trip after all.
It was raining too hard to open the door or the window of the car to take a photo. Instead, once we were parked in this free parking spot by this church, we were within running distance to the restaurant where we had lunch while waiting again for the rain to stop which eventually it did, although not entirely.

“Ah,” Tom said, “we’re already committed. Let’s continue on.”

I agreed. Less than an hour later we arrived in the walled city of Lucca, rain pelting so hard, my attempts at photos taking were considerably hindered. Then the fun began!

Many of the old buildings were homes for local residents.  We wondered where they were able to park their cars.  We never encountered any hotels within the walls of the city although they may have existed. Outside the walls, the remainder of the city was hustling and bustling with tourists, restaurants, and lots of traffic.

Finding a parking spot in Lucca was an adventure in itself.  Keep in mind that Tom is not the most patient guy on the planet.  His frustration level exacerbates, minute by minute when he can’t find a spot causing him to drive too fast to be able to grab a suddenly available spot. 

As you can see, Tom was not thrilled with the Italian menu and lack of options befitting his picky taste buds. Too many items included many vegetables and an abundance of squiggly seafood, none to his liking. On the ships, he was more adventuresome eating escargot and Oysters Rockefeller. What happened?  He cringed when he saw the octopus tentacles on my warmed seafood salad.
This restaurant had an extensive menu, most in Italian.  All Tom wanted was a pizza with sausage, mushrooms, onions, and olives. When his pizza arrived it was uncut with a crispy thin crust making it difficult to cut. The sausages looked like rounds of hot dogs. To say the least, he wasn’t thrilled with the pizza, only eating a small amount.  My meal was extraordinary, full of seafood, perfectly cooked, and seasoned.

Desperately trying to bite my tongue and yet be of assistance as we drove around the walled city of Lucca in the pouring rain was challenging. 

Finally, after lunch, we began our three-hour walk through the walled city of Lucca.  Apparently, this building is a name according to Google Translate.

Gaining access to the walled city can be tricky when attempting to park outside the massive two-mile-long wall surrounding the entire city of churches, historic buildings, restaurants, and shops.  There were a limited number of access points requiring a substantial walk-in in most cases.

This is actually a stuffed pug in the window of a shop in the walled city. So cute!

Alas, we found a spot within a 15-minute walk. With the pouring rain and no umbrella, no hoodies, no plastic bags nor any hats we were stranded for a while. As we sat in the car, again Tom suggested we go back home and reschedule for another day. 

The side view of the Church of San Michele in San Michele Square.
The front view of the Church of San Michele in San Michele Square.
This statue is of Francesco Burlamacchi.
A more detailed view of the steeple on the Church of San Michele.

Mutually agreeing to wait in the car for the rain to let up, we thought we’d give it an hour. After all, we had come all this way. We watched other more ambitious tourists walked toward the walled city with their umbrellas, wildly flapping in the lofty breeze while getting soaked from the sideways rain.

This restaurant and outdoor café look appealing but we’d already had lunch.

After waiting 30-minutes, the rain let up enough that we exited the car to begin the walk to the city. Five minutes into the walk, Tom suddenly stopped at a ticketing type machine situated on a large post indicating (in Italian) that one must purchase a parking ticket before leaving their car unattended or they’d be towed. Oh, good grief! 

This may have been Piazza San Giusto.

Could we even imagine the nightmare of coming back to find the “sold” rental car towed away?  I thought it was weird that no other passersby were purchasing parking tickets at the machine.  The cost was Euro $1 an hour.  Estimating that we’d be in the walled city at least three hours, the cost would be US $3.96, not too bad after all.

The bigger problem was that we didn’t have a single Euro coin on us.  All the Euros coins we’d had were inside the plastic bags we’d hung on the windows and doors to scare off the flies. 

Tom handed me the car keys so I could go back to wait in the car to ensure we wouldn’t be ticketed or towed while he’d find a place to get change.  I began imagining that a cop would come by instructing me to move the stick shift car.  I hadn’t driven a stick shift vehicle in 25 years. 

This was my favorite statue in Lucca, Giacomo Puccini, famed composer of Madame Butterfly, La Boheme, and more. In the background are his house and a now-closed museum. His statue seemed to attract the most tourists, especially us opera lovers. Unfortunately, opera season is winter.  Otherwise, we would’ve seen a few, no matter how far we’d have had to drive.

And if I had to move the car after I made a fool of myself in Italian traffic, how would I tell Tom who was running around to find change? This was one of those times, a working cell phone would have been handy. But it was also the first time we’d be separated from each other in a public street. (Next country, we’ll be getting local SIM cards).

This mime painted white, as we’ve seen in other European cities attracted a considerable amount of attention, many tossing coins into his gold bucket on the ground.

I headed to the car. Tom took off across the street to find a place for change for a $5 Euro bill. While sitting in the car waiting I made a special point of watching to see if anyone, anyone at all, put money in the ticket machine to pull out a sticker to place on their parked car. Not a one! But that was the least of my problems.

The Pretorio Palace Clock.

When 20 minutes passed and Tom hadn’t returned, I started watching the only clock in my possession which was on the camera. When 30 minutes passed, I was looking at the Lucca map as to the closest police station.  What was taking so long???? What if something happened to him? What if two hours passed and he still hadn’t returned? A million possibilities ran through my mind.

We were in a busy commercial area of shops, bars, and restaurants.  I’d noticed a bank as we approached the parking area. Was he stuck in one of those “revolving bank tubes?” Was he kidnapped? Was he injured?

Matteo Civitali (1436-1502) was an Italian sculptor and architect.

The minutes dragged on. I promised myself to do nothing other than wait until a full hour passed.  hen I’d get into action, calmly and resourcefully.  My fear was for his well being, not for me being stranded without him. 

Overreacting would not be helpful. I’d made a plan that I’d leave a note on the inside of the windshield, stating that I’d gone to the police station a few blocks away and to look for me there. The clock ticked away. My heart thumped in my chest.

Finally, at 40 minutes, I saw Tom briskly walking in the returned rain down the long sidewalk, anxious to get into the shelter of the car. Sighing a sigh of relief, explaining my worry about him, he proceeded to tell me his awful experience at the bank across and down the street, a long convoluted story of waiting in line. 

He was behind a customer in line who appeared to be purchasing a home while a solitary teller was busy copying page after page of documents, one at a time, with the printer in another room, having the customer sign one page at a time. As time marched on and not wanting to give up, he waited impatiently, all the while waving his $5 bill, hoping someone would help him. I get it. I wasn’t mad, just worried.

As we woefully looked at each other, the rain now furiously pelting passersby, having not yet put the money in the machine, we decided to take our chances and drive inside the walled city, unsure if this was even possible or if there would be a place to park.

Finally, we were inside in one of the limited interior peripheral free parking spots with the rain still pouring down as indicated in some of our photos.  Within the running distance of an opened restaurant coupled with the original plan on having lunch in Lucca, we ran for it. 

The restaurant, overflowing with customers coming in from the rain, was a quaint red checkered tablecloth kind of eatery.  Within 10 minutes we were seated at a table busily figuring out the Italian menu. 

I loved my gluten -ree warm seafood salad with mussels, clams, calamari, and octopus on a bed of steamed vegetables.  Tom didn’t enjoy his pizza, a medium-thin crispy crust pizza arriving uncut with sparse toppings, a far cry from our homemade pizza.  With a few menu items he was willing to eat, mostly seafood, he varied from our strict GF diet (with no ill effect for this single occasion).

US $35 later, we were out the door, as the rain gave us a welcomed reprieve to begin our long walk through the walled city.  Our parking spot by the restaurant didn’t require payment with us free to park for the entire period of our self imposed excursion. 

With an excellent map of Lucca in hand, kindly given to us by our new friend Michela, we were able to peruse the majority of the walled city visiting most of the highlighted areas of interest.  The rain was off and on, the heat and humidity consistent but we were content to explore, take photos, and the time rushed by.

Three hours later, we’d seen everything we’d hoped and were anxious to get back into the air-conditioned comfort of the tiny stick shift car. 

In Europe, taking a leak is an issue. One cannot walk into an establishment to use their “WC.”  One must make a purchase and then may pee.  Tom and I have learned to plan accordingly, drinking only one cup of coffee this morning, peeing before we leave the house, drinking no hot or iced tea before leaving and bringing only one bottled water to share, taking small sips as necessary in the heat. 

If we weren’t careful, we’d have had to put “pee” expenses into our budget.  No, thank you.  Pee should be free. We have a receptacle suitable for either of us, that we keep in the little car in the event of an emergency, which, I should mention, has been utilized.  Enough said.

Lucca was an interesting city.  The history of the walled city is here. Rain or no rain we had a good day experiencing yet another aspect of the rich Italian history.

Stop back tomorrow for Part 2 with the remaining photos and commentary.  Thanks as always, for stopping by!