Ever since Easter Weekend, it has been raining nonstop here in Italy. This is good for the country, because apparently it was getting so bad they were going to shut the water off to all the residential buildings during certain hours of the day if the drought continued. While I’m happy I will still be able to shower when I want, it doesn’t really make a nice time for traveling. Well, this was the last excursion hosted by my program, API. SO SCARY. I’ll hold off on my leaving freak out for another day.
This last excursion was a day trip to Lucca, a small town in Tuscany. We started out our normal walking tour of the city, umbrellas in hand. Our tour guide, Gabrielle, was absolutely hilarious. When he introduced himself he said his name and then said “Like Gabriel, the angel that told Mary she was pregnant… We don’t have anyone named Mary here do we?” Clearly, this was going to be a good tour that started on the city walls. Lucca is one of the only cities in Italy that still has its original city walls. They are also about 12 meters wide, making them the widest walls in Italy. They were originally made to protect them from an invasion of Florence back when the Florentines were taking over all of Tuscany. However, they were never needed. Lucca was a rich city that made a lot of silk clothing and traded all over Europe. The Spanish actually threatened Florence to leave Lucca alone so they could still trade with them, so Lucca was left alone. The walls now have a garden on the top of them.
After the walls, we walked through the city and came upon a large church. It was the only church in all of Tuscany that was controlled by the Vatican directly instead of by the local bishop. On the outside wall of the church rather low down there was a metal cross built into the marble wall. It actually wasn’t a cross, but a tool used by the merchants to make universal measuring. There were also marks all along the wall where the merchants would sharpen their swords on the wall. Inside this church, there is a naturally mummified body of a saint, Zita. She was a servant and she stole the extra bread from her master and gave it to the poor and starving. Her body was really creepy, like something out of CSI or something. We continued on and saw other parts of the city. We saw the buildings that were originally Lucca’s “Coliseum” but were changed into businesses. We also saw a silk museum exhibit all about their trade and how it came to Italy.
After our city tour we were loaded back onto our bus and headed to an Olive Oil tasting. We were showed how the olives were crushed and where they were grown. By this point however, we had spent the better part of a day out in the rain so we just wanted to sit down. We were quickly escorted to a dining room area under a large tent where we were given bread, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sun dried tomatoes, olives, and salami. It was really good, but I was expecting to try different types of olive oil, not just one. After our feast we got back on the bus and then headed home in the rain.
Jori, Micayla, Meggo, Lisa and I decided that the weather shouldn’t stop us from seeing Italy considering we only have a little time left (fighting back tears). We took a day trip of our own to San Gimignano, a medieval city with its walls and towers still intact. We had to take two public busses to get there, but after an hour and a half of travel we arrived at this beautiful city. We came prepared for the weather with our rain boots, rain jackets, and umbrellas but when we arrived something happened. The sun came out. Yes, sun. I have slightly forgot what standing in the sun was like.
We immediately went to get lunch because all of us were starving. Meggo’s friend recommended a little trattoria where they said they had the best food in all of Italy. Of course with a recommendation like that we are going to go, and both the food and wine did not disappoint. I am more of a white wine fan, but with some exceptions. We ended up getting red wine and it was amazing. It wasn’t very sweet, but the berry flavors came through a lot. And for lunch I got Crepes alla Florentine. It was a rolled up crepe stuffed with ricotta and spinach. The crepe was then topped with a meat and cheese sauce. It was absolutely incredible and my mouth is watering just thinking about it. It is so far the best meal I’ve had here.
After lunch we continued our amazing food excursion and went to “The Best Gelato in the World”. This gelateria was the world champion gelato makers from 2006 – 2009. I am not even going to lie, we ended up going back and getting a second round right before leaving. The first time I got Champello (Champagne and Pink Grapefruit), Strawberry, and Pineapple. The second time I got yogurt, cinnamon, and caramel. Absolutely amazing.
After we had stuffed our faces we walked to a park that was up near the top of the walls. It was so pretty just to be in nature and be able to see beautiful views of the city. There were harp players, singers, and painters all just sitting in the park doing their own trade. It was very relaxing. We were all starting to drag from our long day in the city, so we decided to stop for a coffee. I walked into a little café and saw the most beautiful thing I’ve seen since I saw a Dunkin Donuts in Berlin. It was a coffee coolata machine. I obviously splurged and got it with chocolate syrup in it. It honestly was better than any Dunkin coolata I’ve ever had. It was thick and creamy, and in no way shape or form watered down. SO GOOD.
Our pit stop to the café was complete so we did some shopping and eventually wanted to kill time until our bus came. We decided that we would walk around the outside of the city walls in order to see all the different views of the country side we could, and it was breathtaking. We timed it perfectly too because our bus arrived about 10 minutes after we finished our walk around the city. Needless to say it was a great couple of days.