Lucca and the long lost relatives

Before I get into the long-awaited news of the relatives (well, it’s long-awaited for Puccetti family members reading this anyway!), I want to tell you about Friday morning’s little excursion.

Chris woke up in the early hours of the morning with a pain in his left arm and shoulder. The pain was quite bad (for a man anyway) and wasn’t going away. After walking the kids down to the bus stop, he also felt out of breath. Now shortness of breath and pain in the left arm are both signs of a heart attack, combine that with high cholesterol and advancing age….well, we thought it best to have a doctor check it out. We called Bianca who had previously mentioned knowing an English doctor in Aulla, but Bianca was not available on any of her numbers (bearing in mind it was still quite early in London). Next we called Craig, a new friend of ours who is the father of Denver’s English girlfriend at school. Craig suggested going down to Bagnone to the doctor there who operates on a walk-in basis, actually you don’t get to walk in until it’s your turn and you wait on the street until then. It didn’t appeal because we thought we may end up going to a hospital anyway where there were heart monitors and other such gadgets.  Next we called Lucia (the nice headmistress) who happened to be at the doctor’s herself in Massa, and she recommended the hospital in Pontremoli and would organise the Italian Melanie (Alice) to meet us there.  So off we went to Pontremoli to find the hospital. We made it, thanks to a lucky ambulance sighting on the way, and we chased it all the way to the ER.  On the way, I was reading up on Italian medical terminology so that I would know how to say what was wrong with Chris.  Upon saying “l’infarto”, Chris was immediately ushered into the treatment area, leaving me in the waiting room for 2 hours. During that time, Alice arrived and we chatted in Itanglish while Chris was prodded and probed solely in Italian.  A strange experience for him, but I’m pleased to say his heart was fine. The heart surgeon, who the well-connected Lucia also knew and had called ahead of our arrival, took x-rays and diagnosed Pleurisy. Basically, Chris’s left lung was inflamed (around the outside) causing him pain and shortness of breath. He was offered antibiotics in case he developed a fever, but otherwise sent home to rest. Phew! Nobody really knows what might have caused it, but it can be viral or sometimes caused by damp weather.  At least we know where the hospital is now.  Here’s a pic of Italian Melanie to serve as a break before the Lucca stuff:

Alice, the Italian Melanie

For those who may not be aware, Lucca is the birthplace of Chris’s father Armano (commonly known as Bob). There are many Puccettis around the medieval walled city of Lucca, in fact when Italians hear our last name they almost always say “Ah! From Lucca!” One of the reasons we chose to live in Bagnone is because it’s not too far from Lucca and we plan on visiting a few times while we are here and doing a bit of family research.

We started out early on Saturday morning. I was so grateful for “CoPilot Live” on my Android phone as it navigated us effortlessly to Lucca.  The drive was around 1 hour long and mostly on the autostrada. We found a free carpark outside of the wall and continued on foot. The city itself is just beautiful. It is filled with narrow cobblestone streets, towers, marble churches, ornate piazzas and lots of ancient buildings and shops. It rained pretty much the whole weekend (as it seems to almost every day in Tuscany this time of year) but we were unperturbed and enjoyed exploring the streets with our umbrellas in hand.

Singing in the rain!

Balin heading down one of the narrow streets of Lucca

Fountain in one of the many piazzas of Lucca

Church of San Michele in Foro on the piazza of the same name

Piazza Anfiteatro, a circular piazza surrounded by apartments and caffes

One of the portals in the internal wall of the city

Duomo di San Martino

Other side of the church of San Michele in Foro

We stopped for lunch in a cosy little Trattoria and ate the traditional 3-dish pranzo (lunch) which was delicious but filling.

Roast chicken and potatoes....yum!!

This gnocchi was DELICIOUS, could have eaten 6 plates of it!

Pasta with a type of meat/tomato sauce....mmmmm

There were antique markets everywhere and, had we been without our bored children, we could have spent hours just browsing.

Antique markets in Lucca

The walled city has everything you could ever want and, if you lived there, I don’t think you would ever need to leave.  Real estate there is very expensive, but I still want a house there 🙂 So far I’m up to 3 fantasy houses in Tuscany, I wonder how many I’ll have in 12 months time?  After spending the day walking around, it was time to go to Christina’s house.

Christina is Bob’s cousin and the last time Chris had seen her was when he was an 8 year old child. We had phoned her on Friday night and she was very happy and suprised to hear from us.  She invited us for dinner and was looking forward to chatting with us.  Thanks once again to Copilot (I highly recommend this app!), we found our way to her house down a tiny maze of extremely narrow streets.  Christina and her husband Enrico live in a very unusual but lovely house, full of angles and irregularly shaped rooms. We loved it! Christina speaks some English and Enrico even less, but we chatted for hours and understood each other perfectly.

Us with Christina and Enrico

Enrico's Wurlitzer juke box

We looked at lots of old photos of the family and Christina told us stories about Bob and Joan on earlier visits.  Dinner was wonderful with pasta for the first course, roast pork with potatoes for the main and gelati for desert. The potatoes were particularly tasty and had been roasted with the meat juices making them very soft, moist and just a little bit salty. Mmmmmm!

Little Armano!

Chris's great grandparents

Chris's great great grandparents

I thought that Christina said this was Chris's grandfather, but he doesn't think so

After dinner, we talked some more and Christina’s sister Mariella arrived. She’s a total live-wire and even speaking Italian she was hilarious.  She was widowed 2 years ago and is about Bob’s age.  We were joking about setting them up!  Eventually it was time to go as the kids were just about asleep on their feet.  For two tired little boys, they were actually pretty well behaved and got cuddles from everyone.

With Christina and her lovely sister Mariella

We went back into the walled city and found our hotel, Hotel Ilaria.  If you need a good hotel in Lucca, I highly recommend this one. We had a VERY comfortable suite split on two levels with a king-sized bed and bathroom up the top and the kids beds, loungeroom and bathroom on the lower level. Breakfast the next morning was also top-notch with a delicious buffet and excellent service.  We met a nice American couple staying there as well as our first Australian people since arriving in Italy.  The staff at the front desk were particularly helpful (Julia and Roberta) and let us keep the car there and borrow their umbrellas the next day even though we’d checked out. We spent Sunday wandering around Lucca again and climbed up the huge Torre Guinigi, the 14th century 130ft tower with trees on top.

View from the top of the tower Torre dei Guinigi

The boys enjoying a thick, rich, Italian hot chocolate on the piazza San Michele

Cloisters in Lucca

One of the many gorgeous little shops in the streets of Lucca

I think this is the church of San Frediano behind Balin at the edge of the piazza

Bye Lucca! Until next time....

I’m looking forward to visiting again. Chris and I may come back during the week while the kids are at school, so that we can walk around more of the city and not have to worry about their tired little legs.  We’d also like to spend some more time with Christina and Enrico and visit Chris’s grandfather’s grave.  Expect more Lucca posts in the future!


About missrini

Global citizen. Travel blogger. Eccentric dreamer.
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2 Responses to Lucca and the long lost relatives

  1. Steve says:

    The narrow streets of the old town brought back memories of our trip there in 2004. Enrico, Christina and Mariella all look well. Did Christina’s mum, Igenia, pass on? We visited her inside the walls on the third floor of one of the medieval buildings near the square. You were lucky to find a free car park. We had some issues (as I remember) because we stayed in a guest house inside the walls.

  2. missrini says:

    Hi Steve, yes Igenia passed on a couple of years ago. It would have been nice to visit her in her cool little apartment inside the wall! Parking was not a problem at our hotel, they took care of it for us. Without a hotel, we parked outside the walls in front of a row of shops. Totally free, no time limit and quite close to the one of the entrances to Lucca.

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