So we took a post-Christmas trip to Tuscany. (How cool is it that I can say that?) It was pretty spur-of-the-moment. We talked about the possibility Tuesday (Christmas) night, called Wednesday to get a hotel for the next night, and then were gone Thursday and Friday.
Kevin's initial idea has been to go to Verona, which would have meant a stay overnight in Vicenza. We settled on Lucca and an overnight stay in Livorno, though, because it's outside the realm of our normal travel patterns and thus less likely to be squeezed in before we leave this summer.
So we drove to Camp Darby on Thursday. We'd been there before, and it was just as I remembered it. We did some basic commissary shopping and had planned to go down to the beach. But it was dark by the time we finished shopping, and it was REALLY windy. And then it started to rain -- as Kevin was grilling hamburgers and hot dogs on the patio of our hotel room.
It was clear when we got up Friday morning, though, which made for photos such as this when we got to Lucca.
That wall is Lucca's big claim to fame. It was built to keep out the Florentines and Pisans and still completely encloses the original city now, hundreds of years later. It's about 40 feet wide, which made it impossible for cannonballs to go through (not that we tried). The upper part now is a park all of the way around town (about 2.5 miles) like this:
The city's other claims to fame are being the birthplace of composer Giacomo Puccini and Giovanni Arnolfini. Never heard of him? You're probably familiar with his wedding portrait. And if you're not, you should be.
Although Lucca isn't a major tourist destination, it's a cute little place to see some churches and hang out. Its duomo is Pisan:
All of those columns across the three levels at the top? No two are alike. Very cool. The interior has a Ghirlandaio, a somewhat famous funerary monument by Jacopo della Quercia and the Holy Face of Lucca.
There are lots of churches to choose from, and many have a minor work or two by famous artists, but we spent most of the rest of our time in San Giovanni. Its fairly sparse, although it has an awesome (although uneven) Pisan-style ceiling:
But the real draw of San Giovanni for us was the archaeological site underneath. Although the city's origins lie with the Etruscans, the ruins under the church are Roman. They include all kinds of interesting bits and pieces of life from that time, including mosaics.
And I don't think there's an archaeological site anywhere that doesn't have a collection of random pieces such as these:
As we drove out of town I managed to get a photo of one of the city gates. I'm glad I don't have drive our American-size car through those every day!