LUCCA LUCCA LUCCA
Lucca is a medieval walled city that we toured as locals by wandering through the narrow streets, taking note of spectacular churches and the grand piazzas. It was here we all splurged on buying leather goods and plenty of this and that!
All of the sudden, we noticed three hours passed without eating a bite of food! So, naturally, we headed straight for lunch at Trattoria Buralli where Chef Nilo, who is a well-known chef in town, served us typical Lucchesi cuisine. The meal was delightful thanks to our hosts Jason and Alessandra, who picked out the best items on the menu for us to taste.
Next-up was a bicycle ride atop the Sycamore-lined city walls. We were told it is, indeed, the best way to experience this unique and beautiful town.
After our bike ride, we checked in at our new home for the night, Villa Chelli, tucked perfectly in the countryside near Centro Storico. But first!–Aperitivo was in Ponte de Diavolo featuring a historic view. What a picture-perfect moment it was. An iconic bridge looks like it is lunging towards the shore. The Ponte della Maddalena near the Italian village of Borgo a Mozzano has earned the title of Ponte del Diavolo, or Devil’s Bridge, because of its dramatic architecture. Its official name in Italian means the Bridge of Mary Magdalene, but it is better known by its more satanic nickname. This likely comes from its staggering shape, an achievement of engineering for the 11th century when it was constructed. It spans 312 feet over the Serchio River and is 60 feet tall at the peak of the tallest of its five asymmetrical arches.
One story goes that the Countess Matilde di Canossa commissioned it so she could reach the thermal baths. However, the most popular legend is that the villagers, facing difficulties in completing their complicated bridge, made a pact with the devil to finish its construction. In exchange he would get the soul of the first to cross it (a common devil-building-bridge deal). Supposedly, the clever townspeople sent a dog over first, although it’s unclear if the poor dog then faced eternal damnation or if a frustrated devil just stormed away to try again elsewhere.
Nowadays it’s more of a photography spot than river crossing–although it’s recommended that you do that, too. While the legends of the devil are almost definitely that of myth, there’s an unsettling feeling evoked by stepping over those wavering arches.
This evening’s dinner was at Antica Locanda Di Sesto, a family business of devoted and talented restauranteurs. We tasted flavors and ate original ingredients from the traditional Tuscan cuisine including farm-to-table meats, house-made wine, olive oil and more. The highlight of the evening for me, was spaghetti tossed in a parmesan wheel. So, so simple but so, so magnificent!
Before we left Lucca, we had to check out Jason’s new home in the heart of Lucca–nice pad Jason! It was actually quite fabulous. There, Cindy made us a special cocktail to toast his new home, which you can find the recipe for below.
Next, we took a walk to the square, a fun family area where friends meet with friends. Boys and girls played football and “hung out.” I love people watching when I am traveling.
Our next destination was Marameo, arguably the best pizzeria in town, for a casual evening of beer and pizza. We chose our own thin-crust pizzas. I ordered a pie with potatoes, fresh rosemary and sharp provolone.
LOVE Tuscany Martini
2 oz vodka
1⁄2 oz limoncello
1⁄2 oz white vermouth
1⁄2 oz lemon juice
1⁄4 oz simple syrup
Muddle basil with simple syrup
Add to all ingredients and Shake well together
The beautiful twelfth-century villa Camporomano is a place filled with the romance and all that is good in Italy. A place so comfortable it felt like home without the daily tasks of being at home. We had the villa to ourselves! A lovely local family hosted us there, and the mother and uncle baked us fresh breakfast breads and cakes and prepared espresso and lattes each morning. We savored on cheese and meats with toast, jams and butter. Each morning we gathered around a large table in the courtyard, taking in the beauty and calmness and fantasizing about what the day could bring.
It was here, at this grand villa, where we made pasta with the mother, Alena, a sweet and talented culinarian in a fabulous kitchen with nothing but charm. I loved the chandelier. We got our hands dusty with flour and made pasta and ravioli. Then, we ate it all for lunch! Mom made the sauces of tender ragu and tordelli accompanied with bruschette, local salume, olives and fresh tomatoes picked from the garden. Another feast to be enjoyed around the table with friends and family!
A Sunday kind of LOVE you might say.
When you go into a butcher shop, you do not typically expect to be greeted by a lady with a tower of glasses and a bottle of red wine to serve you upon entering.
Maybe it was because it was a Sunday, hence a FUN day?
This was a once-in-a-life-time experience as we were entertained and fed by the most famous butcher in the world, Dario Cecchinni of Panzano. It certainly was fun and frivolous as we crossed the road from the butcher shop to his restaurant and had an amazing lunch. The mood was light, and we sat with people at the table we had never met but ended up enjoying. We were brought together by sharing food, wine and conversation!