Saturday, 21 June 2008

Puccini and Lucca

The rooftops of Lucca

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of seeing Giacomo Puccini's opera Madame Butterfly performed by the The Russian State Opera of Siberia at my local theatre , the Wyvern, in Swindon. It is not the first time I have seen it but it was immensely enjoyable none the less. A couple of days later I headed off for my much anticipated holiday in Italy, which was a first.

It was a wonderful experience. The tour took in Venice, Florence and Rome plus other places such as Bologna, Pisa, Lucca and Orvieto. Each had either an amazing cathedral (often marble) or an ornate church at its centre.

The town I have chosen to highlight is Lucca, the home of Puccini. In fact there is a Festival of Puccini taking place this year in Lucca to celebrate the 150th anniversary of his birth - 22nd December 1858.
Lucca was the most surprising and pleasurable place to visit. Being optional trip some of the group chose to return to our hotel base in Montecatini to relax for the afternoon. I am so glad I did not choose this option - the sun came out in Lucca. A beautiful medieval walled city, it was a pleasure to wander around, the cobbled streets had hardly any cars and people either walked or cycled. We encountered a classical guitarist on the wall walk (it is possible to walk the circumference of the city along the wide wall). The guitarist was playing Bach to concert hall standards; I bought a cd from him for just 8 euros and was pleased to find when I returned home, it was indeed brilliant.

Venice (Venezia) was everything I dreamt it to be; Florence (Firenze) is culture and beauty, I will definitely go back; Pisa was dispiriting as something of a tourist trap; Rome (Roma), overwhelming with its size and the heat but the ancient parts we walked around were breathtaking - a combination of modern city built around Roman ruins, temples, bridges and colonnades.
It was Lucca set in the beautiful Tuscan countryside that stole my heart.