Friday, September 12, 2014

Lucca Murabilia

Here's a tip from the middle ages:  if you're not on a hill then you'd better have walls that are thick, sturdy, and tall.   Remember those siege machines?  and the wars between the city states?

Now that the Lucchese are not worried about the invading hordes, but instead welcoming them, charging them for parking, and selling them souvenirs, the top of the walls has been turned into a lovely tree-lined park.  
And once a year, on top of the walls Lucca has a huge garden festival.  Lucca Murabilia.  We're here at just the right time.  

Fruit - flower arranging people, check out this cool display.  If it works for fruit it should work for flowers...
 Hung from fishing line, swaying softly in the breeze.
 There are so many citrus!  Some I've never seen before, some I grow at home.  Sad I can't take some new ones home.
 I find Will Godwin clematis, an old friend.  Thank God for Latin plant names, the universal language of botany.
 There are huge piles of local small- production cheeses, complete with tastings and sales. 
 We buy several that are like nothing I've ever tasted, and I am a cheese hound.  I wrote the names down somewhere...

And the fruit!  Also for sale.  All local, all delicious.  It is the height of peach season, and they are fantastic, like peaches with the volume turned up.
We lunch in a Michelin starred restaurant with locals and their dogs, tourists and their guidebooks.  All presided over by a woman who looks like an aging Paris model in a very tight, very expensive  dress.  Sorry, no photos.  Guess why.

On the way home we wander the streets, in and out of tiny stores, most selling only one thing: bread, wine, cured meats, cheeses.    The best bread in Lucca is right next door, and you can hear the bakers talking and smell the yeast at 4 a.m.  When they roll up the door at 5:45 you can hear the tapping of feet, people calling soft greetings to each other as most of Lucca descends on the shop for their daily bread.
And you have to know the timing:  sweet things come out first, then the delicious bread with hazelnuts and plump raisins.  The focaccia comes out about 10:30 - try the one with zucchini, cheese and poppy seeds.  Carolyn loves the onion.  I'm tempted by something big and glossy and sticky, full of raisins.  We carry paper wrapped loaves home, still warm from the oven.

At a small meat and cheese shop around the corner, a tiny woman is getting her groceries.  We say buona sera, and wait patiently, tempted by the prosciutto hanging from a rack and the stacks of cheeses behind the glass.  But when the butcher brings out a small rabbit, missing only his skin and his innards (oh, and his ears), smacks him on his back on his counter and proceeds to whack at him with a dull cleaver that doesn’t cut him up but only makes  him hop off the counter, we give up and run for home.  

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