Twelve years ago we were part of a Winetrails walking holiday in Tuscany. The organisation was chaotic, we were given rubbish food, lodged in cheap hotels and served inexplicably poor wine. The group quickly gelled in opposition to Winetrails and the event was rescued only by the sheer succulence of the Tuscany environment. Forged in such adversity a group of a dozen of us decided to make a wine walk an annual event in the first week of October. So far we've done all the regions of France, Rioja and Ribero del Duero in Spain and the Port region of Portugal.
This year we plucked up courage to return to Tuscany this time under the care of Ugo Marriotti from Tuscany Under the Sun. Before the tour began we decided to spend a weekend in Lucca, very near Pisa airport.
Lucca was an Italian city state which, thanks to its impenetrable city walls, remained independent into the 19th century, long after most Tuscan cities had been forced into the Grand Duchy of Tuscany controlled by the Florentines. The Duomo St Martino on the left contains the Volto Santo, a wooden statue of a bearded Christ said to have been carved by St Nicodemus. Lucca's greatest monument however is the marble figure of Ilaria del Caretto, the nineteen year old wife of a nobleman. She died in childbirth at the beginning of the fifteenth century. The Church of St Michele stands on the site of the former Roman Forum. It has an elegant facade and the highest bell tower in town.
.The city walls are spectacular. We walked the four kilometers round. Some sections are more ramparts than walls, almost like sea defences up to 30 metres thick at the base. On the walk we came across a seasonal display of hundreds of different species of fungi. Edible and mortally dangerous varieties were on display. Dining opportunities abound. Our most enjoyable experience was dinner at the Buralli. It is family run and decorated with paintings by a local artist who happened to be dining there at the same time as us. The fare was excellent and the ambience very authentic with a majority of Italian diners. Over the weekend we stayed at the Hotel San Lucca Palace. It was very comfortable although the decor was a bit dark and sombre. A good introduction to Tuscany and the week ahead.
The Stuart Agenda by Alan Calder published by Willow Moon. e-Book and paperback at all Amazon sites. Reviews at www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B005BJ3GNI