Sometimes you just have to get out of dodge – even when Dodge is as lovely as Florence. I just couldn’t take one more day of jostling in the heat and competing for bench space so I took two little day trips to Lucca and Cortona.
Lucca is a beautiful little gem of a city – walled, quaint and the best part was renting a bike complete with a basket and bell and riding around the entire city on top of the wall. First in one direction – then the other. It was a fine way to see the city from above and decide what I wanted to concentrate on when I got to wandering around. You would think that such a small city would be a cinch to navigate around but I actually got lost! Beautiful little squares, the usual touristy shops, one incredible garden with wrought iron chairs strategically located where you could sit and contemplate the cool fountain to your hearts content. There are dozens of very fine outdoor cafes with some of the best food I have had so far in Italy. And I had more delightful conversations with more people as well. Only about an hour and a half out of Florence with a direct regional train – it is a must see. But make sure you mark in your mind where you came in at! Thinking there could be only one way in and out of this walled city – Wrong! – I ended up exiting out the other side and the furthest away from the train station I could be – thank god for good walking shoes and the ambulance that caused everyone in the roundabout I got myself stuck in the middle of to stop so I could scoot through three lanes of traffic. That earned me some looks I am still trying to decipher the meaning. I’m pretty certain they weren’t meant to be pleasantries. But all were gracious and I managed to get to the station just as the train was arriving – a huge stroke of luck.
Cortona…… Ok, I chose it because it was close on, cheap to get to and had been captivated by its charms in the movie Under the Tuscan Sun. Suffice to say – just as there was plenty of artistic license taken with Frances Mayers true story – I am pretty sure the fountain where Katherine assumed La Dolce Vita under the influence of champagne was imported into the city just for the movie. I could be wrong but I couldn’t find it. Be prepared for some serious hill climbing. Worth it to get to the top though. I was afforded amazing views of Tuscany just as far as the eye could see. As I was walking down those steep little streets I had to wonder how did horses way back when get up and down those flagstones in the rain without slipping and falling? Did the riders get off??? Strange thing to wonder about but that’s what came to mind. Worth the trip but don’t expect to see what was portrayed in the movie. Another direct train out of Florence but I am sure Sienna would have been a better choice for a day trip.