I have, for a long time, thought that there are only two good reasons to leave home. One reason is when someone pays me to go; you know, like when clients cross my palm with sovereigns. The other reason is to see very special friends or family. This usually means nasty long flights cross the Atlantic. But last weekend, I discovered there was another worthwhile rationale to travel: When the reason to leave home is because the destination is Tuscany.
I have a very good friend whom, although we communicate several times each week, I haven’t actually spent time with in several years. And although he and his family live in London, they now have a home in the hills of Tuscany and this prompted the visit. One of the reasons that living in Mallorca is so good is that there is multiple airline options daily to most of the places I travel to on business. However, for some unknown reason (other than the old supply v. demand excuse that airlines use), it is pretty difficult to get to Italy. As a result, my flight plan first took me to Barcelona before flying to Pisa.
Pisa is just another town I think, except for the fact that near the centre of it, lies a huge open area that is known as the Piazza del Duomo. The piazza contains a group of buildings that are recognised as masterpieces of architecture in medieval times; a cathedral, a baptistery, a cemetery, and oh yes, there is this tower that is a bit out of kilter.
Now I am usually not one to do ‘tourist’ things, but when I read that Fibonacci was buried in the cemetery of the Piazza (and by now you should know about him and his numerical sequence), I was up for going there.
Outside of the fact that the piazza was chocker-block with tourists from all over the world, mostly there to see the Tower and have their pictures taken so it appears that they are holding it up (as if no one else had thought of doing it); and outside of the fact that the number of tourists was only equalled by the number of vendors selling almost anything that was supposed to be a memento of Pisa, or for that matter, anything that had some semblance to being Italian; seeing the Piazza and standing in front of where Fibonacci was buried was pretty special. My father would have been proud of me for going to 'visit' the mathematician.
The next day it was up the motorway toward Comano. Zooming along the autostrade, it is amazing to see stone-works after stone-works…kilometres of them. I half-expected I would be able to see the 2008 version of Michaelangelo walking amongst the rows of cut blocks, looking for just that special piece to chip away at. But, seeing as how I was in a hire-car, going at about 30km over the speed limit – but being passed by just about every car on the road – I decided that it would be best to just assume that one day, one of the massive blocks would be fashioned into a very spectacular piece of sculpture. (personally, I think working with PVC tubing is a bit easier, but that is just my opinion)
Comano is one of those sleepy little villages that so reminded me of Puigpunyent. Winding roads, houses that are so close to the streets that it seemed like a risky thing to step outside without looking carefully, and hills that were covered with green. Oh yes, on the weekend, the hills were also covered with rain clouds, but that wasn’t important. Richard and I did what we do best, which is to say, plot out the future of the world, or as it must have sounded to anyone near us, babble on about business, life, autos, and anything else that seemed worthwhile.
On Sunday, it was off to San Terenzo at noon for a lunch by the sea. San Terenzo was one of those complete surprises for me. Nestled in a little cove on the Gulf of Poets (think Shelley), it is a sleepy version of Cannes or San Remo, or at least that is how it appeared to me. We had a wonderful lunch at a little café overlooking the beach. Although Shelley was a strong advocate of vegetarianism, we all devoured sea-food as if it were the nectar of the Gods as a brilliant sun enveloped us. And then the clouds found us, and after a downpour that looked like someone upstairs turned on a fire-hose, it was on to Lucca.
Not Luca, as in Luca Brazzi from The Godfather. Not even Luca, as in the young orphaned lad who was raised by the characters played by Cher, Joan Plowright, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Lily Tomlin in "Tea with Mussolini."
The Lucca I am referring to is a walled city a few miles from Pisa. Driving through one of the city gates makes you feel that you in a time-warp going back to the renaissance. The massive stone and earth walls, which are still intact and in remarkble condition, provide the sensation that time has stood still. Narrow cobbled-streets, people pedalling around on bicycles, stunning architecture, all provided a wonderful feeling of warmth and solitude. And whilst I did really enjoy spending time in Lucca, by now I was longing to return home. The drive back to the airport in Pisa was simply grand. Travelling along a tree-lined narrow road was certainly more like being in Tuscany than fighting one's way down a motorway that, from a speed perspective, resembled the Italian Gran Prix.
Spending time with Richard again was important to me. Seeing parts of Tuscany that I hadn’t been to in the past was just icing on the cake…and I think it was icing that I would like to enjoy again someday. Of course, that would mean I would have to leave the island again. And right about now, nestled back in Sol y Mar with the sun reflecting off the sea in front of me as I type this letter to you, this may not happen soon.
It might be easier for me to re-live my wonderful Italian experience if I would just go out and buy a nice little Vespa scooter, find some huge dark glasses, wear my blazer over my shoulders, and motor around saying ‘Ciao’ to everyone I encounter. Hmmm, now that is an idea...
one wonky looking tower
some seriously old walls within the Piazza del Duomo
the man of numbers
sculpture material anyone?
Comano, coming into the sunlight
a house within the walls of Lucca
Tuscany, on the road back to Pisa
copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, James B. Rieley