Warm Tuscan days, pleasant nights

Summer heat has arrived. It’s a beautiful time of the year where sun splashes everywhere. In the evening, the piazzas are full as people mingle, eat outside and stay up late.

A sure sign of this heat is colorful front door protective curtains that you begin seeing. They are made with a very strong fabric that will not allow the sun to “cook” the doors. The traditional colors are yellow and white. Mine is green and white because I had to make a new one this year and was unable to find the original fabric. They last a few summers before you need a new one.

Besides protecting your doors, they help keep the heat outside during the day, which keeps the house more pleasant, especially at night.

By the way, in the picture of my curtain, you will see Pallino our cat, looking for a shady place to hide.

Enjoy your summer!

Be local: Visit a street market

Weekly street markets in Italy! How fun. Anywhere in Italy you visit you will find one. Each community holds these markets on different days. It is best to check with locals for information.

In Lucca the street markets are held on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. Though some may linger, most start closing around 12:30 p.m. By 1 p.m. they are done for the day.

Mind you, they are not “flea markets” or used items. These markets feature new merchandise. You can find anything from the freshest cheese to fancy dresses and garden plants. But there is so much more: kitchen items, home decorating, make-up, toiletries, etc. Each week I try to go one of the two days, usually on Saturday mornings so I can buy the fruits and vegetables I will need for the weekend. And of course, I will always find something else that is “just what I was looking for.”

Prices are good. The merchandise can be on the economical side but sometimes you will find stands that sell high-quality clothing at a very reduced price because they are selling “stock” items they bought in one big bulk and can sell it at a very reduced price.

Italians are used to street markets; it’s part of the culture. So what better way to see the local population than at a street market? I would say the majority are women but many have their husbands tagging along, waiting for the time to get back in the car and go home and have lunch. How typical it is to find someone you know and haven’t seen for a long time. You see people from all walks, the young, old, Italians and non Italians, children wanting to buy everything that attracts their attention, animals to be adopted (I almost brought another kitty home the other day but I didn’t think my husband would be too happy). It really is a fun part of the Italian culture. Next time you are here, make it a point to go. You will be happy you did!

Rainy days can still be fun days

Not all our walking tours are always under the Tuscan sun!  Tuscan rain happens here, especially in Lucca. Lucca has a wonderful Meditteranean climate.  However, Lucca can also be very rainy.  I think the reason for our rainy days is a combination of being close to the mountains to the north, but still close to the sea. Whatever the reason, we benefit from the rainfall and it doesn’t do much to dampen the city’s charm. Our city is so green all year round and we have plenty of sun to enjoy as well.

I try to keep an eye on the weather forecast so that I am ready in case of any rain.  I keep my little umbrella buried in my purse, just in case.  And it has happened a few times that I got caught without one as the rains came down. My hair gets spoiled, my shoes are soaked, and I feel the dampness all over while doing a tour! That is not as pleasant as it should for both me or the guests that are on my tour.

Take a look at the photo. It was a wet rainy day, but we prepared ourselves for the rain.  The photo is of myself and the tour escort. You can see from our smiling faces that taking a tour even on a rainy day that Lucca is still beautiful! In fact, it can be a great day for a tour because we will get you out of the rain into our amazing churches, museums and shops. There is no reason to let a little rain spoil a great vacation!

Take a stroll to authentic Tuscany

“You don’t need to go far from Lucca’s historic center to find the beautiful countryside that comes to mind when first think of Tuscany. Olive groves, vineyards, cypress trees, soft rolling hills, and magnificent villas surround the city.  With a very short drive, or a long pleasant stroll beyond the city and you can be in the middle of this country paradise. But be careful. It’s true that many fall in love at first sight!

Tuscany’s hillsides are home to wonderful vineyards and olive groves. Many places welcome visitors for tastings, just as many roadside trattorias offer wonderful local food. This is place to experience Tuscany!

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If you would like help arranging a tour, please contact me. I’d love to help you travel like a local! And after you’ve fallen in love with Tuscany, you may want to rent or buy a place of your own. We can help with that, too!

I look forward to meeting you the next time you visit. Be sure to take a little side trip to Lucca’ss most beautiful countryside.  You too will feel like I do!

Festivity of Corpus Domini for all of Italy

If you happen to be in Italy during the latter part of May and the beginning of June (this year the festival is June 3) you may be lucky enough to experience the Catholic Festivity of Corpus Domini.

The story of this festival started many centuries ago, back in the 13th century. During the year 1263, a bohemian priest on his pilgrimage to Rome stopped to say mass in Bolsena (a province of Viterbo). While he was distributing the host (the communion bread, which is the body of Christ in Catholic ceremonies), he saw a few drops of blood, which came from the bread itself. Pope Urbano came to know of this and instituted the festivity in honour of the “Body of Christ,” or Corpus Domani.

The festival is so important that it is now celebrated all over Italy in the Catholic churches. It begins with a religious procession along a route covered with fresh flowers. Once it is finished, the local parish priest, dressed in the festive clothes of the Catholic Church and holding the chalice containing the holy Eucharist, will walk on the flowers.

When I was a little girl, these local processions were very simply decorated with spring flowers from the fields that we children used to pick and put in big wooden baskets. Then, the adults would spread them along the route. It is a beautiful tradition, that still exists to this day. Almost all parish churches will create their “fiorita” (flower procession).

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It is work done by town volunteers who often work overnight to have it ready for the afternoon procession. Some are simple and some are very intricate and sophisticated, but always with religious themes as the subject.

One of the most important traditions in Lucca is within the city of Camaiore. Here, the fiorita is designed with fresh flowers, sawdust, sand and other materials. Each year marks a different design but always with a religious theme.  

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Catholic or not, if you experience the beauty, art and pageantry of this Festivity, I think you will agree with me that it is something not to miss!

A good man is hard to find

But not in Florence! The beauty of Michaelangelo’s David is a Tuscany treasure that must be experienced in person. Florence is the epicenter of the Rennaisance, home to incredible art, literature, architecture, science and history. Many say of all the brilliant works to be seen, The David stands above them all.

You can decide for yourself with so much to see and do, whether you want to see as much as possible in one day or want to carve out more time in this gem of a city. Contact me for a 30-minute pre-holiday preparation to learn my tips for visiting these great works of art, avoiding lines and crowds (as much as possible) and still having time for a wonderful meal, a cafe or (and!) a gelato. I can also offer you a customized guided tour.

I look forward to hearing from you.