It has been 159 days since my last blog post… Here’s where I should provide a compelling reason, but “I’ve been too busy” just seems lame! Just a few years ago I worked full time, volunteered weekly, was a serious birder, and planned fabulous trips to Italy. I suppose the best explanation is that I am now living “La Dolce Vita” at a (slower) speed than ever before. Why blog when I could visit with friends? Have an apertivo? Take a walk around the city? Play a game of Mahjong?
So, this blog post is going to be my “catch up” blog that gives a quick overview of our special visitors, recent trips, winery visits, and an Italian wedding. I’ll finish up with some updates on day-to-day life in Lucca.
Visit from Dave, Jill, and their friends
Dave, a former colleague of JoAn’s, visited Lucca for four days with Jill, his wife, and their friends. They had visited Lucca several times, but never stayed here before. We loved showing them our city and they were even here for Lucca’s biggest procession of the year. (September)
Visit from Mickey and several of her friends
Now this was a complicated visit! Mickey, my sister, and Vicki, her best friend, stayed for a month and her five friends stayed for two+ weeks. Their trip included day trips to Florence, Cinque Terre, Pisa, and a nearby winery. They all travelled by train to Rome for several days, including a trip down to Pompeii. Of course, we spent a good amount of time wandering through Lucca as well. I suppose the trip would have been better if some of them didn’t miss a train connection and if two of them didn’t get COVID! Despite the challenges, it was wonderful to spend time with my sister and her friends. (October)
Visit from Derek and Dani
We had a short visit from Derek, our son, and Dani, his girlfriend, in November. After their short trip to Dublin, we prepared a traditional American Thanksgiving and shared with it them and some local American friends. We spent a day in Florence with them and another day at a winery in Chianti. A short but sweet visit! (November)
Trip to Val D’Aosta and Piedmont with Gary and Ilene
An 8-day trip with four people in a Mini Cooper required planning and an installation of a luggage carrier. We headed way up north in Italy to Monte Bianco/Mont Blanc. We explored the area… and struggled with all of the French words and pronunciations. Then we headed to Piedmont region where the emphasis was on winery visits and the famous Alba White Truffle. But my favorite activity was the visit to the Hazelnut farm! (October)
Trip to Lisbon
Mickey, Vicki and I went to Lisbon for a few days. Why Lisbon? Megan, my niece, and her family moved to Lisbon in early 2020. In the meantime, her daughter has grown from a baby to a pre-schooler full of energy and her own personality. AND Megan had a baby boy. So, we enjoyed seeing Lisbon with Megan and Ben as well as hanging out with them and the children. We even saw the house that they purchased and the big renovation plans for the next year or two. (November)
Trip to Bolzano for their Christmas market
Jim and I took a two-day trip to Bolzano in Northern Italy to enjoy the biggest Christmas market in Italy and to see the area. I posted a description (in Italian and English) and a bunch of pictures on my Facebook page here. (December)
La Sala Winery with friends from Virginia
I connected with Bill on Facebook before his month-long trip to Lucca because we had mutual friends, the owners and staff of Pazzo Pomodoro, our favorite Italian restaurant in Virginia! Jimmy, one of the owners, was going to be in Florence and planned a lovely wine tasting at La Sala in the Chianti Classico region. Bill, Jim and I jumped into our Mini Cooper and met Jimmy, family, and friends at La Sala. We enjoyed a wonderful wine tasting including our second-ever barrel tasting. We enjoyed a lunch nearby then wandered to the nearby town of Panzano. We had a wonderful time getting to know Bill and shared a passion for older Italian wines. (July)
Barone Ricasoli winery with friends from Lucca
This wine tour came in four parts – castle tour with incredible history, wine making tour, wine tasting, and then a four-course lunch with wine pairings. I recruited Gary, Ilene, Guy and Lita to accompany us and we headed deep into the Chianti Classico region. This castle was built between Florence and Siena so that the Florentines could keep a watchful eye for any invaders from Siena. Incredible history, fabulous views, and delicious wine and food. It was such a lovely day that we repeated it with Derek and Dani! (July)
Tempranillo Wine Festival in Tuscany???
The Beconcini winery discovered Tempranillo wines on their property a few years after they purchased it. Tempranillo is native to Spain so there are several theories about how it ended up in Tuscany. I like the one that has the Spanish pilgrims bringing it here on their journeys. However it got here, we like their wine! Each Fall after harvest, this winery holds a festival where many people from the area come to enjoy a great meal and their delicious wine. Last year we went with Gary and Ilene. The event was so much fun that Ilene spread the word amongst the expat community here and there were about 20 expats from Lucca at the event. Thanks for the picture, Ilene. (September)
Rebecca and Nicola’s Wedding
Rebecca and Nicola, Italian friends, own Vinarkià our favorite wine-cocktail-dinner bar that is steps from our front door. We met them the week that they opened in 2020 and have developed a strong friendship with them. We were thrilled to attend their wedding in August. Many of the traditions were similar (but not identical) to those in America and then there were some surprises for us too. Mostly we were just delighted to attend their beautiful ceremony with their family and friends. (August)
- Italian language. Jim and I are continuing to study the Italian language, each working with a tutor one-on-one. I am working on becoming more comfortable using the grammar that I know, rather than learning new grammar. For my homework I read an article than write a few paragraphs about a related subject. Topics are varied from the structure of our governments to pieces of art. During our one-hour session, we discuss the topic, mistakes that I made in my writing, and work on my pronunciation. I’m now able to chit chat with Italians about lots of different topics and my stress level is down when talking on the phone. I hope that with a few more years of study I should be comfortable have substantial conversations with Italians – at their speed and with ample use of hand movements!
- My knee. I’m approaching the one-year anniversary of my total knee replacement. I’m still slow on steps but my knee is no longer holding me back from exploring Lucca or any towns that we visit. I average about 7000 steps a day and have hit 17000 several times post-surgery. I’m satisfied with that!
- Mahjong. This game has always interested me but I really had no idea how to play it. Several women expats in Lucca have begun playing weekly. Most of us are newbies, so it is a low stress learning environment. I’m having lots of fun learning the game and spending time with these friends – and have even gotten Mahjong a few times!
We are about a week away from Christmas and are currently staying busy enjoying the local activities and decorations, doing a bit of shopping and planning a lovely meal with friends. Jim and I hope that you have wonderful Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. One of my resolutions will surely be to blog more regularly!