On the sixth day of our 2012 trip, May 30, we checked out of the hotel and left Florence — a bit reluctantly, in my case — so we could move on to new adventures. We spent part of the morning in the beautiful and fascinating walled city of Lucca, which is known for its intact Renaissance-era walls and for its most famous resident, the composer Giacomo Puccini.
My musician son, ten years old at the time and already composing his first sonata, was convinced (on purely circumstantial evidence) that we are related to Puccini. It’s possible, but so far my admittedly cursory genealogical research has not turned up a connection. In any case, I sought out some Puccini-related postcards to send home to him. The next time I’m in Tuscany, I may very well choose to stay in Lucca for at least a few days. But in 2012, we had only a brief visit there before we moved on to our next destination, Pisa and then the nearby resort town of San Guiliano Terme, where we would be based for the rest of the organized portion of my trip.
Pisa was everything I’d heard it was: crowded and touristy and filled with tacky souvenir stalls. But it was also rather quirky and charming, if you don’t mind a little kitsch with your sightseeing. But all of that is forgotten when you turn to face the Piazza del Duomo, where the famous bell tower is sited. I wasn’t expecting the leaning tower and its accompanying cathedral and baptistry to be so jaw-droppingly, awe-inspiringly gorgeous. The exquisite stonework, graceful design, and gleaming marble would make it worth a visit even without the novelty of its four degree tilt. In the next few days, in San Guiliano Terme, I was excited to find that the hill above our hotel offered spectacular views of the tower and cathedral in the distance.