13 August 2006

where is the happyness?

Lucca is about an hour and a half away from Florence and is a perfectly-placed day trip. Especially if one side of your mother's family hails from this red-roofed Tuscan town.

The city itself is enclosed by a wall which for practical purposes is best desribed as a doughnut-shaped hill circling the town. It's the ideal path for strolling or riding a bicycle with your favorite small dog placed snugly in the wicker basket. If you're just visiting for the day you can easily rent a bike, although finding an available dog might be a bit more challenging...

Finding wonderful things to eat is never a challenge in Italy and Lucca is no exception. Just for fun let's say that your mother, for years, has talked-up a certain kind of bread, saying her Italian grandfather used to feed her chunks of it when she was growing up on Chicago's Oakley Avenue. Let's also say that your mother hasn't been able to find this bread, and you've never tasted it. But your mother continues to praise this mythical bread to the rafters. Then, like magic, you come to Lucca and voila!

Buccellato is one of Lucca's specialties. Who knew? It's a gently spiced anise bread that comes with or without raisins. The loaf is ring-shaped or standard rectangular and perfect for tearing into hunks and eating on the street. The birds will quickly take care of any errant crumbs although with our family the unclaimed crumbs are few and far between.

That my great grandfather fed my mother hunks of Buccellato makes sense; he came from Lucca. His daughter - my grandmother - was born there. Eating this bread in present-day Lucca, standing outside the bakery with my parents, my sister, and our husbands was like a reunion of sorts. Not everyone could be there with us, many are long gone, but we were in the place where a part of our family began. Eating something they ate. Something my mother remembered from her childhood and told us about for years. We had our own link in this chain of walled-city and ringed-bread.

We had lunch in Lucca, dining outside in the company of dogs named Lolita and Tiffee and across from a woman with the pinkest hair I've ever seen. We had pasta and bread and wine and coffee... the usual delicious culprits all made more special by the company of family.

Another famous site in town is the forty-four meter Torre Guinigi with trees growing from its top. It offers picturesque views of Lucca and a surreal feeling, standing high above the ground but still under the shade of trees.

It also offers a perspective on the town that at least one entrepreneurial communicator has realized. In the sea of red roofs the white chalk stood out. And for us the answer was easy: here, now, together.

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