Oh, they sound so happy chattering amongst themselves in animated, high-pitched voices, as they stroll along the cobblestones with their brother, mother, two children and small dog. Probably had a night out for dinner, filled their bellies so they are “sono contento”, or perhaps devoured three scoops each of their favourite gelato and are now on the way home to bed down for the night, so why am I not smiling or eager to see who they are and what they are wearing? Damn it, it’s another happy group of happy wanderers strolling well after midnight along Via Fillungo (the tiny cobble-stoned main thoroughfare through Lucca). Why aren’t the kids in bed at least?
This is the address where I chose to live for one year, here in an ancient apartment building three stories up, like the top tier of a football grandstand, with a view of it all, including the seemingly never-ending passing parade.
No need for an alarm clock to wake me up in the morning, the first street sweeper performs his noisy task at 6.15am, that is after the crescendoing sounds of seagulls telling me it’s almost dawn some time before. Shortly thereafter comes a battle scarred street sweeper, first up one side of the narrow street knocking everything in sight along the ancient walls to return along the opposite side and then for some unexplained reason, does a tour of the first side yet again. Then it is the first of the garbage collector’ turn, one for organic material in his little clunky truck, another for multi “anything goes” material in a larger clunkier vehicle and then the “big boy” clunky one for the cardboard.
Anyone who is out at this time to exercise themselves or their dog, enthusiastically greets each of the “clunky truck” drivers and it all crescendos when the restaurant two doors up has its laden “glass only” bins heaved high into the air. Pausing for just a moment, and then tossed seemingly aimlessly into yet another clunky truck heaving forth its nightly contents into the empty cavern below. So, if I am not wide awake and out of bed by then, it won’t take long as there is sure to be a full complement of revved up delivery vans with assorted mechanical hoisting sounds lowering their full crates of kitchen ware, shoes, bags, and assorted attire into the various Via Fillungo shops within earshot of my windows.
Pondering yet another day as I look out the window into the corner piazza the “pop up” confectionery shop man starts setting up to entice the daily tourists to sample his sugary treats. Hail, rain, or super hot sun, the smells of his mouth-watering desserts waft up through my windows. Next to trundle wares into the piazza is a young farmer like man, in his three-wheeled van laden with the freshest of seasonal fruits and flowers. He is obviously one of the local market growers, who has secured the corner position to give him direct contact with the passing parade. He is usually accompanied by several look-alike family members, each with a chair and comfy cushion to surround the laden table to offering their wares. Well, not quite. They don’t seem to mind if anyone stops to buy, as it seems to be a social talkathon between the group for the 10 hours plus that they are seated nonstop. I am yet to see one of them get up, although they seem to devour copious coffees and food (none of which are on offer at their table). The daily takings appear to be well spent!
First tour groups filter in around 9am. My view from above reminds me of cattle being herded from one pasture to another with gentle gestures from each group’s guide, as they head towards the ancient Anfiteatro. Lots meander, their eyes wandering towards the beckoning shops rather than the history that awaits through the arched tunnel beyond.
By 10am the entertainment sets up for its first performance of the day. A father and son have perfected two tunes on the saxophone with recorded accompaniment. While the father plays, the son uses his upturned tambourine to collect their spoils. Two tunes, I now know intimately. Tourists smile and offer a coin so I guess they are not aware their repertoire limited. I hope they earn lots of money this summer to purchase new sheet tunes so they can introduce fresh sounds next summer.
The ongoing daily parade also includes tourists, locals, street marchers, police cars, ambulances, classic car tours, flag twirlers, trumpet players, marathon runners, not to forget four wheeled bicycles all with the same squeaky toned bell. The very same sound that belongs to my little dog’s favourite toy. Each time they squeeze their squeaker to warn people to get out of their way as they try to avoid colliding with ancient walls and meandering tourists, my little dog barks frantically thinking her toy has been stolen while running around our small apartment in search of her very own squeak.
So much hustle and bustle going on down there with the throngs of tourists and locals as they meander up and down looking for something to eat and drink, trying to find somewhere to rest their weary feet. Time for lunch and the procession of street cleaners trundle along once more collecting the overfull bins and road spills while the many cafes entertain the crowds. The afternoon and evening are full of the same every day, and whilst many of the crowd come and go, the locals make claim to their favourite bench seats for aperitivo, gelato or both with not a rubbish bin in sight.
As the sun sets, the enthusiastic crowds are clearly heard from our window as they aimlessly wander along deciding where to eat and drink. Come later into the evening, after obviously being rejuvenated by generous quantities of beverages, some of the crowd seeminly have difficulty finding their way home to their beds and noisily linger long and longer into the night.
Thank goodness for earplugs, I say, as I flop into bed exhausted by all the strangers I have waved to from my windows in Via Fillungo this day.