We arrived in the historic town of Lucca in October 2014 for a 16 night stay at an apartment along the Anfiteatro. Our lodgings included two yellow bicycles so we could investigate by bicycle and more efficiency get us around the 4.2 kilometre Mura (wall), through the cobblestone town and out beyond this amazing wall which kept us all tucked inside such a beautiful part of Tuscany.
There to greet us on that first afternoon after a long flight from Australia, was a young Italian girl who had a huge smile, welcoming handshake and spoke fluent English. Her name she told us was Mini Pacini. Not the Giacomo Puccini that Lucca is most famous, but the vibrant Mini Pacini we would come to know and love.
Before leaving us in our new home with fabulous yellow bicycles, Mini suggested various spots we might like to explore and before she flew out the door, asked us if we were interested in “being her wenny pigs” with a couple of activities she wanted to pass on to those who came to Lucca. Mini wanted us to experience what she well knew was hers to share. Not sure what she meant, but soon to be told “guinea pigs” was the English pronunciation, little did we know as we closed the door, that in the days and weeks to come, Mini’s name would be on our lips to all who asked us about all things Lucca.
We quickly learned that Mini grew up in Lucca before heading off to other parts of the world in search of a vocation, perfecting her English to add to her perfect Italian and Spanish languages. She enjoyed living and working overseas, but Lucca is home, returning in 2014 not yet sure how she could convey her Lucca to all.
As we strolled and cycled through the cobbled streets those first few days, we kept literally bumping into Mini who appeared to be everywhere, either chatting with locals, sharing a strong expresso (always in a big cup), cycling around on her yellow bicycle, as she was enthusiastically dashing to welcome new guests, organise cleaning of apartments etc. She always seemed to have the time to stop and chat and make you part of her day. Before long we had met many of the local traders, residents and tourists as she interacted with all. It was a great way for us to see Lucca a little through Mini’s eyes.
Mini was sure everything in her Lucca was fabulous and her effervescent presence bubbled up enthusiasm to us as well.
Daily visits to the many cafes for our macchiato, in an attempt to seek out our favourite one proved hard around Lucca. There are so many fabulous spots, for rainy days, hot days, lazy afternoons and early mornings. Almost all, has an expert barista, it was so difficult to choose one of them as the best as we continued to seek them all out as we cycled by.
One sunny Saturday morning Mini cycled with us along a little bicycle track on the other side of the railway line, along the Neoclassical Aqueduct of Nottolini, to see how long it would take a couple of “seniors” to ride this wobbly pathway past little hamlets into scenic parkland which overlooks historic Lucca cosily tucked inside its wall. What a treat for us to see Lucca from the outside looking in.
Regularly, we sat on the Mura after riding our bicycles people watching locals and tourists go by. It was a little sad for us to see the tour groups seemingly whisked in and out, knowing that many of them who had a sneak peek of what was on offer didn’t want to leave. We struck up many a conversation with tourists, hoping our animated happy conversation gave them the “linger longer” feeling in this mystical part of Tuscany.
We returned for three months in the Spring of 2016 to learn that Mini had set up her own business, “Cosy Lucca by Mini” creating an avenue to those like us who yearn for a lifetime experience in this delightful part of the world. On our daily rides and walks we constantly came into contact with this passionate ray of sunshine. So if you see a cheery young lady peddling her yellow bicycle around town, it’s probably Mini. Call out, say “Hi”. She will more than likely stop for a chat and of course make suggestions for you in the hope that you have a cosy stay in Lucca.
The history of Lucca is full of fabulous stories, however those who for many years have lived in Lucca are its true essence.
We have loved every one of our Lucca experiences, so much so that we are planning to return early in 2017 for a year….. perhaps longer. Lucca is cosy indeed and we loved being Mini’s “wenny pigs”.