Have you ever pictured yourself enjoying a leisurely afternoon in Tuscany, perhaps shopping and sipping wine? Well, did that vision ever include you riding a bicycle? Up until today, I must confess, mine did not, but all of a sudden here we were getting sized up for our helmets and rental bikes in the absolutely lovely village of Lucca.We arrived via a deluxe motor coach which we boarded directly where our cruise ship had docked, at the port of Livorno, Italy. It was a gorgeous day outside and the comfortable, scenic bus ride was made even more enjoyable by the presence of our tour escort for the afternoon, a charming native who, typical for European guides, knew her historical facts like we Americans know our cheeseburgers. (I mention a food item here because we all know that Americans kind of suck at remembering history, but fast food choices? Got it.)
Anyway, the minute our bus approached the massive red brick walls surrounding the city – yes, you read that correctly, it is a medieval walled city – I knew Lucca was going to be another delightful day. For starters, doesn’t that name, Lucca, just roll off your tongue like a gentle song? And the Italian version sounds ever better – they pronounce it as ‘Leuwka’- and even now as I write this it makes me smile to say it as the Italians do. As mentioned, it’s a medieval village with traceable history as far back as the 2nd century, and although I’d actually never heard of the place until we chose this for our excursion, I immediately fell in love with it. And once we connected with our bikes, chosen from a huge lot filled with all sizes of them in and around an old-world bicycle shop on the outskirts of town, our small group fell into line with the guide who began a gentle, narrated roll starting from our positions on top of the red brick wall.
The width of this path was huge, similar to a wide road, but picture it as being wrapped around the entire circumference of an old city, in which no cars or vehicles are allowed inside. To top it off, this pathway is mostly dirt and/or soft green grass lined with beautiful shade trees and gorgeous garden vistas so that your bike ride is one ogling, goggling, smile-inducing view after another. If I had been a more agile or coordinated bike rider (ahem) I surely would have taken many more pictures than the few I was able to snap during our brief stops! But in lieu of those, my descriptions will have to suffice.
Moving on, once we had circled the city we descended into the middle of its charming self where, as mentioned, cars have been banned, making bicycling a very popular and safe tourist activity. We stopped at some churches, whizzed by too many shops (arrgh!), and finally took a nice leisurely break where, you guessed it, out came the pizza and wine. Maybe some pasta, too, but I can’t even remember how many times during this trip and in what places we added a side bowl of pasta to whatever our main entrée was, so just suffice it to say that we probably had some of that, too. Whatever we ate, for sure it was followed by another fantastic flavor of gelato. Or two. Are you seeing a pattern here?
I should also briefly add that I’m not much of a bike rider back home so I was a little worried about my capabilities and stamina – especially because there were quite a few younger riders with us on this trip and well, you know, I didn’t want to be the ‘old lady that was huffing and puffing’ the whole way. But honestly within minutes those concerns all vanished. I say this in case anyone reading should ever question whether or not they have the ability to ride a bike in Tuscany. My advice now would be run, don’t walk, to the nearest bike shop upon arrival, and enjoy the journey!
So out of eleven possible excursions offered to us today we felt we hit the jackpot with this one. A lot of fresh air, a little exercise, just enough history so as not to overwhelm us, and most of all unexpected fun at every turn!
And then tonight? After another stunning gourmet dinner, we gained a little more culture on board the Mariner as we enjoyed an excellent entertainer, Italian tenor Ugo Paliotto from Naples. He had a powerful voice singing both opera and popular songs, and of course just oozed with Italian charm and charisma.
And it should come as no surprise that once again we ended the night on the dance floor, closing down another nightclub. But you already knew that was coming, right?