Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Events and Festivals Lucca : San Paolino 12th July

Every year Lucca on 12th July Lucca celebrates one of its Saints, San Paolino of Antioch. The question is, who is this saint and why is the Patron Saint of Lucca? The legend says that San Paolino was a disciple of Saint Peter and sent to Lucca to convert the population with a deacon, a soldier and priest and supposedly become the city’s first bishop. His companions names have been lost in time and nor is there any real evidence of San Paolino himself, but in 1197 relics were found in the church of Saint George, with a stone declaring them to be the relics of Paolino a holy martyr killed in 67 during the reign of Nero.

San Paolino’s sainthood however was bestowed on him due an incident in 1622 when a cannon being fired in his honour misfire and injured some pilgrims but because of his divine intervention there where no serious injuries.

San Paolino is a very important date in the cities calendar and celebrations include all the important traditions from the city spanning several periods, dancing, flag throwing and most perhaps most famous the crossbow competition.

Both locals and tourists enjoy these delights. At the mass in the church of San Paolino, in his district of the city offering are made. The feast not only serves to honour the saint but is also a way to pass the old traditions through the generations. One of the best parts for me is seeing kids as young as 6 throwing flags and cross generations parading and beating drums together just as it has always been done.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Lucca Antique Market

On the weekend of the third Sunday of every month antiques spill out of the shops and onto the cobbled alleyways and piazzas of Lucca . 

The main market is based around the antique district of the old town, Via del Battistero, Piazza Antelminelli, Piazza San Giovanni and Piazza del Giglio. Dealers from all over Northern Italy invade the walled city to hawk their wares.

I love to wonder around the stalls, there are certain dealers who have real bargains, while others have prices suitable for the chatelaines of the large villas. 
As a tourist you might think that this is not the market for you, as it is difficult to carry a carved church relic or marble statue on a plane, but there are also many stores selling vintage glasses, bags, clothes and tools, so fun can be had by all. You might even find the right crystal drop for an old chandelier .

Just in case you thought this market was a modern innovation to attract visitors, it was started in Medieval times, for the rich merchant families seeking unique pieces for their palazzi. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Santa Caterina, Lucca and its 3D Cupola

Lucca is known as the city of 100 churches, most come from the Romanesque period however there is a little baroque gem, not far from the bus station, standing on an insignificant corner in Via Vittorio Emanuele II, which deserves a visit.

The church is only open on the 3rd Sunday of the month. As a local it is very easy to always be busy or put off going to these open days. I was there very happy that I finally made it last month. The structure is very close the Lucchese hearts. The  Church of Santa Caterina is otherwise know as "La Chiesa delle Sigaraie" (The Tobacco Workers'  Church) as it is opposite the famous Toscana  tobacco factory. The workers, almost totally women, would pop in to pray during their breaks. It was due to passion of the locals and the place this church played in their lives that it was awarded a grant and restored.

Children as well will in enjoy this church with its 3 d effect dome by Bartolomeo de Santi, and what makes it even more interesting is that you can climb up to the dome and see how the effect is created.

If you continue to the very top you are also able to see how the dome was constructed and how the structure has been conserved. If you get out of breath on the stairs, spare a thought for the nuns who used to pop up and down the stairs continuously to hang their washing  to dry next to the dome.

The architect of this unusual shaped church is Francesco Pini and it was built between 1738 and 1748, though one eyes are distracted by the amazing dome it is( worth noticing the  frescoes by Silvestro Giannotti and Giovanni Lazzoni  and the statues of purity by Giovanni Antonio Cybei.

I was so happy to have a last made time to discover this little treasure.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Roadside Wild Flowers in Tuscany.

Yesterday morning, I just had to stop the car on our hillside to drink in this beautiful canvass, nothing contrived here just the roadside flowers. 

The wild flowers come in waves and a month ago the composition was different. Many people  pay thousands to create wild flower gardens but here in Tuscany our roadside gives us this visual delight.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Lucca Film Festival

Lucca last Saturday night turned into a Hollywood movie studio. Throughout the city in various Piazzas and Bars were film sets from famous movies. Chicago was there right next to Dirty Dancing and then around the corner was Zombie. Batman seemed to have various filming locations about the city. The reason for the transformation from Tuscany to California was The Lucca and Europa Cinema Film Festival.

The festival wasn’t just confined to the city but included locations as far away as Barga. The Lucchesi seem to have penchant for dressing up and had taken this occasion to their hearts.

Schools students also took to the film sets. My personal favourite was Romeo And Juliet interpreted by young actors from Liceo Classico Niccolò Machiavelli. Their location was an ice-cream parlour, which had been transformed into the magic fish tank scene from Baz Luhrmann's rendition of Romeo and Juliet 

For those who prefer a more hard-hitting genre of cinema there was the Zombie set. The director himself, George A. Romero was here for the occasion and I am told even put his hands into fresh cement. Are we starting our own Lucca walk of fame?

It was good to see Lucca swinging again after winter, this city is for me a film set in itself and I often have to kick myself as a reminder that I am living a reality and not playing a part in a movie.
For more information about the festival look at their website is http://luccafilmfestival.it/en/

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Enzo's Tricks For Making The Perfect Moka Espresso Coffee

Any Italian will tell you that Naples is the city of Coffee therefore Enzo my very Neapolitan is the Coffee king in our house. My coffee was never special until he shared his little tricks with me. I have therefore given this post entirely over to him to share his secrets of how to make the perfect Coffee with your Moka Express machine. 

I would therefore like to link this page to Enzo’s new food blog, which ha has just launched on

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Moka, The Iconic Italian coffee kettle.


This entry should really be called an ode to the Moka. If you read on you will see why.
What are the great post war icons of Italian culture? I know you are going to list the Fiat 500, the Vespa and Nutella but lets not forget the Moka Express,  the coffee kettle invented by Alfonso Bialetti and transformed by his son Rinaldo into an icon of design and functionality. No Italian kitchen would be complete without one. Rinaldo with his Father’s product, brought into every Italian home the aroma and punch of a steam produced coffee from the bar.
This month sadly saw the death of Rinaldo Bialetti at the ripe old age of 93, perhaps confirming the health benefits of espresso coffee. I was delighted to see that Rinaldo was buried in a casket fashioned into the form of one of his coffee kettles complete with the caricature of the little man Alfonso, his father on the side with his stupendous mustache. This scene has endeared my coffee kettle to me even more and made me even more pleased that I have refused to jump onto the George Clooney Nespresso wagon, even if this scarpers my opportunity to have coffee with the gorgeous man. 

The point is even though I am told these capsule coffee makers produce a decent cup of coffee, it has now been confirmed that many brands’ capsules are non recyclable, which at the very least seems very short sighted in this ecological age. Even those like Nespresso, which are recyclable I don't  believe can replace my Moka.
Coffee making for me like most people in my adopted country is a ritual. A way to start the day and put the mind and body in balance, those few extra minutes it takes to make an espresso using a Moka gives one a moment to breathe. Listening for the change in tone as the coffee is forced out by the steam tells you your coffee will be ready in a moment. This sound makes me go into first gear and then straight into fifth as the first drop of that dark rich liquid hits my lips. No fad, fashion or rush will ever part me from my little morning companion Mr Alfonso Bialetti. My Neapolitan husband is the king of coffee in our house and he has taught me how to brew and appreciate this luxurious liquid and the ceremony around it.
In my next blog entry I will get my husband to share his secrets for that perfect cup of Moka.