Friday, October 28, 2011

Lucca Marathon

Marathon running just isn’t my thing. The idea of pounding the roads when I could be relaxing with a glass of “vino” just doesn’t appeal. I am not deaf to Michelle Obama’s cry that we all need to be fit but prefer to get my exercise by taking her alternative option of tilling the soil and believe me when you have terraced land like mine that keeps you in trim.  Despite this I look jealously at a friend’s legs, who is a marathon enthusiast and will travel to London, New York for the weekend to run. I would love to have that perfect muscular line on her thigh and yes she makes me feel slothful and undisciplined. 

This weekend therefore I felt honour bound to roll out of bed early on Sunday morning. Bleary eyed I pulled on the nearest pair of jeans and without makeup but of course behind my Burka (oversized sunglasses) stumbled to the Starting point of the third Lucca Marathon to show support.

The weather conditions were perfect, fine but cool. The Lucca marathon is highly professional despite the almost carnival atmosphere and all the contestants have a microchip in the vest for the timing. I assume this is standard practice but I was very impressed. The start of the race was accompanied very appropriately by the band of the Bersaglieri troops who are famous because they play and run at the same time while the plumes on their helmets stream behind them. This must be one of the most scenic marathons. The runners circulate Lucca’s 16th century Renaissance walls, run through the old town and the wonderful surrounding countryside. 

The marathon was used to spread the message to all the family about the joys of exercise and a short family run involving children of all ages was arranged with the famous Italian mouse “Geronimo Stilton” though one feels that “Geronimo Parmigiano / Parmesan” would be a more suitable name. Even this health promoting incentive did not lack that vital Italian ingredient of “la merenda” the snack and focaccia and tarts were on offer to the children, not too certain about the health benefits! The previous day the dogs and their owners had a chance to join in the fun with a brisk walk around the walls. 

This event brought a festive atmosphere to the city and made exercise fun. I am certain Michele Obama would have approved.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Ghost of Lucida Mansi – Lucca’s Very Own Dorian Grey

Lucca is and always has been a very elegant city and the Lucchesi women dress to impress. They are toned and preened and botox and plastic surgery are certainly not frowned upon. Lucida Mansi, a beautiful 17th century Lucchese noblewoman with a rather racy reputation, had to take even more drastic steps to keep the sagging and wrinkles at bay. Her only option at the time was to make a pact with the devil. He would give her 30 years of youth in return for her soul. There are numerous versions of this legend based on a woman’s vanity.

As you stroll around the famous 16th century walls of Lucca and look down into the botanical gardens created by Maria Luisa Borbone to a design by Elisa Buonaparte in 1820, you will note a large pond that it is fed by a ancient spring and filled with exotic plants. This may look like a peaceful place for the modern citizen to sit and contemplate but it harbours a much darker secret. The pond supposedly encircles the plant of death and indeed according to records is on the burial site of plague victims, non-believers and executed prisoners, indeed the hangman’s house is nearby on the wall above. It is in this pond that you apparently can see the beautiful face of Lucida reflected as in a mirror in the mysterious dark waters.

The legend has it that even in death Lucida isn’t at peace and that on dark stormy nights when the rains slashes the city, a fiery coach can be seen racing around the walls with lamentations and cries of agony coming forth until the carriage carriers off the walls and plunges into the dark pond’s waters. Lucida Mansi was in many ways a sad character. Widowed at 22 when her husband Vincenzo Diversi was assassinated, she married a much older nobleman, Gaspare Mansi, probably died of the plague in 1649 and was buried in the Church of the Capuchins, which stood where the gardens are today. During her lifetime Lucida had a reputation of being very vain and capricious, there were rumours of her many lovers and traps she set to kill them so that they couldn’t “kiss and tell” thereby ruining her reputation. A circle that can still be seen of the floor of her palace is thought to be where the traps with knives were set to ensnare her discarded lovers but others say it marks the spot where the devil pulled his victim into the abyss.  Lucida like Snow White’s stepmother was obsessed by her reflection and made certain that she had mirrors everywhere so that she could admire herself and even carried one in her prayer book.

The ghost of this volatile egocentric woman has taken her place in history as one of the famous legends of Lucca and Tuscan ghosts.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Settembre Lucchese /September is Festival Month in Lucca

Here are some images from Settembre Lucchese.  I have attached links to other posts, which go into more details about the celebrations some of which have taken place for generations every September in Lucca. The famous Luminara di Santa Croce procession on 13th September has followed the same route for 1229 years. This year 13th September also saw the reopening after many years of the Puccini Museum.

Here are some links to other posts connected to  Lucca  in September

Lucca Goes Back in Time - Procession of the Luminara

Mercato Della Carogne

Opening Of The Puccini Museum Lucca