A Winter Sunday in Piazza Napoleone (Piazza Grande) Lucca
After a good Sunday lunch either at home or in a trattoria (family restaurant) a passeggiata or stroll is mandatory. The perfect translation for passeggiata is that wonderful little used word perambulation. A passeggiata means more than just a walk but a moment for the whole family to go out together, to meet people and to be seen. In Lucca many dress up and it is an important social event. There are several locations for the Sunday passeggiata in our bijoux city but a favourite for a cold February Sunday is Piazza Napoleone or Piazza Grande as it know by the locals. There is something and a corner for everyone in this large elegant French style piazza modelled by Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi (sister of Napoleon and ruler or Lucca).
The skating ring is still up from Christmas and the sporty can speed or totter around the ice. For the mini people or the romantic oldies there is the carousel styled on a traditional fairground model but in some ways even more appealing because of its way too shiny exterior and horses with feather duster plumes. The carousel also has little panels depicting Lucca’s landmarks, which add a certain cachet. I love the way it is controlled by what looks to me like the TV remote control. I remember on one occasion one of the owners desperately shaking the control in the direction of the carousel trying to get it to move. The demented look at her face reminded me of my frustration when I can't get the CD player to work!
In the centre of the Piazza is a rather unremarkable statue of Maria Luisa di Borbone of Spain, who replaced Elisa both as the ruler of Lucca and the subject of the statue. The iron railing surrounding the monument not only serves to make this unmemorable centre piece more grand but as a perch where the middle school kids sit and eye up the opposite sex and make their first moves at flirting. It seems this spot has been used for this purpose by generations of fledging lovers! Unperturbed toddlers in carnival customs throw paper confetti and streamers about and run in circles. I love looking at their laughing faces and simple joy! The young adults and couples might stop in a café or bar and observe or chat and only move on when the sun disappears and it becomes just too cold. This Sunday afternoon ritual is a perfect way to bump into friends and acquaintances without having to arrange anything. This casual sociability is one of the great satisfactions of small town Italian life and how reassuring it is that this gentile Sunday pursuit still continues.