Thursday is a full day without plans. Although we could go to Firenze, where there are a number places I’d like to go, the thought of another train ride is not appealing after the number we have done recently. Or we could rent a car and drive to the Chianti area, but travel has taken it’s toll so we just want a day without going anywhere other than on foot. We decide we should visit Enoteca Vanni and visit the botanical gardens. We also decide to take up Arlene’s suggestion of a good place outside the walls called Borgo Giannotti, a street which she describes as a typical slice of Italian life.
We head to Santa Maria gates to exit the walls to cross to Borgo Giannotti by an underground walk.
We walk up and down the street enjoying the sunshine, window shopping and listen to nothing but Italian being spoken. This would have been a good place to have visited earlier in our trip because there are a number of food shops which look interesting, but by Thursday, we have more food in the apartment than we can eat before we have to leave.
We return inside the walls to go to Vanni.
Enoteca Vanni [Piazza Del Salvatore, 7 55100 Lucca Tel. e Fax 39 0583 491902]
I had thought Sherry Lehman in Manhattan was the best wine shop I have ever seen but this place may have it beat because not only has it an extensive array of wine, single malt whisky and other alcohol, but it has character. You walk from the narrow shop front, which has shelves of bottles stacked right to the very high ceiling, down into rooms of cellars, literally, stone cellars, with racks and racks of bottles some caked with dust accumulated over 40 or 50 years. Many were even older than I am! The selection of scotch was worthy of the best Edinburgh shops we’ve been to and the wines, while mostly Italian, included a considerable number of French wines including a 1878 Lafite Rothschild for a mere €13,000. Since we only were going to be in Italy for another two days and had no intention of carrying any home, we limited ourselves to buying 4 bottles. They were all Brunellos at less than half the price we pay in Calgary, assuming we could even get them. We can’t decide whether it was good or bad that we did not get to this shop until our last full day in Lucca. If we had found it earlier, we might never have done anything other than try to drink our way through as many of the bottles as possible.
We return to the apartment and immediately opened one of the Brunellos. We’re having a lunch of the leftover pasta from our cooking lesson and I made a salad of the tomatoes, bufalo mozzarella and rucola that I bought because they looked so good. Scott amuses himself by sitting in the sun taking photos of wine consumption – now we have the pictures in case no one believes we were drinking wine.
After lunch, we head to the Giardino Botanico, a garden begun by one of the university professors at Lucca. Admission, I think, was €3 or 3.5.
It started with regional plants. There isn’t much information posted about the garden or the plants we’re looking at, but the weather was great and it was nice to stroll around, especially because a number of the plants are blooming. I’ve seen this purple flowered plant draping over walls everywhere and there’s one in the botanical garden, but there’s no label so I still don’t know what kind of plant it is.
We return to the apartment to enjoy more the the wine we bought from Vanni and then go off for our last dinner in Lucca at Buca di Sant’antonio, [Via della Cervia 3, Lucca, tel: 39 0583 55881]. This is considered one of the best traditional restaurants. The place has great character. We are sat in a room with brass pots, pans and tubas hanging from the walls and ceiling. We are poured a prosecco and brought a plate of savoury little pastry like things. We split a chicken liver crostini which was presented like French pate slice with toast rather than with the liver already atop the bread. Scott has vegetable soup and I have minestra with spelt, a type of wheat which is typical here but we haven’t tried. Scott gets brought cheese for his soup but I am told not to put cheese in my soup. The soup is very filling. I ordered stuffed vegetables. I get zucchini, eggplant, tomato and yellow bell pepper stuffed with a meat similar to the filling for tortelli. It’s more meat than vegetable. I love it but cannot finish it. Scott has fried lamb chops and artichokes. Scott has strawberries and cream but I just have a glass of Barolo Chinato. It is similar to the Barberesco Chinato we tried in Venice but a bit fuller because of the difference between the two wines. We are brought a plate of biscotti, but by this point, I’m beyond eating anything more.
The food in this place is wonderful and the décor charming but we had the grumpiest waiter we have ever encountered so this did not end up being my favourite experience.
Back to the apartment to pack because this is our last night in Lucca.