The plan was to stop in the ancient town of Lucca on our way back from Pisa for a tour of the points of interest, as well as to have lunch. We were all famished!
As we approached the city, I was taken aback by the mighty wall (one of three incidentally, as the town continued to conquer and expand their territory), which stoutly embraced its inhabitants.
We all gathered in the Piazza in front of the San Michele church to listen to Danielle (one of the wonderful professors on our little school tour) tell us about the history of the church and the town.
As we were all hungry and somewhat tired from our early start (6am), she said she would make it brief. She pointed to the namesake of the church referring to him as St. Mike. There was an embarrassed pause, following by apologies and laughter. We chalked it up to hungry delirium.
As we broke away for lunch and complete freedom for the next five hours, we decided to tag along with Rebecca. Food is very important to me, and I hate to be landed in a strange place absolutely starving. These are the very times that bad food decisions are made, (the other one being to eat doughnuts while supermarket shopping, and going home with a tummy ache and no appetite).
Rebecca has been living in Cortona for the past 20 years (a love story I have not heard all the details of yet!), and has also been hungry in Lucca several times! So, she knew of a place known only to locals and transplants like herself.
We followed her down a street off the piazza, and after a few short turns, we had arrived at Trattoria da Leo. She was all worried that we would have to wait for a table. Being that we were all ready to turn cannibal, I crossed my fingers.
Low and behold, we were greeted with much gusto by one of the owners (an unassuming elderly lady in a house coat!), and led to a couple of tables close to the kitchen, which she pushed together in a businesslike fashion.
As we sat, she appeared again with bottles of water (both still and sparkling), and a big carafe of wine. There wasn’t a question that we wouldn’t be enjoying red wine with our lunch (I love this country!).
I was so happy to have the chance to eat in a restaurant that prided itself in basic Italian fare.
The other great thing is that while I have been here, I have never had to worry that my kids will lack for something to eat. They love everything, from the salt cod to a rich ragu.
It was the best lunch I have had to date.
It was a combination of things really. The lady who welcomed us in was also the person who took care of our table. When she figured out that we were new in town (based on my bad Italian pronunciation alone!) she proceeded to treat us like royalty. Along with what we ordered, she brought us a plate of meatballs and some ravioli to try on the house
We were loud, and ravenous. The wine disappeared fast, while we all tried a bite of each other’s dishes. My favorite thing was the salt cod, and the pumpkin ravioli.
We ended the meal with caffe macchiato and limonciello. The treats did not end there, as our newly adopted grandmother came to our table with a plate of almond-y biscotti to compliment our coffee.
As we left, we were hugged and kissed, with promises for our return. I know that things don’t always work out so perfectly, but on this particular Saturday I had a day to remember.