Before heading to Civitavecchia, Italy where I’d be boarding the Holland America Line Oosterdam that would be my home for the next 12 days, I spent a wonderful week in London and in Sussex, England visiting family. It was a nice break before buckling down and getting to work.
The first port on the itinerary was Livorno, Italy but I had pre-arranged with a local guide to take us to Lucca, an ancient medieval Tuscan city that has been on my bucket list ever since I learned there was a Saint Zita from the 13th century who lived and died there.|
Prior to visiting the church where St. Zita’s mummified body is on display, (yes, you read that correctly!) I have an appointment with chef Giuliano Pacini of Buca di S. Antonio, a long established and very popular traditional Luccan restaurant. He wants to show me their methods for making pasta and so I am taken to their small and very warm kitchen where I find Chef Monica all ready to go. According to Giuliano, women are better pasta makers so he never makes it himself. I watch Monica do all the hard work while the Chef tells lots of entertaining stories that helps keep my mind off how hot it was in there.
I am then treated to a terrific pappardelle with porcini mushroom sauce that was quite flavorful yet subtle that was paired perfectly with a super tasty local red wine thanks to Sommelier Cristiano. Nice to know I’d be going to the Fattoria di Fubbiano winery later on and could be tasting some more. Chef Giuliano insisted that my crew and I stay for lunch and we devoured more pasta with a rabbit ragu, fresh bread & olive oil and a refreshing rosato to complete the feast.
My guide, Wanda Martinelli, (toursbylocals.com) is with me now and I am eager to head to the Basilica ano de San Frediano to see the famous Saint. This imposing Romanesque church is quite beautiful with its marble interior and many intricate chapels. I head straight to St. Zita’s chapel, where the Patron Saint of Maids and domestic servants is entombed in glass and on display for all to see. The story is that she was a maid for the wealthy Fatinelli family and they believed she was stealing bread to feed the poor. When stopped one day and asked to open her apron thinking they would find bread, instead it seems that flowers fell out. Her life is celebrated with a feast every April 27th and while I don’t know if I’ll ever be in Lucca for that event, simply visiting her now meant a lot to me.
After that very special visit, what better than to enjoy some wine. First, I get to
admire 55,000 bottles at one of Italy’s best wine shops, Enoteca Vanni. The shop itself is rather tiny with just a few shelves lining the walls but down some steps you come to an amazing and ongoing cave filled with wine, whiskies and all kinds of treasures dating back years and years. I was hoping to get a sample of something but seems I would have to wait until the winery.
We drove into the hills of Lucca and came to the stunning grounds of Fattoria di Fubbiano surrounded by olive groves and vineyards. This impressive property has recently added a new wine cellar and tasting room with temperature controlled steel tanks, large wooden tanks as well as some concrete vats. I met with winemaker Marco in the barrel room where I was honored to taste a Sangiovese out of one of the small French oak barriques. He told
me it was his first time tasting it since it went into the barrel just a few months ago. I have to say it was already quite delicious. The winery produces about 100, 000 bottles of wine per year protecting the local traditions and styles of the Colline Lucchesi while continually striving to make their wines even better. I liked the fruitiness and easy drinking style of their wines. If only I didn’t have weight restrictions on my luggage I would have grabbed a few bottles to take with me.
It’s time to head back to the ship after a whirl wind few hours in lovely Lucca – a trip I will always remember.
Cheers and all the best,