Let us not forget Puccini

Yes, the great composer Giacomo Puccini was born in Lucca, and his home is open as a museum and pilgrimage site. His statue (and he) sits in the square facing his house, and we put the flower decorating it today there at the request of our friend Gail, who has religious feelings for the man. I do think he liked a bit of color on a rainy morning.

Puccini lived in this lovely apartment until his death in 1924, and it is filled with scores and documents of his life which can’t be photographed. But costumes from original productions of his operas, his clothing, his piano, and other memorabilia were there to admire. The attic space was even staged for La Bohème.

It was lovely to see him holding court in the courtyard – and to hear his music pouring from the ticket office.

Our next major adventure took lane in the Church of San Giovanni. This was the first cathedral of Lucca, built in the 12th century. What is astonishing about it is its history – and how visible it is.

We have seen oh so many churches built on top of others, harkening back to Etruscan days. What is unusual about this one is the way the earlier churches have been revealed here. The entire ‘modern’ church was excavated, down to the Roman baths and mosaics, and then the floor of the current building was put back in a way that shows its historic layers quite dramatically. Incredible.

We started our day at the Piazza San Michele, where St. Michael towers over the Romanesque facade and the square, which was originally the Roman forum. The loggia with the clock was built in 1495 and is considered the first Renaissance building in Lucca.

The church itself has lots of lovely treasures inside.

The sun did eventually come out today, but the rain didn’t stop us from enjoyed all the wonderful nooks, crannies and aromas of this very pretty city.

Don’s Food Corner

Since it was still raining today in Lucca at lunchtime, we felt we deserved the best.  And we got it.

This restaurant — Ristorante Giglio, located across the piazza from the Teatro Giglio where we saw Graham Nash the other day — was an elegant affair.  I think I counted THREE tablecloths.  Lots of silver on display.  The water and wine glasses were lined up in a perfect pattern on the table when we were seated.

For a starter we shared tortino di ricotta e carciofi su crema di ceci — a delicately crusted pie of ricotta and braised artichokes with a chickpea cream. Delicious, with a beautiful presentation.

Next, Jo moved onto risotto alla parmigiana con riduzione di Chianti — risotto with Parmesan and a Chianti wine reduction spooned on top. We waited an extraordinary amount of time to be served this course and I suspect it was because of the time taken with the risotto. The Parmesan cheese had an unusually sharp and rich taste; I suspect they used the really good stuff.  The wine reduction was a thick syrup that gave a wonderful sweet counterbalance to the cheese. This dish was not weakened with too much cream.  Sublime.

I had agnello al fonro — roasted lamb — with roast potatoes. The lamb had been removed from the bone, rolled into a roast shape and then encased in skin before being roasted. I got two slices of a much larger roast. I’m not sure what part of the lamb the skin came from (some internal organ?) and I didn’t ask. But the skin, wherever it came from, was beautifully crispy and the lamb lusciously tender.

Although we rarely indulge in dessert, our meal was so excellent that we couldn’t resist. Jo had sesame panna cotta topped with salted caramel sauce, very thin slices of green apple, oats and a dusting of ground lapsang souchong tea leaves. It was as inventive and delicious as it was attractive. I had a basil custard tart studded with wild strawberries. As you can see, each of those tiny strawberries was carefully arranged, with their tips pointing up, one by one. Like the rest of the meal, personal care was given to every aspect of every dish.

As we had yesterday, we enjoyed some Montecarlo white wine.

I think we will be returning to this restaurant. I want to try a big Tuscan steak, but I don’t want to trust the expense to a restaurant that I don’t know. We now know Restaurante Giglio.

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