The final leg: Lucca, Siena and Rome

Posted by Kirsten Smart on 26 September 2011

Lucca

We only ended up in Lucca because it was on our way and we liked its name, so we had no expectations of it. We were pleasantly surprised to find that it is a small city completely surrounded by old fortified walls that are entirely intact. We rented bicycles and rode around the circumference of the walls (which took only an hour), getting great views of the city below from every angle. We then explored the city for a while, taking in the perfectly preserved, original old buildings and the ornate churches and stopping for lunch in a traditional old restaurant that once was a butchery. The Luccanians are clearly proud of their city; their streets are clean and filled with boutique stores selling handmade leather goods as well as designer clothes and their buildings are immaculately preserved. It would be a mistake to miss out on Lucca if you’re in the area as if you’re looking for something authentically Italian, you’re sure to find it there. We were disappointed that we couldn’t stay longer in Lucca, but we were nearing the end of our journey and our second last stop was Siena.

Siena

Surrounded by ancient walls, Siena has to be one of Italy’s most beautiful cities. Plonked right in the rough and rocky Tuscan hills, the buildings mirror the reds, browns and yellows of the surrounding terrain. I’m ashamed to say that we didn’t feel up to the usual sightseeing when we were there, which probably had a lot to do with the fact that it was hotter than wasabi on steroids and we had enjoyed the region’s wines a tad too much the night before. So we clung to the shadows in the central square, got lost in the cobbled streets that all look so similar and took refuge in gelato stores, watching families of tourists in their Panama hats and crisp, white slacks. They must not have been travelling for very long.

Siena is pretty, but I have to say our experience of it was spoiled by the crowds of visitors and the incredible heat. In my opinion it’s no more beautiful than it’s younger, smaller, less popular sister, Lucca. We left Siena early, as the sun was rising over the scorched, rocky hills. Squeezed into our little Renault convertible (this was to be our final trip with her) with our luggage spilling out around us, we waved goodbye to Tuscany, to her good and humble food, her smooth wine and her rough charm. Ahead of us, all roads lead to Rome.

Rome

We returned our trusty car still containing dust from Tuscany, some chocolate stains from Gruyère and a few baguette crumbs from France. Impractical but trustworthy, romantic and exciting- she would be missed, but Rome is a nightmare to navigate by car, so we decided to hand her in early and explore the city by foot.

We weren’t staying for very long, so we threw our luggage into our room and rushed to the Colosseum. It was around five o’clock and the lines were longer than the Shaik trial. And the heat hadn’t abated. Then a stroke of good fortune: we overheard a tour guide telling a family of red-headed Brits that the last tour would be in five minutes and to follow him. So we rushed off after them, skipping the ridiculous queue, and bought the last two tickets for the tour.

If you’ve never visited the Colosseum, it really should be on your bucket list. Built in 72 AD, this magnificent feat of architecture was completed in a mere 8 years. You can feel the history behind this place- the lives lost, the battles won- and although much of it was destroyed by earthquakes, fires and the religious order of the 14th-19th centuries (who extensively stripped the building of its marble and bronze), it is still truly magnificent, especially in the golden light of an Italian summer afternoon.

The next day was our last in Italy, and on EuroTrip. We decided to tackle the Spanish steps, sprawling with groups of tourists and vendors selling real fake’ Louis Vuitton and Chanel wallets (we later saw a few of them happily being arrested, a hazard of the job, I guess). We wandered through the magnificent Borghese gardens to a spectacular viewpoint that looked out over the entire city. It was clear to us that we had to come back to Rome; we didn’t have nearly enough time to see all that we wanted to see and we didn’t want to spend what little time we had rushing from sight to glorious sight, not doing any of them very much justice. So we caught a taxi out to the Mediterranean, took a dip and, with sunburned salty skin and sandy toes, we boarded the plane back home with exhausted relief- knowing we created some utterly unforgettable memories on EuroTrip 2011.






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