Nothing like a lazy Sunday in Lucca. It was 50 degrees with only occasional light rain; not bad strolling weather at all. We decided on a walk and Sunday lunch to watch the Italian families gather.
Lucca is full of twists, turns, piazzas and alleys and many are not on the free tourist maps. We are using the iPhone and a map I ordered from Brian Lindquist in Connecticut. He loves Lucca and decided he’d had enough of the inaccuracy and the frustration of not knowing the history of each wonderful building. The map shows every twist and turn as well as every piazza, church (41), former church (37), museum (6) and palazzo (87) with notes about each on the back. We would literally be lost without it! We will visit the tourist office tomorrow to find out visiting hours and availability. Open hours are complicated here, especially in winter. Although we enjoy our peregrinations, it’s nice to have a few targets.
Our destination for lunch was Vecchia Trattoria Buralli. We only took a few wrong turns (not the maps fault) and enjoyed palazzo gazing and window shopping along the way, snapping pictures here and there as we walked. The Trattoria had lots of old charm and quickly filled. Family Sunday lunch is a big deal in Italy. The birth rate is down, so little ones are treasured even more than usual and family is of supreme importance.
We noticed one table at lunch where the only child, a four year old boy dressed in clothes that were absolutely designer, was kissed by every adult each time they left or returned to the table. He seemed to love it and leaned toward Mama frequently to kiss her or stroke her hair. He asked for fried potatoes as soon as he sat down and they were promptly placed in front of the little king. He was included in the conversation and chatted amiably throughout the meal.
The menu is handwritten and photocopied at Burallis and lists five, three course Sunday dinners. I chose penne with local pork sausage and walnuts followed by leg of ham (something like pork roast) with roast potatoes and veggies. Paul’s selection featured tagliatelle with boar sauce and a mixed plate of fried rabbit, zucchini and artichoke hearts. It came piled high and we noticed the dish was popular. I guess no one fries at home anymore. The result was a room was full of dressed up Italians, and two casually dressed Americans, gnawing on tiny little rabbit legs.
Every dish was good and portions were generous, but we agreed that my pasta dish was a cut above. The sausage and nuts were an excellent combination. Paul thought it was too early for wine at 1:30 (I didn’t), but as soon as he had a bite of that boar sauce, he ordered red. I don’t think Sunday lunch in Italy is allowed to be wine-free anyway! We are amazed by the quality and value of house wines in Italy and almost always chose them.
The third course was dessert and we were already full, but curiosity and the disappointed look on the waitress’ face led us to forge ahead. She really wanted us to try the fried cake, so we had one of those and one mixed fruit. The cake was good, a bit like French toast but cakier and covered with a loose vanilla custard with swirls of dark chocolate. The fruit was cooked in a pan until caramelized and comprised blood orange slices with peel, grapefruit sections, bananas and pears with a sprinkle of powdered sugar for garnish. I really liked the fruit, Paulo chose the cake and we did as much damage as possible to both. We finished with cappuccino as it is the custom to have coffee after, rather than with, dessert.
We were stunned by the willpower of a family of three tourists (possibly Belgian) a few tables away. They had the bad tourist map in hand – a dead give away! We thought the first huge platter of lettuces and raw veggies that arrived was their salad, but then they ordered another. Mom dressed it with salt, oil and vinegar and they dove in again with bread and water on the side. Then they each had a plate of fried cake and that was it. It was great fun watching them communicate by hand signal with the confused young waitress. Clearly she had not seen many customers who skipped the pasta and main courses!
We rolled out into the street around 3:00 and found our way to the 30-foot thick wall and ramparts that surround Lucca. The city is rarely attacked these days so the wall is a park with a paved walking/biking trail on top. It’s a 2.5 mile oval that encloses the old city and the views to the inside and outside are lovely. We needed that walk to prepare for the naps we would take as the rain started falling again. And in honor of our fellow tourists, we will have only salad, bread and wine tonight. No dessert needed.