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Luxury Mediterranean Cruise on the Seabourn Legend: Lucca, Italy

For a place that I’d never even heard of before having it assigned as my hosted shore excursion, Lucca was such a pleasant surprise!
My group of seven, including myself and my family, meet our guide, Ms. Lia, from the Pallenberg Brother’s (a Virtuoso tour company) at 9:00 AM this morning. There is a little confusion on my part, though. The representative for Pallenberg had mentioned that they would pick us up in a private mini-bus; you can see why I wouldn’t even stop at the only full-size bus on the dock to see if that is our transfer. Certainly not that whole thing for seven people – you do know where this is going, right?
Ms. Lia, holding her Virtuoso Voyager Club sign upside down, happens to pass right by us as I pick up my phone to call her. We stop her and are escorted to the giant, air-conditioned bus waiting as our personal transfer. We could have each easily taken 8 rows of seats as our own, so we all space out for our hour-long drive through the Tuscan countryside.
From a distance we can actually make out the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Baptistery across fields and fields of sunflowers. Large, white-capped mountains loom in the background; we are informed that the white is not snow, as one would think, but tons and tons of marble. It’s a gorgeous, scenic ride to the walled city of Lucca, and Ms. Lia is full of interesting facts.
When we do arrive in Lucca, we step into the tourist center for a quick minute. Dad happens to see bikes for rent, so he tries to make me believe that it’s actually a biking tour we’ll be going on. Very funny. But what if that actually happened one day? What if I couldn’t complete the last leg of the Amazing Race to win a million dollars because I preferred roller blading as a child? I really need to learn how to ride a bike, at least past the training wheel level.

smart-aleck

Stepping into Lucca is like being transported into another era – the locals ride their bikes around with fresh flowers in their baskets, ringing their little bells to announce that you are in their way. Strikingly Medieval buildings line the cobblestone streets. My mom calls it Who-ville. Ms. Lia informs us that, since we are such a small group, she will be able to show us the side of Lucca that isn’t for display on the postcards. She tells us that the level we are walking on is merely the third floor; that the city itself is like an iceberg, an illusion with much more depth than meets the eye.
The first stop that Ms. Lia takes us to is a building that doesn’t even look open from the outside – she goes ahead of us to approve our entrance. When we do enter into the residence and shop of a world-renowned Italian tailor and fashion designer (whose name I have written down, but not with me at the moment!), it’s unbelievable. From the exterior, I would have never guessed the beautiful frescoes on the ceiling or peacock-blue tapestries on the walls.

The Fashion Designer's Fashionable Home

Dresses adorn mannequins around the well-preserved home and fabrics are neatly stacked on the antique couches. We are taken back into the sewing area, where the designer himself greets us as he works on the detail for an individual piece; the sewing machine itself looks to be hundreds of years old.
After this, we walk around the city – taking in the beautiful church, statues, and interesting historical facts (which Ms. Lia spurts off like the alphabet, although I can’t remember a single fact to quote at the moment). She shows us the apartment of Puccini (who was born in Lucca) and delivers his story from church conductor to, after an illicit affair that lost him this role, the world-famous conductor that he eventually became. She tells us the stories of the figures within the church, influenced from both the Anglo-saxons  and the original inhabitants of the village, and declares Lucca to be a place of compromise. “We understand that we are not the best,” she says, “but we are certainly proud of what we are.”
We take a moment to step into a wine shop, which appears to be a regular storefront from the outside. Since Ms. Lia knows the owners well enough, they allow us to venture down the stairs into the cellar of narrow corridors and wines from every year imaginable. Dad finds one with his birth year (see, every year imaginable! Just kidding 🙂  ), and Ms. Lia shows off the 7500 Euro bottle of wine on display. We are careful not to be our usual graceful selves and trip into an accidental purchase, holding our bags like they might reach out and push something off on their own accord.

BE VERY CAREFUL

After this, we have a little bit of free time. Surprisingly enough, Lucca has some great shopping – I find myself a purse and a couple of souvenirs. My family and I get a little hungry before our lunch, and I’ve been bragging about Italian gelato, so we stop to split a cup. It’s just enough to make us mad, so we go back for seconds. I’m always proud when, like yesterday’s éclairs, my food recommendations are appreciated – although it doesn’t take much to appreciate homemade gelato. Yum!
We meet up with the group for a late lunch at Buca di Sant’Antonio – a restaurant that has seen the likes of Puccini, Ezra Pound, and other creative spirits. It is so good, but somehow the gelato has expanded and I can barely make a dent in the second course. My inner fat kid is oh so happy on this trip.

buca of lucca

Our conversations flow well, discussing everything from my guests’ travel on previous Virtuoso sailings to Ms. Lia’s life in Italy.

We’ve noticed signs for a summer concert series in Lucca, featuring acclaimed artists like Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Seal, and even Placebo (acclaimed might not be the mot juste – right word). Since it’s such a small town, we’re pretty intrigued. Ms. Lia explains the invitation for artists to the area, when they are on their world tours and stopping in Milan, Rome, Florence, and how it all began with Bob Dylan a few years ago. She says that when Lucca advertised Bob Dylan’s arrival, hardly anyone showed up because they didn’t believe that he would actually come to their city. As you can imagine, these summer concerts became quite popular when Bob actually did perform on Lucca’s outdoor stage – situated in between a church and a cathedral, with a giant statue of the Duchess overlooking the crowd.

Ms. Lia admits that she loves the blues, since it’s not a music form that Italians can replicate with their long words and even longer rhythms, and that she has seen Eric Clapton in concert at least twice. She tells us that if she could come back as anything in her next life, she would come back as Eric Clapton’s guitar.
When we finish with lunch, we walk around for just a bit more before heading back to our bus. I keep nodding off on the way back, until Ms. Lia announces that we’re a bit early, so the driver wants to take us around Livorno for a few minutes before going back to the ship. That really impressed me – here’s our driver, who does not speak any English and has not been with us for the duration of the tour, offering to stay an extra few minutes when he can get off early in order to show us his hometown. I feel that Italians, and maybe Europeans in general, really take pride in their birthplaces: they know the richness of the history and are eager to tell it. I honestly couldn’t tell you one fun tidbit about Columbus, GA except that it’s called the “Fountain City” and, I’m going to be honest, I’ve never noticed an abundance of fountains. A couple extra here and there, but nothing that I’d take a tour full of people to see. I think we might take these things for granted in the States, since we don’t have the years and years of history for each and every town.
Everyone who attended today could not stop raving about how excellent it was – from the city, to the transfer, to our well-acquainted guide, we all had such a great time; it only further exemplifies Virtuoso’s amazing network of travel professionals and expertise. I am just so fortunate to be a part of an agency that wholeheartedly accepts this and is supportive of me traveling across Europe to discover it myself!

And, on a personal note, I want to wish my boyfriend a very happy anniversary from abroad. I love you!

words mean more at night
like a song
and did you ever notice
the way light means more than it did all day long?

words mean more at night
light means more
like your hair and your face and your smile
and our bed and the dress that you wore

so i’ll send you my words
from the corners of my room
and though i write them by the light of day
please read them by the light of the moon

and i wish i could leave my bones and my skin
and float over the tired tired sea
so that i could see you again

maybe you would leave too
and we’d blindly pass each other
floating over the ocean blue
just to find the warm bed of our lover

and i’ll send you my words
from the corners of my room
and though i write them by the light of day
please read them by the light of the moon

-gregory alan isakov, “words”

Lindsey Epperly

My name is Lindsey Epperly and I’m a travel consultant and owner of Epperly Travel, a national affiliate of Century Travel. I’m most passionate about building lifelong relationships with my clients and suppliers, discovering the globe in a way that makes me a better agent, and celebrating with my team when we reach a new milestone. One of our core values at Epperly Travel is to create fun and celebrate constantly – and I’m fortunate to be in a career that allows me to do just that. I’m proud to announce my recent achievements: landing a spot on Wendy Perrin’s WOW List as their Caribbean expert, being nominated for Virtuoso’s Rising Star Award and receiving a place on Jezebel Magazine’s Trailblazing Ten list.

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