Tis Returns to Italy! Day 52: Mixed Feelings in Lucca
I am spending my last day in Lucca with my usual tea and pastry in my favorite caffè. What makes this my favorite place is the kind woman that works here in the mornings. She is always friendly and welcoming. That is how Lucca used to feel to me. However, things have changed, as they often do, since my first trip here in 2009.
The Changing Face of Lucca
When I first arrived back then, I’ve shared many times how I could not get cash from any ATM and no restaurants took credit cards. All the restaurants were closing and the man working at my hotel told me to leave my bags in the lobby and hurry down the street to Trattoria da Leo. I should tell them that I was unable to get cash and I would return tomorrow to pay the bill. That worked back then. However, the lovely Lucca of 2009 is different now.
While you can still find kind people all over Lucca, it is slowly changing. Lucca is focusing more on tourism and that really changes a town. There are many more hotel options with some buildings converting floors into rooms to capture their share of the tourist dollars. In 2009, there were about three restaurants on the oval piazza leaving much space for the local kids to play football (soccer) whereas now restaurants fill the area. Thankfully, they don’t have too many people trying to get passers-by to dine with them but I am sure that is coming.
No Pizza For YOU!
No one can fault a town for wanting to capitalize on the tourism industry. However, it is a difficult balance to strike, to capitalize on tourism and not lose the soul of a city. Lucca’s soul is what I loved most about it the first couple of times I came here.
For example, last night, I did not have enough food left in the apartment for an adequate dinner. Instead, I ate what I had and I went out for a quick slice of cheese pizza. I waited in line at a place near my apartment, only to find that when I went to pay, I did not have the 1 euro 20 I needed. When I switched wallets earlier, I left all my cash in the other one. I explained, in Italian, and said I would be right back. The woman looked at me, annoyed, and grabbed the slice quickly with her tongs and threw it back in the warmer. The slice worth 1 euro 20 was enough to elicit great rage in this woman.
I rushed back to my apartment as it looked like the place might be closing soon. I returned in less than 10 minutes to find them shutting the door in my face. Literally. She probably threw the extra slices away. It was just so incredibly rude over 1.20 euro.
Dream Nightmare Apartment
About two years ago, pre-pandemic, I rented the apartment I am in now. It was to be a milestone birthday present to myself that I had to postpone a couple of times due to the virus. Right after I booked it, I noticed the managing company doubled the rate for the apartment. Since then, as I’ve had to change the reservation due to the pandemic, they have offered to move me to a different apartment several times. Most recently, about a week before I was to arrive, they told me they double booked the apartment, and I should choose another one so they could free it for the other person who booked it four months ago. I panicked, thinking they were going to finally move me and I’d rather not be in another apartment. I didn’t even want to come to Lucca anymore. I was getting a bad vibe.
I should have paid attention to that vibe.
After arriving and trying to put the negativity behind me, I tried to use the washer which was broken beyond repair. It took over a week to deliver a new washer. Additionally, I was asked to let the delivery guys in, as the owner nor the management company came to supervise them.
From Bad to Worse
Next up, the boiler blew in the middle of the night. There is no emergency number to call and I could not get anyone on the phone. I spent an hour holding a bucket under the geyser and dumping it into the shower while also trying to call and text the management company to get someone over to stop the water.
The owner finally showed up and shut the water and the heat off. Wonderful. They came the next day at noon and made a temporary fix. Since then workers have had to come by to check the boiler and no one comes to supervise the work while I am not there.
The Future of Lucca?
Will I return to Lucca? Probably not. I don’t want to see a further decline and I feel it is inevitable. I look at pictures I took in 2009 and there were about three restaurants on the piazza. In fact, one entire side had no restaurants at all. Now, restaurants ring every spot on the piazza.
When I spoke with someone working at a restaurant where I had lunch yesterday, they asked if it was my first time in Lucca. I said, no it was my third. I told him the story of my first night here, 12 years ago, when I had received such kindness from the restaurant that fed me on the promise I’d return and pay the next day. He said that I would not find that in the Lucca of today.
While here, I’ve spent a lot of time hanging on to those happy memories from past trips. I will leave Lucca and choose to remember it from those times and from my mornings with the friendly lady in my favorite caffè. And I will leave it at that.
Ciao for now!