Tick. Pisa. That’s another place checked off of ‘my desired destinations to go’ list. It’s a city to suit all ages, a mixture of contemporary and ancient architecture dating back to the Etruscan and Roman eras.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa gleamed in the mid-morning sun through an archway leading from the bustling market. From the hubbub of vendors selling leather, crafts, and other tourist paraphernalia it’s like stepping into another world.

Piazza del Duomo and other buildings of worship encircled by lawns lead up to the extraordinary bell tower which began tilting from its completion in 1372 due to the marble’s weight on unsuitable ground. It was stabilized, so no worries, it’s not going to topple over. Like fifty percent of the people milling around, we tried positioning ourselves in photograph shots to look as if we were pushing it straight. And in a café, I was quite pleased with my attempt at a picture of the tower seemingly teetering in my coffee cup.

Horse-drawn carriages trot to and from the town centre opposite the famous tower. A large open doorway encouraged us inside; the features and ambiance of San Giorgio church emanate tranquility. As well as being sacred, the church was also the court of bishops in the 10th century. The Renaissance-style courtyard is exquisite. Crimson velvety geraniums and olive trees growing in terracotta pots and a statue of Moses add to the beauty.

Back in the sunshine, we skirted around the other side of the market buying postcards and postage stamps on our way back to the car.

Lucca is a city twenty minutes away and recommended by the manager of our holiday accommodation at Agriturismo Bellavista.

“Lunch at Lucca would be good,” I suggested to Mr Word Loft. Still full from our breakfast of cold meats, local cheeses, fruit and homemade pastries, he agreed it was too early to eat.

With the location tapped into the sat-nav, we set off, encountering our first automated toll-paid highway. Oh, what fun. We worked out the machine’s instructions and popped money into a metal container that slid towards the car.

“Phew,” Mr Word Loft said, as change shot out from a tray below with a receipt. Sheepishly, we glanced over our shoulders, thankful to see we hadn’t caused a traffic queue.

Within the time-worn walls of Lucca, founded by the Romans in 180 BD, we dithered about what lunch venue to go to and decided upon one in a quiet shady spot. A dormant children’s carousel there made a pretty scene by Bar Pacini and Gelateria where we tucked into lasagne followed by strawberries and ice cream swirled with cream.

Hoards of school children on an outing arrived. In between babble and laughter, they licked ice lollies and cornets. Joyfully, we tried to work out what they and their teachers were saying and then promised ourselves a course of Italian lessons back in England.

Re-energized, we explored streets around and in Palazzo Ducale’s quadrant where Napoleon’s sister, Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi, the Princess of Lucca and Grand Duchess of Tuscany, influenced the Throne Quarter and Piazza Napoleone.

Close by is Villa Bottini, a long elegant building in secluded gardens, which I learned was also owned by Elisa. I could only peep through the gateway as it isn’t open to the public because cultural events are hosted there.

A small walled river, museums, stone archways, shops and boutiques, churches amid Renaissance buildings, and honey-coloured houses and apartments are warm and welcoming.

Feeling weary and with the car parking ticket expired, it was disappointing not to have seen the composer, Puccini’s house, but there is only so much that can be done in one day and we were looking forward to a relaxing dip in the swimming pool.

Until my next blog post, or two, about Florence.
Best wishes, Sue. X