At Bagni di Lucca’s “incontro con Divizia” event the other evening, where La Nazione journalist Marco Nicoli interviews writers and personalities, a Lucca guide book with a difference was launched. In the series “Guide d’autore” (“author’s or literary guides”), published by effequ and subtitled “una guida emozionale”, Diego Casali’s “Lucca” presents the city from the viewpoint of its shopping and commerce.
In the first part of the book there are sections on antique shops, artists’ studios, bars, ice-cream parlours, bookshops, jewellers, bakers, pastry shops, perfumeries, clothes boutiques and wine stores. In the second part events, festivals, museums, libraries, churches, restaurants and hotels are covered. Dispersed among these there are reflections on Lucca life and culture by local authors and some evocative black-and-white photographs by Uto Borghesi and Fiorella Corti.
This is more a guide to be read in the comfort of your own home and then used to plan a specialized visit to Lucca rather than to be carried around on a tour of the city. For example, it contains no maps (although the itineraries could be easily followed by anyone familiar with Lucca’s street plan) and no index.
This book has given me so much more information about the wonderful city of Lucca – where the best ice-cream can be had, or where the original bucellato (traditional Luccan aniseed fruit-cake) is baked, or where I can get that chair restored or where the cheapest parking is. I also didn’t realise that the city has so many libraries. Or that some of the shops date back more than two hundred years and are still run by the same families. Or that cars used to be able to drive on the walls of Lucca!
The considered comments on restaurants and the list of annual festivities are also very helpful.
There is, of course, a problem with this sort of guide. Lucca cathedral is likely to stand for a further thousand years (I hope!) but shops are much more transient and, unfortunately, I have already seen the demise (or move to outside the walls) of several businesses since I first came to the area eight years ago.
I liked this guide very much, but unless your Italian is up to a reasonable reading standard I would suggest you give it a miss (unless you enjoy looking at black-and-white photographs) which is a real pity.
Why are these delightful evenings in the Circolo dei Forestieri square at Bagni di Lucca called “Omaggio a Divizia?” Who was Divizia? Marco Nicoli explained: Divizia was an unassuming, even ugly, peasant girl at Bagni who was noted by Montaigne, during his visit to the place as possessing amazing extempore poetical skills despite her illiteracy and who knew the chivalric epic of Ariosto by heart.
There are several more evenings with Divizia planned for the summer. Check them out at http://www.comunebagnidilucca.com/bdl/risorse/DIVIZIA%207.pdf