New Things

My month in Lucca is almost up, which is amazing! Next week is the annual Comic Fair here – a comic book extravaganza that I am told the Italians flock to in droves. There isn’t a room to be had so I am going to Rome for a few days. It is the one other place on my must-see list so it is booked.

Meanwhile, Mary Beth had left me a Rick Steves Italy travel guide and I picked it up to read about Rome. But I stumbled on Lucca and decided to see if I’ve missed anything. Seems I have…

ImageThere are still a couple major sites in town I haven’t made it to, but I’ll do those when I get back. The other thing I hadn’t even heard of (but MB did mention it) is cecina. It is a flat pizza-like baked snack made of chickpea flour. It is quite the rage among the locals and the place listed in the book is Pizzaria da Felice – which is just a few blocks from my apartment.

So I took off there for a late lunch and it was packed. It isn’t very big so you just have to squeeze in. I stopped to adjust my bag and two people jumped me in line! No fooling around here!

ImageWhen you get to the counter there’s a guy baking pizzas in the wood oven as fast as he can and every once in a while he throws in a cecina to bake. It doesn’t take long. I ordered one slice of pizza – which I got a quarter of a pizza cut in two, so I’m not sure if that was one or two slices – and a slice of cecina and a glass of red wine. (hey, Rick Steves says that is what you should wash the cecina down with…)

It was so crowded inside that I went out front and sat on a bench to eat. And the bill? Get this… the pizza (which was delicious) was 1.50 euro. The wine, 2.50 and the cecina, 80 cents. I ate one slice of the pizza and the topping off the other piece because I can’t eat a lot of bread. But boy was it good. That char from the wood oven is the best – how am I ever going to get a good pizza again in Ohio?

The cecina was ok. I tried to take my time and taste it. It is probably best hot because it wasn’t as tasty when it cooled off. And I do like chickpeas, but it didn’t really wow me. Maybe you get a hankering for it if you eat it more often. And I’m sorry we didn’t find this place when MB was here because she wanted to try it. We did walk right past da Felice because it is a little hole-in-the-wall shop. But sitting there outside for a while I was amazed how busy it is.

ImageAfter that, I did some walking around. MB and I had a joke that if I don’t walk enough during the day to need an advil, then I haven’t walked enough. Well, I made an effort to walk for a while and I worked up to a one-advil walk. I decided I needed a gelato but I had to make myself get something different than my favorite chocolate and vanilla.

I went with fruit flavors. When you get a small cone you can choose up to 3 flavors. I got melon, pineapple and pear. As I walked down the street with it, savoring the pear, I thought of Ellyn (who likes pears and I normally don’t) and stopped to take a pic. I already ate half the pear, but so what. The fruit flavors were a lot like sherbet or sorbet but fresher. Still, I’ll probably go back to chocolate and vanilla (and cherry!)

Then it was back to the room for a break. A half hour flat out after an advil does wonders.

Then I worked in the sketchbook for a while and Paola, my landlady stopped by. She was picking up MB’s towels and linens and helping me make plans for Rome. According to both her and the Rick Steves book, Rome is a city of thieves. I am going to pack very light so I can keep my wits about me on the train and while navigating around Rome by myself. I really don’t want to get pickpocketed – or out and out robbed – and I know I look like the perfect target. Paola even said to keep a small amount of decoy money in your purse (and the rest hidden under your clothes) so you can hand it over if someone demands it. They won’t hurt you – they just want some money and they know you have some on you. I think I need to take my new big umbrella and be very forceful with it!

Anyway, after finishing a few sketches in my book I decided to go back out. Paola said we are due to get a lot of rain for the next week to 10 days and that will keep me in more. So I went out walking again and took some drawing paper with me. My sketchbook is now full and I am waiting for the new one from Annamaria on Saturday. But my favorite thing to do is sit in a cafe and sketch – it keeps me occupied for hours.

ImageAfter walking for a while I scouted out a cafe I hadn’t been in yet. There are so many here you could go to a different one every day! And again I decided to try something new. There is a drink called an Americano – which was originally made at the Cafe Camporino in the 1860s and was called the “Milano-Turino”. It is made with Campari – a bitter alcohol from Milan and sweet vermouth from Turin. It is topped off with club soda. It was such a popular drink with American ex-pats in Italy during the prohibition that it was re-named the Americano. It is a classic Italian drink.

I had read about it in one of my fancy gourmet magazines so it was on my list of things to try. I expected it to be bitter and it was. In fact I couldn’t drink it all. But there I was, in front of San Michele Church, sketching away at the San Michele Bar and all was well with the world. And I think I would have almost liked the drink if it had a bit more soda in it. In fact, I bet if I tried it a few more times, I might even acquire the taste.

That’s what’s is all about you know. Acquiring taste. No matter if it’s food or music or art, you have to try things. And try them again. Who likes a sour pickle the first time? Or broccoli? Or classical music? Or Picasso? Or bitter chocolate? It’s all about acquiring taste and not being a spoiled baby and spitting it back out and saying “I don’t like that!”

I could go on and on but I won’t. Instead I’ll show you a few sketches…


View of the Duomo from Pitti Palace, Florence Italy


Magellano Leather Shop (this is the sketch in the book, not the one I gave to Annamaria yesterday)


a few thoughts on “personal space” etcetera…

And that’s it for today. I’ve tried my new things, taken a one-advil walk and need to think about getting some writing work done tomorrow. And plan more for Roma!


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Paula
    Oct 25, 2012 @ 19:51:50

    Again, love the sketches! How wonderful for you to have to always remember your trip. In a way, better than pictures because they are through your eyes not the camera. And do take a big umbrella to Rome swinging it saying in your best southern american, ” git er done”!! Be cautious but try to enjoy. So wish I were there!!


  2. Vicky Gerber
    Oct 25, 2012 @ 20:47:50

    Rachel wants me to tell you: “I like your sketches. They are beautiful. How do you do them? You are a very good artist! Have a fun time in Italy and Ohio! And, by the way, the food you are talking about looks very good. I liked it when you said to not spit it out and act like a baby! How did you make the evergreen tree on the first sketch?”


    • thesketchylife
      Oct 26, 2012 @ 10:13:35

      Hi Rachel! You ask very good questions! It makes me think you could be an artist if you want to because artists are always looking at things and wondering how they are done. And yes, I think it is very important to try things more than once – even if you DO spit it out the first time! I can show you how I made the green tree – it is VERY easy. Someone just has to show you how and then you know. So when I get back to Ohio, I will ask your mom to bring you and Benjaman for a visit and we can draw together. Maybe my granddaughter Josey can come too – she loves to have art lessons and we will have fun! Thank you so much for reading my blog!


  3. MaryBeth Tipton
    Oct 25, 2012 @ 20:54:04

    Am now craving pear gelato. Thanks.
    And the sketch of Firenze from Pitti Palace is magnifico!!! You are amazing!


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