What is it about Saturdays in Lucca? (Part 2)

Nope the day wasn’t over so it was on to the other free event the young man at the tourist center told me about. What else in Italy… a food and wine exhibition with samples! Now that sounds fun!

ImageI found it straightaway and walked into the large building. Some girls gave me beautiful literature but it was all in Italian. But no matter. What more universal language is there than food?

I have not been exaggerating when I say that Italians love food and take it very seriously, so you can only imagine the displays in this place! For me, just the visual sights were scrumptious, so I didn’t even taste very much. I think I tried a piece of salami, two small raviolis and some honey. I wasn’t really hungry and I don’t like walking along scarfing up the tidbits when I have no intention of buying anything. But plenty of people were doing just that! Look at these spreads…


Gorgeous cheeses – mostly pecorino


the amazing and copious pane


pasta, pasta, pasta!

And then there are at least two other products that Italians can’t live without.. pork… and wine. Not necessarily in that order, but definitely both in abundant amounts.

ImageThis porchetta display was very crowded. I could hardly get in to photograph the well-loved mascots you see here. But it was by no means the only pork booth. There were dozens and every one had a huge old pig leg fastened to something while they carved away and passed out samples.

Somewhere around the middle of the building I came upon a large room devoted to wine. Now we’re talking…

I didn’t understand the posted signs and had to ask what they meant. One sign said you could buy a tasting ticket for 5 euros. The other sign said you had to give a 5 euro deposit for the very nice wine glass to use – and then you get that back when you return the glass. Sold.

I forked over my 10 euro, but then had a major dilemma. I love wine but actually know very little about it. And this is what there was to choose from…

ImageHoly smokes, I might as well start throwing darts to pick something out for all I know! But no one else was in the room at the time, so I just asked this nice man, Luca, for help. We had a lovely chat and he picked out 3 wines for me. First was a local white, a blend that includes the Vermentino grape they grow here. It was light and I could see how it would be nice with an appetizer, or as they say here, “starter.”

From there I wanted to try a couple reds because I want to know more about them and develop my taste. Luca poured me a local “light” red that tasted very fruity and a bit thin. He said it would pair well with turkey or chicken, which are not strong dishes. But even for a “light” red, the fragrance of this wine was very nice. One thing I like about reds is how they burst into your nose as soon as you get the glass to your face. A nice little whiff of what is to come…

Finally I tasted a pure Syrah. And Luca gave me the choice of a one-ticket or two-ticket syrah. You see, when you get your tasting ticket, you get four tickets. Each bottle of wine costs one or two tickets depending on quality. So if you get the cheaper wines, you can taste 4. If you stick to more expensive ones, you can taste 2. Well I had already tried two one-ticket wines. And now I wanted a good one. I chose the two-ticket syrah.

It was very, very good. Rich and deep-tasting – nothing thin about it. The fragrance was delightful – made you want to stand with the glass over your nose like an oxygen mask between sips. And then the tannin. I do know that is the “pucker factor” of red wine. It’s an acidic taste that actually seems to shrivel your tongue just a bit. And so I asked Luca, “do people begin to crave this tannic taste?”

“Oh yes,” he replied, “but it is much more than that! The tannin is what cuts the fat in the meal you are eating. This wine is meant for a very fat steak!” (Which he pronounced stay-ahk) “Wine is meant for food!” he went on. “It is not complete without it!”

And suddenly that little light bulb in my head that isn’t always on rose straight up from my brain and went “ding, ding, ding!”

I have heard countless times about the fine points of pairing food with wine, but suddenly I got it. I was tasting this earthy tannin and feeling my tongue respond and I could just imagine sipping this with a bite of a grilled, medium rare ribeye. It would cut that fat and be the perfect compliment. Like 1+1=5. I can’t wait to try that out.

Even better, when I get back, I’m gonna meet MB somewhere for a real wine-tasting that pairs the wine with food. That really is what it’s all about and I’m just figuring it out! Duh!!!

And on a sidenote, while Luca and I chatted, I was taking photos of some of the wine bottles. “Are you afraid you’ll forget?” he asked. “Well, yes, ” I said, “but also for my sketchbook for later.” And at that he wanted to see the sketchbook. So I got it out of my bag for him.

He was enamored with it and asked if he could take some photos with his phone. “Sure!” I replied. Then he gave me a business brochure from his wine company and asked if I would do some sketches from their website. He said that if I do and send them to him on email, the company might be interested in using them. And then he paid me a very nice compliment… “I have seen such drawings in books and magazines but never originals and never from the artist. It is such a privilege that you have shared your precious book with me!”

I was quite flattered and it reminded me again that people really do love the sketch diaries. There’s gotta be a way for me to capitalize on that! (Note to self – check on that when I get home)

So I finished up at the food fair and headed back to the apartment. I felt very satisfied having had a good dose of art and architecture and fine food and wine all in the space of a few hours. But I had been on my feet for a good part of the day – and not thought to take any advil – so I was a bit gimpy on the walk home. But that turned out to be a good thing!

Saturday evening in Lucca is quite crowded on the streets. Everyone comes out to walk and wander and shop and eat – you can barely move on Via Filungo! Really, on Saturdays it is almost like there is excitement in the air. You can feel the energy.

So I’m going along, feeling a bit wobbly and tired, and am watching the cobblestones as I usually do because they are so uneven. Suddenly I sense something wrong and look up to see an older man on a bicycle careening toward me almost out of control. He has a stunned looked on his face and I don’t know which way to go to get out of his way. We each over-correct in the wrong direction a couple times, like a dance move gone bad, and somehow he brushes by me without mowing me down. It happened in a split second.

And then I realized that the thing that made me look up and see the man coming at me was a girl screaming a few yards away. And just as that sound registered, two young men thundered past me at a dead run. I was already half spun round by the old man and his bike and this spun me around to be looking behind me. In less than a second, one of the boys had grabbed the old man by the back of his jacket and jerked him to a halt. The other boy reached out and grabbed something out of his hand.

Turns out the old guy had snatched a phone out of a young girl’s hand as he went by on his bike and was making a run for it. But dear old Mrs P (who is the one who makes me walk funny when I’m tired) had gotten in the way. It slowed the old geezer down just enough that the boys could catch him before he got up to speed again.

I, along with the rest of the crowd, closed in on the scene. The young boys were nice men. The one who had retrieved the phone held it above his head in plain sight. Both guys raised their hands over their heads to show the man all they wanted was the phone back. They weren’t going to hurt him. And by then the girl had run up, grabbed her phone and confirmed it was hers. The crowd all stared to see what would happen.

The boys backed up another step and the old man rode away. Then the girl’s friends all arrived in a screaming crush at that point. There was much adoration for the boys who were so fast on their feet. And they all walked past Mrs. P without even a backward glance. But that’s alright. Little do they know that as you grow older and slower in this life you still have a role to play. And sometimes it’s not being fleet of foot that matters.

Both Mrs. P and I went on home, grateful for another Saturday in Lucca. What is it about that day anyway?

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ellyn
    Nov 18, 2012 @ 13:04:07

    My brain cloud has a illuminated lightbulb wildly sketched in it as well!!
    The tannins cut the fat? Really??? And I’ve been doing it wrong all these years? Damn! That is the best excuse, I mean reason, to drink I have ever heard. Ever. And I am officially hightailing it to the liquor store this afternoon to stock up on supplies for my new diet. Oh yeah. 🙂

    And Mom, I’m so proud of you for being an unsung heroically bad dancer. Those spuds come in handy on the darndest occasions!


    • thesketchylife
      Nov 18, 2012 @ 17:29:56

      Yes, for those who aren’t familiar with my alter-ego, Mrs. P (Mrs. Potato Head), they need to go way back in the blog and get the connection. She really is handy to have around to take the blame for certain things, but then again she can be an unsung hero who deserves a bit of credit!


  2. MaryBeth Tipton
    Nov 18, 2012 @ 20:10:16

    Had I been there to see that table of wine, I would have thought I had died and gone to Heaven. I mean really. I’d take one of each. I would have gone to the bancomat just for more euro to buy 100 tickets, and I would have had a glass in each hand. Oh my.

    And yes, can we PPLLEEAASSEE go to a wine tasting/food pairing and have a designated driver? I would LLOOVVEE that!



    • thesketchylife
      Nov 19, 2012 @ 05:29:56

      I can just see you in that room full of exquisite wines. Between the wine and talking to Luca (who is super-cute AND knows his wine) I wouldn’t have gotten you out of there for hours! Not even for gelato! So absolutely, we need to do a primo tasting where we can settle in and really enjoy it – start googling girl!


  3. Vino girl!
    Nov 19, 2012 @ 18:46:40

    Ohhhhh! I want wine! Very good wine. And to think, I was satisfied with my cheap wines not knowing what I am missing. Now thanks to Mz. Starr, I am once again cultured. Yes I think tannin is the thing. ( whatever Paula!) Like Ellyn, any excuse or cultured reason for some vino! I’d volunteer to your and MB’s designated driver but you know that would not work. I’m part Italian! Enjoy!


  4. Billy D
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 08:51:58

    Saturday’s in Lucca seem to kick up a notch, at least as far as Ms. P is concerned. And that table of cheese looks almost as amazing as the table of wine!


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