Leaving My Mark on Lucca

Today was a howling rainstorm all day long. Much too nasty to go out without good reason, so I stayed inside most of the day and painted. Rain is one thing, but the wind was something else!

I didn’t notice at first how much it was gusting until I kept hearing screams of laughter outside. I went to the window to look and there were people struggling against the wind, umbrellas turned inside out.

You see, where I am, right next to the San Paolina Church, is a bit of an open area. The streets are narrow and protected up to the church and after the church, but when you come into that block, the wind is howling down freely. So all day I would hear peals of laughter and many shouts as people hit this open space and lost control of their umbrellas. Several times I rushed to the window with my camera, but it all moved too fast to get a photo. However, it was great fun to hear from my apartment. Especially when the teens were returning from school. Nothing like a few teen girls to let the laughter roll.

So I am focusing on my painting now that my last week in Italy is upon me. Actually it makes me think harder than I am accustomed to – the sketches have gotten so easy that it has spoiled me. And they do all tend to look alike after a while. But no matter how “predictable” that is, I am leaving my mark on Lucca with them.

I have made a point to give sketches as a gift to my favorite places here in the old city and even though these are people who are steeped in genuine artwork, they really enjoy them. Most have made a show of hanging them up, so I am now well-represented in Lucca, which makes me very happy. It wasn’t something I planned to do – it just developed and seemed a natural way to make friends.

The first sketch I did was for Magellano Leather Shop. It was the first shop I went in when I got to Lucca and I still think it is the best leather shop in town. Annamaria has been a lovely friend and she adores the sketch. She immediately framed it and hung it on the wall.

I gave sketches to Francesce and to Mariposa at the ceramic shop.

Then I did one for Michele at Lucca in Tavola, and one of the pizzaiolo at Bella M’briana. All of these were previously posted here on the blog, and all of these places now greet me with joy when I come in the door. Gotta love that!

ImageBut I couldn’t leave Lucca without reaching out to my other favorite pizzeria, da Felice. So I did a little sketch to take to them yesterday morning. When I got there, the security door was half up so I knew they weren’t open yet. I stuck my head under the door and said “Ciao!.” Since there were no customers, and they are usually over-run, I figured it was a good time to give it to them.

The grand daughter of the family squeezed under the door and I showed her the sketch. She was delighted, but not sure what to say. She wondered if I was trying to sell it to her. I said no, it was a gift. Again, she wasn’t sure quite what to say, but invited me to crawl back under the door with her. I did, but Mrs. P can tell you it wasn’t a very graceful moment. Nevertheless, I was on the inside and was able to communicate a bit with the family. And I took a couple photos of the grandson who is the pizzaiolo.

They told me they would be open in an hour and to please come back for free pizza for lunch. I said I would. And when I did, the girl had already put the sketch in a frame that had previously held a poster. She wanted me to sign on the glass but didn’t have the right pens. She brought out ink pens, pencils, even crayons and I just shook my head no. I told her I would eat my pizza and take the frame home with me to fix with the right pen. She agreed.

ImageThe frame was really too big for the sketch but it was probably something they had on hand. And I wanted to do a pencil sketch of the pizza chef anyway, so I started in on that. Once I had it in decent shape, I took the frame apart, put both sketches in and signed the side of the paper. I can’t say it is my best sketch or even a decent likeness. I usually need to let portrait sketches sit a day or two and then correct them. But I was afraid if I didn’t come back with the frame the same day, da Felice would think I had pulled some sort of trick on them to get free pizza!

So back I went and handed it over. They were dumbstruck. The grand daughter got on the phone and called her sister, who came out of the back wondering what was up. She is the one who usually serves me when I am in there and she looked at me in surprise. And then she saw the sketches. Her hand flew to her mouth and she asked me how much it cost. When I said it was a gift, she was taken aback. She speaks some English, so I told her that I was doing sketches of my favorite places and they were one.

She insisted on giving me free pizza but I told her I already had some earlier and wasn’t hungry. OK, she said, but whenever you come back, you do not pay for pizza!


Now is that a dream come true or what? Me and free pizza… mmmmmmm

So I am leaving my mark on Lucca. I have had an incredible time and it has been a pleasure to do some small sketches for those who enjoy them. They may not always remember me in this town of many tourists, but they will know I was here…


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ellyn
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 15:20:46

    This post put a smile on my face. So glad you found a second home in Italy!


  2. Pam
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 16:14:02

    I feel a little emotional for you as your time in Lucca is coming to an end. Lucca was a magic place for Carol and myself, as well and we are also sad that you will be leaving as we have enjoyed reading and experiencing it through your eyes. If I ever visit Lucca again and come across your stretches, I will feel very proud to inform the new owners of the stretches that I once shared an art room with the artist.
    Starr, enjoy the little time you have left in that unique Tuscan town.


  3. bdauby
    Dec 06, 2012 @ 15:40:37

    I think you are going to get homesick when you come home!


  4. Paula
    Dec 06, 2012 @ 21:32:14

    I can sense the warmth you feel for this place and these wonderful people. But You have made this a trip to remember Mz. Starr. You see color in everything!!! And I have thoroughly enjoyed every blog, wandering with you here and there. Bdauby is right, you will be homesick when you get home! What a time to remember. Topped only by the new system!


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