The Norwegians have a high spirit at breakfast. G. tells that she collects old stuff and will soon be out of space; new acquisitions must either be put on the outside walls, or something else must be thrown out first. "Yes, out first!", her husband says, "or we'll have to put up another wall in our living room!"

Lucca makes a friendly impression. TG leaves us to the local guide Carlo, a young chap in very casual and not particularly clean clothes. But Carlo is OK. He knows how to make things interesting and speaks with enthusiasm while he guides us through the old town.

Lucca is more alive than any of the cities we have visited so far. Here tourism isn't the driving force for every action. There are far more locals, far more useful shops and there are almost no cars in the old city centre - just pedestrians and cyclists.

Lamp-post in Piazza Napoleone Piazza del Mercato in Lucca Outside Piazza del Mercato in Lucca
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The guided tour ends at Piazza del Mercato. The piazza is shaped like an amphi theatre, which is no coincidence because this was the location of the old Roman theatre and some places you can see the top of the ancient walls integrated with the houses of today.

TG waits for us here and recruits three helpers to carry goods for our picnic. The rest of us settle at a café. We need to rest and to visit a toilet. I sit in the sun, which is strong today.

We find the tower, Torre Guinigi, with oak trees on the top. The photo-happy Norwegian, Helle and I climb the stairs to the top and are rewarded with a breathtaking view over the city. The tiled roofs are red and the city lies in a butter hole surrounded by mountains. To my surprise the others are waiting for us when we get down 20 minutes later.

Torre Guinigi in Lucca View over Lucca View over Lucca
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Picnic in Lucca

TG has prepared a picnic on the broad city wall with its lush grass. It looks delicious. There is bread from the local baker, thin slices of ham, spicy sausages, tomatoes, olives, pesto, cheese, red wine from Laura's vineyard and much more. It looks good and it tastes good.

After the picnic some want to go to Pisa on their own while the rest of us agree to skip the museum in Vinci and go straight home after a cup of coffee. We are home for a siesta at 3. It is nice to rest a bit.

Montecatini Alto

I prepare for a stroll after the siesta, but Helle does not feel in shape. She has got some very bothersome mosquito bites on her feet and is not quite well - maybe an allergic reaction. So she prefers to stay at home and recover, and I leave on my own.

There are many locals making a 'passegiata' in the park near the thermal baths, and flowers scent the air. The baths are built in a pompous classic style with columns and frescoes, but I just have a look from the outside and do not enter.

I walk back a bit and turn off for "La Finicola", the small cable car that will take you to Montecatini Alto, the old 'upper' Montecatini that lies as an eagle's nest on a cliff top. The cable car leaves at 18:30 and I am lucky to be there at the right moment.

La Finicola is from 1898 and the small red car could have been there right from the first day. The three compartments are closed (and opened!) from the outside and you sit on wooden benches.

Montecatini Alto Montecatini Alto
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From Montecatini Alto

Street in Montecatini Alto

You pay the ticket at the top - 5 € for a return ticket. You can walk or drive down the twisted road, but it is steep and quite long. I pass the inclining square, Piazza Giusti Giuseppe, with the restaurants and go exploring.

There are flowers and stairs and twisted alleys and old solid stone houses with green shutters in front of small windows. An old house is decaying with dignity, and the garden is becoming a wilderness, undisturbed behind an ornate iron gate. The view is magnificent, and the land below is bathed in a golden evening-light.

I go back to the square and get a table outside ristorante "La Torre". It is more peaceful than the pizzeria across the square, where a German company is having a good time.

I am not particularly hungry after the picnic, but I need a bit of something and order melon with ham, gnocchi with mushrooms and a glass of white wine and water.

The large melon pieces are bursting with sweet juice, and the plate is covered with thin slices of air-dried ham. The gnocchi portion looks small, but leaves no room for a cheese dessert. Instead I get an espresso and a Vecchia Romagna to keep me company until the next cable car leaves at 21.

A very longhaired cat with a flat face and snub-nose comes to say hello, and when I stretch my arm in greeting I almost trip because everything including my chair is slanted on the sloping square. My struggle to regain balance frightens the cat.

Down again hotel Boston is straight ahead past many hotels. I meet Ido, and we have a chat on the corner where mosquitoes punctured Helle yesterday. My Italian is pretty limited, but Ido is helpful, speaks slowly and uses simple sentences.

I ask him if he is going home to his family on Monday, and he answers that he'll be home Sunday evening when he has been driven us to Rome. Monday morning he leaves for Prague for 7 days with an Italian company. Ido is a sailor on the European highways.

It is getting chilly and I return to the hotel. Helle is in bed and seems not to mind a decent rest, but the mosquito bites are worrying: they swell violently and hurt and will restrain walking. The antihistamine does not seem to help. We'll just have to wait and see.