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Lucca, Italy, March 2019

Week One | Week Two |Week Three | Week Four

Deahn had a beautiful, wonderful idea!
We would spend a month in Italy, Deahn, Charlie, and me.
The children would join us on school breaks.

And it happened!
She chose Lucca because her college friend MaryLee lived nearby.
She found an apartment online, and MaryLee checked it out.
She booked the flights, and we were on our way.

Week One
Our Home Away from Home


Our Patio

Our Building


Four of these to reach our apartment, 64 steps in all.
Dining Room
Living Room

Charlie's & My Bedroom

Lovely Italian bathroom bathtub with one fatal flaw! The water!
If you left the water running for awhile, it would get hot.
By the time you jumped into the tub, it was lukewarm.
By the time you'd think about washing your hair, it was cold.
The downstairs bathroom was the same.
Everybody came running out of those places wrapped in a towel, freezing.
I knew that my hair would never get washed here by me.

An then tiny miracle! Right up the street I found VOG and my new Italian friends!
This was perfect. I could get my hair washed, run out with it wet, and be home in minutes.
I had a hard time convincing them that I wanted ONLY a shampoo and NO blow-dry, which was automatically included in the price, 12 Euros. They lowered the price to 10 Euros, but at about the 5th shampoo, they wouldnt let me pay at all. Everybody was smiling, one asked me to kiss him on the cheek (which I did), another gave me a certificate for a local restaurant.
The next visit we agreed on 5 Euros.
For my final VOG shampoo, Charlie came for a hair cut. He paid the regular price.

My VOG friends!

This sunny porch made up for the cold water.

Basilica of San Frediano

9 O'clock Mass in this tiny
San Frediano Chapel
I had hoped before we came to Lucca that a church would be close enough to our apartment for me to walk to daily Mass. The first day I got up very early, went out, walked a a little way up Via Geogia, came to a stopped police wagon, and asked the woman officer where the nearest church was. She pointed to the next left onto Via Fillungo. In a few minutes, there was my church, the centerpiece of Piazza San Frediano. Only .3 miles from our apartment, less than 1/3rd of a mile! I was thrilled. Later I found out that tiny Lucca has more than 90 chruches, at least one for every neighborhood, all, it seemed, with regular Masses.

Our Lady of Hope Chaplet in the San Frediano Basilica
Here every day I thought of Father Keyes and my daily Mass friends
at Our Lady of Hope Church in Ipswich.

Caffe Biscotteria Santa Zita in Piazza San Frediano,

Often Charlie would meet me here after Church.
I always had capuccino and a croissant.
Charlie had caffe Americano with extra water and a different sweet every day.

Viareggio Carnevale
Sunday, March 3rd
On Sunday, MaryLee met us at our apartment and drove us to Firenze to pick up Charlotte.
From the airport we went to the spectacular Viareggio Carnavale.
MaryLee brought costumes for all of us. Deahn was a unicorn.
Carnevale theme: The Sad State of our World's Environment
Three massive floats featured President Trump as one of its perpetrators!
We met MaryLee's husband Gary and their son Ryan at the Carnevale. Afterwards we went to MaryLee's home, and then we all walked to dinner at The Old Mill restaurant.

La Torre del Ore with Charlotte

On top of the Torre del Ore (bell tower)
230 scalini (steps)

For Charlotte, today the magnolia blossoms bloom!

While Charlie was making his Italian bean soup, I was lost on the Wall.
I was so enjoying the view around the outside of the wall, I hadn't paid attention to where I was and realized I had been walking far too long for the 2 1/2 mile wall-walk. I kept going, now looking down into Lucca but not recognizing anything. It was getting dark, and nobody was left on the wall, so I went down on the next ramp and waited for someone to come along to ask, "Dove e la via georgio"? (Where is Georgio Street?). Everybody I met tried to help but either couldn't speak English or never heard of Via Georgio and they just looked sorry for me and shook their heads. Then I found a woman who spoke English and told me she was sorry to tell me I was on the opposite side of the city. She pointed, and I began walking. Every time I came to two roads veering off in different directions, I chose the safest-looking one because by now it was dark. That worked. I got home in time for dinner. Next time I'll bring my phone and take a picture of the starting line.

Tuesday, March 5th

Deahn and Charlotte took a train to Firenze, and Charlie and I took a train to Pisa.

I have been to Pisa before, each time for the tower.
This time, for the beautiful Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary.

Giovanni Pisano Pulpit

Galileo's lamp
Legend says that Galileo formulated his theory of isochronism of the pendulum
while watching its oscillations from the roof of the nave.

This year, for some reason, Lucca had no English language newspapers.
At the Pisa train station, we got the only one left, so Charlie was happy to wait for me outside.
We walked 8 miles.

Thursday, March 7th

Deahn & Charlotte went back to Firenze, and Charlie & I took a train to Genoa.

We followed a long walkway deserted on this cold day all the way to its end. Every place along the way was closed.
At the end was one other couple and a ferris wheel. The four of us went for a ride.
We'd like to come back to Genoa in warm, sunny weather.

Ferris wheel view of Genoa.

Laura arrives for the weekend from Holland!

"My original flight to Italy was cancelled, so I spent all of Thursday on the phone with Luftansa.
They were able to get me on a 4 pm flight.
Even though I was going to miss Friday night, I would still get there,
and it would all be worth it. A train, plane, shuttle and another train ride later,
and I made it to Lucca around midnight. Only to have the best greeting crew ever!
Yiayia, Pappou, Auntie Deahn and Charlotte all walked to the train station to meet me there."
--Laura, from her Website (https://sites.google.com/uconn.edu/laurainmaastricht2019/home)

On the Lucca wall!
Deahn, Laura, Charlotte, & Charlie
"Auntie Deahn's friend from college invited us all to her house in Nocchi for a homemade lunch. The lunch was delicious. We tasted four different olive oils, had some wine, different cheeses, pasta and a salad with fresh ingredients from her garden. This lunch pretty much covered all the bases of what I wanted to eat in Italy."--Laura
Lucca's Tunnel

Paper Woman

and Laura

Paper Ostrich. Leftover creations from Lucca Paper Exhibit.

Italian Class
Marylee invited me to an Italian class. I was excited. I had spent six months on the Rosetta Stone Program, scored high on the hundreds of little tests after each unit, completed the course, so I was ready. We sat at a round table and they began conversing in Italian (except for one woman who didn't talk at all). They kept nodding, smiling, gesturing, inviting me to join in. I didn't understand anything they were saying! Marylee was doing her best, translating for me along the way, but I couldn't come up with one sentence to contribute. Then, after more than an hour, at what I hoped was the end of the class, Marylee excused herself to go to the restroom. I was desperate. But, when there was a long pause and they were looking at me, I stepped up to the plate. I recited all the Italian I knew by heart, the complete Pater Nostro, the Ave O Maria, and the Gloria al Padre. The only other thing I remember about the Italian class was the expression on Marylee's face when she returned in the middle of the Gloria.
While we were at the Italian class, Marylee's husband Gary, took Deahn, Charlotte, Laura, and Charlie to Camaiore.

While Marylee and I were still in the Italian class,
Deahn, Charlotte, Laura, Charlie, and Gary were having coffee and sweets here.


Dinner with Charlotte and Laura

Charlotte left this morning for South Carolina. This afternoon Laura leaves for Maastricht, Holland, and Deahn for skiing in the Alps with MaryLee.
After Charlotte, Deahn, & Laura left us, Charlie and I went to noon Mass at St. Frediano's.
It was starting to rain. We stopped for some groceries, bought two umbrellas, and walked home in a downpour.
Back in the apartment, we watched a video of the Mardi Gras parade we had watched last Sunday in Viareggio.
Then we watched two American movies, a big surprise to find something in English!
The first movie was Being Flynn (my maiden name) and the second a Wild West drama.
A possibly lonely afternoon turned out very nice.

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Week Two

Deahn & MaryLee in the Alps

(MaryLee "whats apped" the photos.")


"Today with the Dolomites"


"We had a long day hiking!"


Here it is!

"Madcap South Tyrolean Fun"

"Ski poles & Helmets at Mass"

Walking in Lucca

A professional model posing as we were strolling by.
Lucca celebrates Giacomo Puccini, who was born, raised, and composed his opera in Lucca.
The nightly Puccini concerts (Thursday through Sunday during March) are held in the Church of San Giovanni.
Each night is a different program with a revolving cast of soloists performing Puccini's and another composer's music.
The evening Charlie & I attended, it was Puccini and Verdi. The music was beautiful and the soloists were excellent.
The 7 o'clock concerts are one hour long. A lovely hour before dinner!

Lucca Street

Lucca One-Saturday-a-Month Market

San Paolino of Antioch Basilica Minore
St. Paolino was sent by St. Peter from Antioch to Lucca.
He died in 67 A.D. The church was built in 1261 where relics of his were found.

This unsigned painting in San Paolino Church is interesting because the bottom shows early Lucca,
when towers stood all around the top of the wall.
Piazza dell'Anfiteatro
About nine feet below the center of this piazza lies the base of the second century Roman Amphitheater of Lucca.
The ring of buildings surrounding the square follows the shape of the original Amphitheater.
The remaining vaults and arches have been incorporated into the modern shops, cafes, and houses that circle the plaza.

Charlie's favorite dinner spot in Lucca.
Every time we went there, he ordered a different delectable speciality (wild boar, tripe, rabbit, etc.)

Tuesday, March 12th

Charlie & I took a train to Firenze. The last time we were here was in 1984 with Mia. She was in high school.
This time we had no advance tickets for anywhere.
We just wanted to walk around, enjoy the sights and sounds and have a gelato.
Sadly, we found out that gelato places don't open till March 15th, tomorrow!
Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

Ponte Vecchio
View from the Ponte

Thursday, March 14th

Deahn & Charlotte went to Pisa.
Charlie & I took a train to Siena, which sits on three high hills. This would be quite a hike from the train station, except that in the station is an escalator, which leads to several other escalators to take us up to the beautiful medieval city of Siena.
Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary

The Coronation of the Virgin

The High Altar

The Dome

The Pulpet

Saint Paul by Michaelangelo

Saint John the Baptist by Donitello

Basilica of Saint Catherine of Siena
"If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze."
--St. Catherine of Siena
A beautiful, peaceful place.
Siena's Piazza del Campo
"One of Europe's greatest medieval squares renowned worldwide for its beauty and architectural integrity."

Charlie in Siena Chocolate Shop

Raining Chocolate

Friday, March 15th

Deahn & I went as far as Prato with Charlie for his train to Milan.
From Milan, he flew to Athens to visit his cousins.
Deahn & I spent a wonderful day in Prato
Cathedral of Saint Stephen

The Main Altar of St. Stephen's Cathedral
We were thrilled to discover the beautiful Filippo Lippi frescos in a room beside the main altar.
On one wall from ceiling to floor is the life of St. John the Baptist and on the other wall the life of St. Stephen.
The top panel shows the childhood, the middle panel the public life, and the bottom panel the death.

The Death of St. Stephen

The Death of St. John the Baptist.
It is impossible to see the detail of their faces here, but every time I look at this photo, I will remember the faces of the icy cold evil mother, the vain evil daughter, and the king facing the horror of his act.

Santa Maria della Carceri
(St. Maria of the Jail)

Piazza of St. Stephen. We had lunch outside at the restaurant on the right.
It was delicious!

Prato Pansies

Prato Wall Art

Sunday, March 17
Museo della follia

Museum of Madness

"Entrate, ma non cercate un percorso, lunica via è lo smarrimento."
Enter but do not look for a path; the only way is loss.
I was hanging onto Deahn, terrified of falling in this dark place.

With this lovely portrait of a young boy, Vittorio Sgarbi's exhibition was advertised all over Lucca and in surrounding cities.
Nothing else in here was lovely!

You follow a long, glass walkway, glass walls, glass ceiling. At the end, take one more step and fall into a deep glass cell. I couldn't move. Deahn took the step. She didn't fall.

What's this doing here?
Translation: "For a man of real insight among the infatuated is similar to the one whose clock is right, in a city whose tower clocks are all set wrong. He alone knows the true time: but what does it help him? All the world turns toward the wrongly pointing city clocks; even those who know that his watch alone indicates the true time."

Two blue eyes from a whole wall of blue eyes.

Walls of faces with no noses.
"A journey through the ups and downs of various artists where creativity and madness come together in the indelible representation of the darkest side of the human mind." Hmmm...I would not recommend this place.

Saturday, March 16th
A Night at the Opera

At the Teatro del Giglio with Deahn for a Performance of Puccini's La Boheme. It was wonderful!
In 1961, Lucciano Pavarotti made his debut on this stage, as Rudolpho in La Boheme.

Charlie on his Way to Greece and the tiny Miracle

I hardly ever have cash, just my American Express card. At home, I take what I need out of Charlie's wallet. When we're travelling, he gets it from ATMs and insists that I go around with some, just in case. That was his intention as we left for the train station, to get cash for me to have while he was in Greece. But he looked at his watch and decided he didn't have time, so we headed straight for the station. Deahn and I were going as far as Prato with him.

Just before we got to the Lucca gate, he stopped abruptly at an ATM outside a bank, completed his transaction, and couldn't get his card out of the machine! It was stuck in the slot! I went inside the bank and found someone to help. He couldn't get the card out from the front. He went back inside and eventually came back waving the card, asking Charlie for his passport. Charlie didn't have the passport! Deahn sprinted back to the apartment, returned with the passport, and we just made it to the train.

Another tiny miracle! If Charlie hadn't wanted me to have cash, if he hadn't stopped at this ATM, if Deahn hadn't been a Boston Marathon runner, he would not have got to Athens to visit his cousins!

Charlie's Week in Greece

Walking up the back road to the Acropolis

Friends and Family
Our Favorite Cousins, Vasiliki and Panayiotti

Walking by an Athens Beach

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Week Three

Alexander Arrives!

To Firenze with Deahn and Alexander

La Galleria degli Uffizi

The Annunciation, Leonardo da Vinci
The Annunciation, Botticelli
The Holy Family, Raphael
The Seven Deadly Sins
anger - avarice - envy - gluttony - lust - pride -sloth
It was easy to name each sinner, just from her portrait. (I don't know the artist.)
The Coronation of the Virgin, Filippo Lippi

The Trinity, Filippo Lippi

Christ Child & Young St. John the Baptist
Filippo Lippi

Adoration of the Christ Child
Filippo Lippi

Adam & Eve
Lukas Cranach the Elder, 1472-1553

Alexander at the Uffizi

Back To Lucca


and Yiayia

Cincin! from the Loft of Franklin'33
Via S. Giorgio, 43, 55100 Lucca LU, Italy
After the Contemporary Dance Company's Performance of the Gershwin Suite and Schubert Frames

Back To Firenze
Friday morning, March 22, 2019

With Deahn, Alexander, and Russell's niece Lindsay

On the Way to Firenze

The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
It was the largest church in the world until the completion of Saint Peter's Basilica in Vatican City in 1615.

Their goal: to climb the 463 steps to the top,
mostly in the narrow corridors originally used by construction workers.
"It's not an activity for the claustrophobic
or those who might get worn out on the stairs."

My goal: to spend that hour inside the Cathedral.
Arriving early, we waited at the head of a long line.
Once inside, I told the ticket-taker I'd' wait in the church.
He said, "No entry from here!"
So, I went out, walked around, found a door, and went in.
Inside, the first thing I did was look up at the beautiful dome, thinking of Deahn, Alexander, and Lindsay on their way up there.

Top of the Dome
The next thing I did was look around. NOBODY was there!
I was the only person in this whole, enormous, beautiful Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy!
And a whole world of people were just waiting outside.
First, I knelt in front of the main Altar and said "Thank You!"
Then I walked around, stopping at each side altar remembering everyone on my prayer list.
After that, wanting to remember this tiny miracle in my life, I took a few photos.

The Main Altar

The Last Supper

After 50 minutes, a tour group came in.
I lit candles for my family and friends, said good-by to Santa Maria of the Flowers, and went out to meet my climbers.
I'll never know why, for almost an hour, I had that Cathedral all to myself.
It was one of the memorable hours of my life.

Friday afternoon, March 22, 2019

Over the Ponte Vecchio for Lunch

Galleria dell'accademia

Michaelangelo's David
"His sling is visible as though to emphasize how David owed his victory not to brute strength but to his intellect and to his innocence."

Also in the Galleria dell'accademia

The Annunciation

The Nativity

Coronation of the Virgin
Jacopo di Cione

The Tree of Life by Bonaventura da Bagnoregio, inspired by
Franciscan Saint Pacino di Buonaguida's "Lignum Vitae,"
referring to Apocalypse 22: 2.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

With Charlie, Deahn, Alexander, Lindsay, Marylee, and Gary


Gary & Charlie

The white spot in the Apuan Alps is a marble quarry.
Michelangelo would come to these marble-rich mountains to choose the material for his creations.


With Charlie, Deahn, Alexander, Lindsay, and Marylee

La Passeggiata in la Pietrasanta Piazza
MaryLee, Deahn, Lindsay, Alexander & Pappou

Cathedral of Saint Martin
The façade is covered with white marble. Pietrasanta grew to importance during the 15th century, mainly due to its connection with marble. Michelangelo was the first sculptor to recognize the beauty of the local stone.

Saint Joseph, Protector of our Families

Sant'Agostino Church
The construction of this church, commissioned by the Augustinian order in the 14th century,
has been deconsecrated and is now used for art exhibitions and cultural events.
The church's adjoining cloister, surrounded by marble columns,
contains beautiful frescoes, including lunettes depicting scenes from the life of Saint Augustine. . .
. . .as well as some interesting sculptures

Giacomo Puccini (from Lucca!)
"Pietrasanta is one of the most qualified centers for the art of the sculpture."

Deahn & Lindsay

Charlie Waiting

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Week Four

Glimpses of Lucca from the Wall

My guiding stars on Wall walks! They are made of paper!
If I turned RIGHT at the top of the ramp, after a 2 1/2 mile walk the baboons below let me know I was back in my neighborhood.
If I turned LEFT at the top of the ramp, I couldn't see the baboons from any view and would just keep walking till I was lost on the wall.

Walled-in Lucca is very small. After a couple of weeks, I could take any wall exit and enjoy a pleasant walk to our apartment.

Lucca Italian School

Pretty Park

Grounds of San Frediano only seen from the Wall




San Martino Cathedral

Deahn & Lindsay go hiking with MaryLee in the beautiful area near her home.

Lindsay & Deahn

Charlie & I go back to Firenze, then to Assisi.


Santa Maria Novella Basilica

Santa Maria Novella Piazza.

We found a New York Times at the train station, so Charlie found a seat in the sun.
I went into the Church just as 10:30 Mass was about to begin.


Assisi from our Grotto Hotel window

Basilicas of Saint Francis of Assisi
Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon,
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is darknesss, light,
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Saint Francis

Mary Queen of Heaven and Earth

The Tau Cross in front of Saint Francis Basilica
Thau is the last letter in the Hebrew alphabet, which in the anciet Hebrew character had the form of a cross.
"And the Lord said to him: go through the midst of the city. . . and mark Thau upon the foreheads
of the men that sigh and mourn for all the abominations that are committed." --Ezechiel 9:4
St. Francis loved this cross. He marked all his letters with a Tau Cross seal.
Cathedral of Saint Rufino
The San Rufino Crypt
Frescoes from the X111 Century

The Nativity of Jesus

The Annunciation to the Shepherds
We loved walking around beautiful, peaceful Assisi.
On one walk we met this lovely young woman.
She told us she comes to this quiet spot across from the wall Shrine and sings sacred songs.
She sang one for us.
The Shrine on the Wall

Sunday and Monday were sunny, warm days in Assisi.
Tuesday we woke up to cold, clouds, howling wind, rain.
I woke up early and walked the short distance from our hotel to Saint Francis Monastery for 7:15 Mass.
Then we walked to the bus stop and waited for the bus to take us to the the train and back to Lucca.

To Milan

6:47 a.m. Fast Train from Lucca to Pescia to Montecatini to Pistoia to Prato (all familiar place to us now)
and again to Firenze, to get our train for Milano.

I never hurry on my way into train stations. I like to look around, and I wanted a last glimpse of the little Chapel by Track #1, the one trains back to Lucca always leave on (I realized later that my Chapel was in the other Firenze train station.)

Then I saw Deahn and Lindsey, still outside the station. Deahn said our train hadn't been posted yet, probably because it was too early. I left them to find Charlie inside.

Charlie was staring up at the Arrivals and Departures Board at "Milan" on "Track 8" with a near detarture time. We first looked around for Deahn and Lindsey, didn't see them, decided they must already be there, so we ran to Track 8. No sign of them. We figured they must already have boarded, so we got on. We found a seat and I went to look, from section to section, for Deahn and Lindsey. I was just beginning to worry when the train started. There we were, Charlie and me, headed for Milan with no Deahn and Lindsey and no tickets.

I texted Deahn. She texted barcodes of our Fast Train tickets, which our kind conductor accepted, letting us remain on the Slow Train. It was a pleasant ride, flying by Bologna, pausing at Prato, and stopping at small towns like Fidenza and Placenza.

By the time we got to our room, looked out our hotel window (Hotel Ritter), and texted Deahn and Lindsey,
they had already walked around Milano and were having lunch.


From our hotel we walked down the street

and came to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Charlie wanted me to buy something here! (As Charlotte would text, haha)
The jacket in the first window was $2,300

Duomo di Milano

Charlie walking toward the Duamo,
the Basilica of the Nativity of Saint Mary

March 30, 2019
From Milan to Boston

Deahn's beautiful, wonderful idea became a reality for Charlie and me, an unforgettable month in our long travelled lives.
To be in one city in one country for a month, never driving, just walking and riding in trains, living every day with people we love, visiting extraordinary places, living like the locals, and finding new friends! A great gift! Deahn chose Lucca, Italy because her friend MaryLee and her husband Gary had made their home there. MaryLee was our angel, our friend, our guide, teaching us, opening our eyes, taking us to places where tourists rarely go. And our beloved Russell was always with us, in our thoughts and in our hearts, and in his wisdom guiding us.
I know he wanted all of us to be together at this time in this place.

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