ITALIAN CITY GETS STONED
ROCK CONCERT AND OTHER EVENTS PROVIDE A BEAUTIFUL COLLISION OF OLD ARCHITECTURE AND MODERN ENTERTAINMENT
Within minutes of tickets going on sale, they were gone. That’s the way it is when the Rolling Stones comes to town. The band was heading to the historic Italian town of Lucca just as we were. We had no hope of securing tickets but we were there in the lead up. We witnessed the preparation for the concert, a heck of a big deal. The Stones were to play beneath the 500-year-old Renaissance walls that symbolise Lucca. Every hotel had been overbooked, every bed and breakfast was sold out, everyone who had a room to let had already let it. The excitement was feverish and infectious. We were staying with friends in a 500-year-old apartment wedged between other 500-year-old apartments inside the walls, just a few metres’ walk from Lucca’s lively main street, Via Fillungo. Every morning we walked Via Fillungo, dodging the tour groups, trying not to be drawn into the beautiful shops with their jewels and shoes and designer clothes. Every afternoon we went outside the handsome walls to an out-of-town restaurant or to visit friends of our friends. We drove the busy road circling the walls, desperately trying not to hit one of the hundreds of helmet-free cyclists. We would weave through the hectic traffic, look up to the quiet and regal beauty of the walls and watch the preparation for the Rolling Stones’ concert. The green grass beneath one section of the wall – the bastions of San Paolino and Santa Maria – was being carefully removed to be temporarily replaced, we guessed, by something hardy to withstand the feet of the 55,000 people expected for the concert. There were many workmen, a lot of flurry. Lucca’s walls, built in the 16th and 17th centuries, are in impeccable condition, and wide with a tree-lined surface. The locals walk or cycle the top of the walls from morning to dusk. At night many find a quiet spot to lie on top of the walls, to look up to the starry sky and, no doubt, to reflect on their good fortune to live in such an ancient and elegant town. The walls, as well as Lucca’s wide Piazza Napoleone, make magical backdrops for concerts. Many big names have performed: Elton John, David Bowie and, this year, Robbie Williams and the Pet Shop Boys. The Lucca Summer Festival presents more events than concert-goers could possibly attend. Then there is the Festival Puccini at Torre del Lago, half an hour’s drive away, to celebrate the life and work of the genius composer, born in Lucca, and who wrote some of the great operas of the world. Now as I write, Lucca is in the throes of holding the Lucca Comics and Games Festival, an event dedicated to comics, video games, music, games and entertainment. Our friends in the 500-year-old Lucca apartment have watched as cranes and trucks have squeezed into the small square outside their bedroom window to erect large marquees. They email to tell us every piazza, narrow street and tiny alleyway has been taken over with marquees to hold the one million people expected to swell the town during the five-day event. Lucca is a small Tuscan town with big attractions. And that is without even talking about its myriad charms and glorious ancient history.