We’re out of olive oil! This summer we were given four delicious two gallon cans of Tuscan olive oil, and the last drops are being used this week. Eight gallons of oil in under 7 months. About a gallon per month. Does that sound like a lot? In our defense, we’ve had non-stop visitors since July, but still, I concur, that’s whole lot of oil. In the meantime, we started looking for a local source, but quickly learned that extra virgin olive oil is a Tuscan specialty, and that the local government has evolved very stringent codes for what can and cannot be labeled a controlled Tuscan olive oil. The result is a product that is far superior to anything else we’ve tasted, so back to Tuscany we go!
Sure, we could go to the supermarket, but why not go directly to the source and pick up a few more vats of our favorite cooking liquid directly at an olive grove? We know of one near Lucca, a lovely place that’s only a 2.5 hour ride Southwest of Bologna. We first visited and fell in loved with this medieval town in 2012 when we rented a house there, and used it as our base to explore the 6 cities that we were considering moving to. It is neither a village like San Gimiliagno nor a mid-size city like Bologna, but a charming large town that lies somewhere in between. It became a Roman colony in 180 BC, and the layout of the streets, the protective wall that surrounds the town, and many buildings constructed during that time are still intact. Its beauty, history and manageable size make it an ideal place to visit if you want to get to know Tuscany better. Pisa, Siena and Florence are all very close by, and even Rome and Milan are just about a 3-hour drive or train ride away if you wanted to explore some of Italy’s bigger cities.
Besides wandering through its cobblestone streets and popping into its many shops and boutiques, we love renting bikes in Lucca. Riding around the streets and piazzas is fairly easy, even with kids, as long as you stay away from the more crowded tourist areas. There’s also a biking trail atop its medieval wall, so that you can circle the entire town, and along the way, pass beautiful city views, green gardens, and various statues and sculptures honoring Lucca’s history.
Afterwards, we like to get the world’s best ice cream at a place we were introduced to by a local friend, Giorgio, who is a talented comic book writer by day and wonderful chef by night. And a journey to Lucca wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Focacceria. Just like olive oil, foccacia, a flat, oven-baked bread, which is often topped with herbs and sea salt, is particular to Tuscany, and when you eat it elsewhere in the country, it’s just not as good. I’ve been told that without the region’s water and air, you just can’t make the real stuff, and so far, after 7 months of focaccia-tasting in the North and South of Italy, we have yet to disprove this odd fact. We’ll happily keep on trying though!