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Most of us are saying “Arrivederci” to 2021 with almost the same gusto as when we said the same words to the year 2020. Times have changed for everyone around the world. With travel restrictions still in place, the one thing most of us like to do has been limited. Let’s hope this trend does not continue into the new year.
The first few months of 2021 all seem like a blur now. Not much was happening with most of us. As much as I wonder if we should do this type of post, a friend reminded me that she doesn’t always catch a post and this is a great way of catching up on our journey. With that thought in mind – I compile yet another of this year’s highlights for you to review if you wish. If it’s painful like one of those letters you receive in a Christmas card, please disregard and skip right to the bottom of this post and accept our apologies.
Most of you know my quest to learn Italian. I try every day to do a little bit as I said in the book, like exercise – I have good intentions every day – but it just doesn’t always happen. I encourage you though if you wish to learn, I really enjoy my fun Saturday Italian lessons with Mio. It is focused more on talking and conversing than grammar – although a little is thrown in. I keep working at it – “piano – piano.”
After a bit of a back and forth, we decided to get vaccinated before leaving the States. We know there is controversy on this subject. Know that we respect your views no matter how you view this pandemic. We arrived in Italy on April 1st – hoping there was no April Fool’s joke on us. Turned out there wasn’t, thank goodness.
It was a bit of an adventure traveling and arriving in Italy – that is for sure. In fact, we were getting so many questions about it, we decided to write a small eBook which is available as long as there is still interest in it. Available on Amazon and in our store. It is about our experience getting to Italy and what we found under “orange” conditions. It was an eerie time being in Italy with no café’s or bars open except take-away. We watched and participated in the reopening of Italy. It was an incredible feeling.
We began taking private lessons at Lucca Italian School, just one hour a week. It’s not easy learning Italian and even harder with a mask on. It lasted a few weeks and we really enjoyed our teacher, Illaria.
Once travel opened ever so slightly, we hopped on the train and spent a few days in Florence. It’s about a 1.5 hours train ride from Lucca to Florence, making it very easy and convenient. We spent a few days shopping and visiting friends in a town nearby.
It was also during this month I had my revelation. It was after having coffee one morning with new friends, JoAn and Jim, that I declared to Gary that “Lucca is it – it’s my perfect Italian town to live.” Gary’s response was not quite what I thought it was going to be. He replied, “I could have told you that back in 2017 when we were here!” So with that being said out loud – we started looking for an apartment to stay long term.
With Lucca being as flat as it is, we purchased two new bicycles. The only ones we could find at the time were pink in color. As much as it didn’t bother me – Gary wasn’t so happy about riding a pink bicycle. Okay, I get it.
The search for an apartment that met our criteria was brutal. We both decided we wanted to live inside the historic center of Lucca and experience “city life.” Not knowing what utilities would truly cost us – we didn’t want to be “house poor,” or in our case, “apartment poor.” There were lots of beautiful apartments for rent – just not many in our price range. But we were lucky and our patience paid off and we said arrivederci at our first rental apartment.
Not only did we find an apartment – we found the needle in the haystack – an apartment with a terrazzo! Very few are found with outdoor space inside the walls of Lucca. The drawback? We settled for a one-bed and bathroom. After weeks of cleaning, we could call it our own.
July also brought us a trip with JoAn and Jim. We have become very fond of them and enjoy their company and friendship so very much. We’ve made quite a few wonderful friends here in Lucca and are very grateful. The overnight trip we took was to a familiar town, Norcia to see fields of flowers and lentils in the valley.
Another wonderful night was a dream come true for me. We went to see Andrea Bocelli perform in his hometown, Lajatco in Tuscany. I don’t think seeing him anywhere else will ever compare to that incredible evening and event. We booked it with a local company and their service was amazing. They will be sponsors of Our Italian Journey next year. Watch for information on 2Italia!
Arrivederci to the First Half of the year…
September began friends visiting Lucca. Now, these are friends that we made through the book and the blog – but never met in person! It all began with Bernie and her daughter Laura and then meeting Peggy and Frank down in Grosetto for the day. A quick coffee with a new friend Jayne completed September’s visitors.
We found out that there is a program, like adult education classes in the States available for Lucca residents. Gary and I signed up with CPIA for two days a week/2 hours each day. The amazing thing? €20 for the year! Gary now has more money for vino! We miss our personal lessons with Illaria but if you are looking for a language school, we do indeed recommend LIS and especially, Illaria. I’m sure it’s just arrivederci for now but not forever.
We met our good friend, Victoria from Florence in Pisa to climb the Leaning Tower. None of us had ever done it and we made a great day of it. It was worth the climb! We struggled just a bit but the views at the top were worth the effort.
On November 20th, Our Italian Journey (the book) celebrated its one-year anniversary. We are not sure where an entire year went – but we celebrated with a fun scavenger hunt game and some AMEX gift card giveaways.
The weather continued to be cold and rainy. After being in the desert for over 30-years, it’s a bit of a shock to our bodies but we are trying to keep warm and dry. An overnight trip to Florence to enjoy the festive lights there was much needed and didn’t disappoint us.
Christmas Eve and Day were spent with friends, good food, and wine. Calling each of our children and listening to our grandchildren’s excitement about Christmas was difficult. We miss them, and this is the hardest part about living abroad.
Our friends Lita and Guy encouraged us to come to see Paris. We have never been and took them up on their gracious offer to stay in their apartment directly across from the Eifel Tower! We were supposed to leave the day after Christmas and sad to say- we decided to cancel because of COVID. Paris will have to wait for another day. Thank you though Lita and Guy!
Meeting Sophia & Ramu, Ana & David, Tracy & Phil, Brenda & Garry, and Sharon & Frank were the top highlights of this year. Along with the other new (and old) friends met in September. We are grateful to meet these wonderful people and appreciate them taking the time to meet us here in Lucca. We never expected in a million years to write a book, have people enjoy it, and then want to meet us in Italy. Our hearts are full, and our hope is to continue these friendships long into the future. It was only “arrivederci” for now in our minds.
We wish everyone a Happy New Year. Arrivederci, 2021, and hello to 2022!
Please be safe and stay healthy. Our journey continues and we are so happy to have you along for the ride. This coming year will bring even more to Our Italian Journey. Hope you stay tuned and please spread the word. We’d appreciate it.