History & Beauty in the Five Lands, Lucca, & Fiesole

This post is eclectic, much like our travels over the past week. In the past several days, we took day trips from to the beautiful walled city of Lucca as well as to the ancient Etruscan and Roman city of Fiesole, just north of Florence. Over the weekend we Ramages celebrated our 5th-anniversary in Italy’s lovely Cinque Terre (“Five Lands”). These are five picturesque port towns on Italy’s west coast, once hidden gems but now widely known for great hiking and beautiful panoramas. While the first two towns I mentioned unveiled alot of history to us, the Cinque Terre are unabashedly all about the beauty of the small Italian sea towns.

Highlights of the week:

  • Fiesole’s surprisingly well-preserved Roman and Etruscan ruins, some dating back to the 8th century B.C. From a fairly short bus ride from our villa, you can go here to see a Roman amphitheater, Roman baths, a Roman/Etruscan temple, and a great museum with Etruscan urns, votive offerings, and more. I am currently fascinated by the Etruscan civilization, as its origin remains somewhat a mystery to scholars
  • Great anniversary dinner in Fiesole with kids at the babysitter
  • Lucca’s San Giovanni church with magnificent excavations underneath. You can literally walk through about 6 layers of history in this place–from the Roman to later Roman to early Christian to early medieval Christian to later medieval Christian to somewhat modern Christian
  • Lucca’s beautiful streets and churches, with a wonderful walk one can take atop the medieval walls still intact around the entire city
  • Walking the beautiful towns and coastline of the Cinque Terre and nearby Porto Venere. We saw 5 small towns in two days, all of which are connected by a combination of boats, paths, and trains.
  • A wonderful 5th anniversary dinner in the Cinque Terre in which we feasted on wine and fresh seafood with a toddler who behaved the best I’ve ever seen her at a meal and an infant who slept through it–thanks be to God!

Then there were two “dark” sides to the trip from which we thankfully emerged victorious. First was a typical, unannounced Italian train strike that almost left us stranded for an extra day in the Cinque Terre. By the grace of God, we managed to get out of our town of Riomaggiore and landed at Porto Venere on the only boat leaving that day. We subsequently catch a couple trains connecting us from Porto Venere to La Spezia to Pisa and finally to Florence (these were some of the few trains that happened to not be on the strike that day, and again we caught them by the grace of God). We arrived in Florence’s Santa Maria Station, caught a mass at the church of the same name outside the station, and then two buses back to our villa for Sunday dinner. Alot of work at the end of our weekend trip, but a bigger blunder avoided. Typical Italian travel story.

The second “dark” side to our week? Finishing our lovely pre-anniverary dinner in Fiesole on Thursday, we came down to the town center at about 9 pm to catch our bus, only to find the piazza closed. Closed. Why were there a bunch of EMTs and police offers out there? There happened to be an unpublicized pro bike race that night, and it literally blocked the only street that leads from Florence to Fiesole. Thus the bus we needed to return home to relieve our babysitter–as well as all potential taxis–were blocked from town until the race was over. Long story short, after asking a bunch of people what to do and ending up empty-handed, we started walking in the rainy black night down the road to Florence with bikers and their chase cars on whizzing by us in the opposite direction. After a while, we passed by the last bike, and we hailed a taxi which by the grace of God passed us. We ended up back to the babysitter about 1.5 hours late and 20 euros poorer, but at least we made it–and the kids were asleep.

So to conclude: traveling in Italy is great, but it is also work that builds virtue or at least can. Until next time, continue to enjoy the history and beauty in the photos below.


Matthew Ramage



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