Buon Capodanno (Happy New Year) from Italy

I'm not big on New Year's celebrations. I avoid grand resolutions. I'm usually still in recovery mode from a busy Christmas season and never get around to planning something for New Year's beyond a glass or two of prosecco and watching the ball drop in Times Square on TV (which happens at 10 p.m. New Mexico time). Low-key is an understatement. Still, I often think I should plan something exciting, something to set the tone and inspire the start of a new cycle around the sun.

This year, shortly after Thanksgiving, I found an amazingly low airfare that would allow for an unplanned trip to Italy over the holidays. A quick text to Judy read something like this: "We can fly to Italy for New Year's for under $500 round trip, want to go?" Her equally quick response was, "Yes, I'm in, let's do it." Just like that we had plane tickets, an apartment secured, and plans to leave the day after Christmas for 12 days in Lucca, including New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

 Carousel, Lucca, December 2016.

Carousel, Lucca, December 2016.

Lucca is magic at this time of year. The city is still dressed in its holiday sparkle, the streets glowing with tiny lights. Children ride the carousel and  ice skate in Piazza Napoleone. Store windows display holiday treats and beautiful winter clothing. The air is fresh and crisp and the streets uncrowded. Since arriving, we've heard only Italian spoken, not the English, French and German so commonly heard when more tourists are in town. I can't think of better inspiration than to begin 2017 here.

 Ice skating rink, Lucca, December 2016.

Ice skating rink, Lucca, December 2016.

New Year's Eve morning was cold and crisp, perfect for sleeping in and a late prima colazione (breakfast) at the apartment. Next up - grocery shopping to gather essentials for New Year's Day, when most shops and restaurants will be closed. Grocery shopping here means visits to several specialty stores - Forno Amedeo Giusti for fresh, warm focaccia, the Ortofrutta for beautiful veggies and fruits (local tradition says we must eat 12 grapes on New Year's Day), Il Mercantini for a small tin of good olive oil, and a local grocery store for milk, eggs, fresh pasta, and a nice bottle of local wine. That ought to get us through till Monday!

Walking around town in the afternoon brought consideration of a purchase of red underwear - another local New Year's tradition (we each settled on just wearing a red sweater), a light lunch at a local cafe, a caffe macchiato for an energy boost, and lots of people watching.   

 Osteria Via San Giorgio, Lucca, December 2016.

Osteria Via San Giorgio, Lucca, December 2016.

Dinner was a highlight of the day. We always look forward to eating at Osteria Via San Georgio and it's an especially good place for a festive dinner. The food is wonderful and there is always some seafood on the menu (not so common in Lucca, where meat is a more common dish). The atmosphere is classic - small tables, beautiful architecture, and the murmur of Italian as a soundtrack. Add to that the owners, Piero and Daniela, and their wonderful staff. They give the best greetings - those baci (kisses), first on one cheek, then the other. Nothing makes us feel more at home.

 Spaghetti con vongole, Osteria Via San Giorgio, Lucca, December 2016.

Spaghetti con vongole, Osteria Via San Giorgio, Lucca, December 2016.

A meal of salad with fennel, good pasta with seafood, a local white wine, torta for dessert (pear and chocolate for Judy, apricot and almond for Joanne) and a post-meal digestif was the perfect way to spend New Year's Eve before the strike-of-midnight celebrations. Tomorrow, the fun continues with an afternoon concert by the Budapest Gypsy Symphony. Buon Capodanno! -post by JB and JG

 Apricot and almond tort, Osteria Via San Giorgia, Lucca, December 2016.

Apricot and almond tort, Osteria Via San Giorgia, Lucca, December 2016.