In the last week of August and first few days of September, it seemed everyone in Lucca was complaining about the heat. And the humidity. Wondering when (if?) this long, hot, muggy Tuscan summer would ever end. It was too hot to exercise, too hot at lunch to drink a glass of wine (that tells you it was really, really hot), too hot between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. to do anything outdoors, and definitely too hot to study - the Italian lessons would have to wait until cooler weather set in. Just when the evenings began to cool off a bit, well, then came the zanzare (mosquitoes). Yes, as lovely as Italy is, we who live here still complain sometimes.
But at the end of the first week of September, the miracle happened - all of a sudden the mornings were cooler, the air conditioner stayed off until late in the afternoon, lunch outside was again possible (with wine!), and, well, who cares about mosquitoes when the evenings are cool and breezy (and you’ve remembered to pack the mosquito wipes)? By the eighth day of September, I was carrying a shawl for a late dinner on a piazza. By the 20th, I needed a light scarf and jacket in the mornings. Mid- to late-September, between the end of summer and the beginning of fall, really is glorious here.
In Lucca, this time of year means that we have delicious peaches and figs and perfect tomatoes. It is also the time of “Settembre Lucchese,” a month filled with festivals, concerts, and markets.
The weekend of September 6-8 brought Murabilia, the annual fall garden show and market, always a popular event. There you can buy plants for the fall garden, whimsical garden decorations, indoor plants, colorful gourds and pumpkins, wonderful food (garlic, nuts, cheeses, meats, breads, nut butters, jams, fruit, onions) and a host of artisan-made crafts for home and garden (baskets, straw brooms, lavender-scented oils and soaps, birdhouses).
There was also a fascinating display of old farming equipment set up in the stone caverns underneath Lucca’s walls. Strolling through the booths and displays, some of which meandered through the Botanic Gardens, made for a wonderful Sunday morning.
September 13 was the annual Santa Croce festival. This is the most important religious event of the year in Lucca, celebrated with luminaria-illuminated buildings and a candlelit procession. It’s a time when many people with Lucchese roots, no matter where they live in the world, return to Lucca. There is an air of mystery, of times long past, about this celebration. A bit of magic that is uniquely Lucchese.
The weekend of September 14-15 was the monthly antiques market (always the third Sunday of the month and the Saturday just before). Many of us missed the market during our summer travels or skipped it during the heatwave when we were just too hot (and pigra - lazy) to attend. With all the visitors in town for the luminaria procession a couple of days earlier, this month’s market was lively and well-attended.
At this time of year, throughout the countryside, the grapes are ripening. The vendemmia (harvest) will take place in a few weeks. The olive harvest won’t be far behind and I’ve already registered for a weeklong olive oil class at Lucca Italian School in early November. This class is centered around olive cultivation, harvest, and the production of olive oil. It will include a visit to a frantoio (olive mill) as well as several cooking classes and, of course, language instruction. If you happen to be in Lucca in November, this is a fun experience.
This year, none of these late summer/early fall events are firsts for me - I’ve been in Lucca pretty much full time since last September. But there is something special about knowing what is upcoming and taking joy in the anticipation of familiar events and celebrations. This year I will have friends visiting from the U.S. for many of these events. It’s wonderful to be able to share my new home in Italy with good friends and help them discover all the things I love about living here. I’m looking forward to autumn in Italy. -post by Joanne
Contact info: Lucca Italian School (November Olive Oil Cooking Week) Nov 11 - 15, 2019
Via dei Bacchettoni, 25. 55100 Lucca (LU). +39 0583 490902. website: luccaitalianschool.com.