When people become professional tourist guides in Italy, some do it out of necessity, some do it as a part-time job, some do it while waiting for their ‘dream’ job to materialize. I’ve been at this profession for over thirty years for pure vocation and because I’m passionate about it. Perhaps too passionate, seeing how my family is always nagging me because I put my work ahead of household duties or personal fun. Maybe they’re right but my job is part of my life. Whenever I run into a certain old friend of mine while I’m working, he yells out, “You’re always in the streets, talking, talking, talking!!! Don’t you ever work??” And possibly, he’s right. I love my job. It’s great fun. It’s not a burden at all.
In these dramatic times, when not only Italy but the entire world is coming to a halt because of a pandemic, I feel trapped like a lion in a cage.
Out of twenty-four hours a day, I spend twelve of them going from town to town in Tuscany, beating kilometers of pavement, my baritone voice ringing through the streets and squares of the towns. Now I find myself in total silence, staring at the walls of my house. In these confined quarters, however, I go back to my roots and recall the reason why I became a tourist guide. My ‘prison’ walls face the most beautiful city walls I’ve ever seen: those of Lucca.
All I have to do is open the French doors of my balcony and there they stand. Massive, wrapped in an unnatural silence. Everything is still. It’s as if life has been put on hold. But there they are; millions of red bricks cover the curtain walls and eleven bastions, grassy areas surround the perimeter, and hundreds of trees, short, tall, secular, or newly-planted, top them off. The walls give you a sense of security and centuries-old protection. It’s as if those who built them are watching us from above (or below) to give us strength, courage not to give up, courage to look to the future.
The Walls of Lucca are the greatest and most useful legacy left to us by our ancestors. They have witnessed the many sufferings of the people of Lucca since their construction was begun in 1513. Famine, global economic crises, pestilence, worse than what we are experiencing today, everything…or almost everything. The Walls, built for combat, paradoxically, never experienced bloody, ferocious, destructive war. That is a consolation. It makes me understand why, still today, wisdom, caution, and a sense of community are an inherent part of our people: the people of Lucca.
I wrote these few lines to try to explain why I’m driven to continue to do my job even here from the balcony of my home.
I wish you all peace and serenity, which sooner or later will certainly return.
Next time you tune in, I’ll welcome you inside my home and tell you about my sources for ‘prattling loudly’ through the streets of Lucca in times of ‘peace’. I’ll consider it an ‘indoor’ training session in anticipation of the opening of the tourist season…so you have to put up with me for a while longer.