The Profession of Tourist…Guide

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Several years ago, I recall how perplexed a clerk of the local Chamber of Commerce was when trying to classify my profession of tourist guide for bureaucratic reasons. “Are you a merchant? A teacher? A travel agent? Well then, tell me, what are you exactly? There’s no such thing as your profession in the commercial sector!” Finally, after months of queries (yes, that’s right, not days or weeks, but months!), I learned that tourist guides fell under the category of craftsmen/artisans. At first, this classification puzzled me and then it filled me with pride. According to the Italian encyclopedia, Treccani, the craftsman/artisan is he or she who creates, produces, and offers a quality product, often original, as opposed to those products that are industrially and mass-produced. The prefix of artisan derives from the word ‘art’. Our art, that of...

Gabriele Calabrese

Covid-19 Emergency. Proximity tourism as seen by an Italian tourist guide who works in Lucca, Tuscany.

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Forty-eight hours before the lockdown, I had what could be considered a vision.  I wonder how many of my colleagues also had the feeling that a deep-seated crisis would ultimately hit the entire tourism sector of Italy and the rest of the world in general.  If I had the same foresight in regard to gambling, I would be a millionaire. Unfortunately the latter is not the case and I can only ascertain with bitterness that my premonition was correct: we are jobless or almost so. I say almost because that perception along with the ample time at my disposal to ponder what we could possibly do under these conditions, pushed not only me but my entire team at Turislucca to find solutions to the problem. It was clear from the start that organized tour groups from outside Europe (the...

Deserted cities

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Please note: The original piece in Italian was written during lockdown.    Tap the screen, then tap the logo with the white ‘f’ in the blue square, look at the images. Stop and look at some of the posts that show Italian art cities, including Lucca, on Easter Monday. Video of Florence: Duomo, Baptistery, Piazza della Repubblica, Santa Maria Novella, Piazza della Signoria, the Arno River embankments. Video of Lucca: Via Fillungo, Amphitheatre, Piazza San Michele, the intersection at Via Fillungo and Via Roma. Deserted streets and squares everywhere. Only empty buses going round along their designated routes much like scale model electric toy trains moving along a track. Footage after footage, shot after shot, videos and photographs clearly show how everything seems suspended in time and underline that something important is missing: life. I look at the comments and am...

Puccini’s comment in regard to the plaque that once commemorated the place where the composer Boccherini resided in Via della Dogana

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Eleven Unusual Things to See in Lucca On the wall of the hotel, Albergo San Martino in Via della Dogana, 9, a plaque has been placed, once again, to remember where Luigi Boccherini, renowned composer of Lucca known for his famous Minuet in A, had lived for a few years of his life.  During the Fascist period, the plaque had been removed because it was considered unseemly given that the building had since become a famous house of ill repute. In fact, Giacomo Puccini, who considered Boccherini to be the most famous composer of Lucca, wrote to his sister Ramelde on 6 March 1901, commenting in proverbial Tuscan irony: “…and to think that Boccherini only has a plaque on the wall of a brothel!” Today, this comment can be read on a small commemorative plaque found just outside the entrance...

The stone known as the “Devil’s Stone” of Palazzo Bernardini

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Eleven Unusual Things to See in Lucca If you search the web for things you should see or do when visiting an area, you’ll probably find a list of the top ten things and usually they’re pretty typical. Well, I’m suggesting eleven because I’ve decided to go one better. Actually, if I were to think of all the particular places or things to see or do in Lucca, the list would be endless. But let’s begin. Palazzo Bernardini is on Via Santa Croce, one of the city’s main streets. To be precise, it stands along the route that all the pilgrims, who were passing through Lucca, would take to go to Rome. A very visible palazzo to passers-by. Rebuilt over the remains of an old medieval dwelling in the first half of the 16th century and in a decidedly...

The sculpture of the Holy Face in Lucca

The Keys to Lucca

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In these days of quarantine, our individual freedom has been significantly limited, but we have accepted this small sacrifice for the good of the community. In fact, if we look back in time, we will find that often the needs for protection and defense were put before the needs of the individual. I am referring to freedom of movement and controls in the days of the Republic of Lucca. The actual Walls were constructed to defend the Republic. It was a large-scale human and economic endeavor and a piece of innovative military engineering, well ahead of its time. The gates to the Walls were the weak points of this powerful defensive instrument and were considered a possible source of danger should they not be adequately protected. In the first half of the 17th century, when the walls we see today...

Black Cat

Animals and Monuments. In these times of Covid-19, animals unconsciously and heroically get their revenge on the human race.

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 Strange title. What do monuments have to do with animals? Well, they do, they certainly do. But first allow me to say this: Now more than ever, confined to our homes due to the pandemic, trying to satisfy our eyes and spirit with images thanks to our smart devices, we are seeing that Nature is reclaiming its space and animals are resuming their innate behavior within that space. Photos of ducks walking neatly in single file on crosswalks, safe and sound, deer crouching in the middle of freeways, wolves that venture near populated areas more than ever before. And the list goes on. And as if that weren’t enough, Spring comes along and decides to give us an abundance of days with clear blue skies. Bees, butterflies, and swallows, swoop, swirl, and do fanciful acrobatics in the sky. They...

Book "Poems of Geppe"

The Poems of Geppe

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I’d like to continue to speak about a tourist guide’s tools of the trade. The more you have filed away the better, therefore knowing something about literature and poetry can come in handy. Today, I’m going to talk about something a bit more particular, poetry written in the vernacular of Lucca. This is a difficult subject to broach with visitors, albeit Italian, because the regions of Italy have many different dialects, or perhaps it might be more appropriate to say, different languages. I was born in Milan, my mother’s surname was Bassetti, and when I was twelve, I had to change ‘language’ and become ‘Lucchese (1) ’ very quickly. I must admit that I haven’t been able to change the way I pronounce ‘s’ so when I say certain words, my northern Italian accent seeps through. However, my father,...

Ingredients for Seafood spaghetti

A Tourist Guide Who Also Knows His Way Around a Kitchen! Seafood Spaghetti with Mussels and Clams

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In Spring, Italians love strolling by the beautiful seashores close to their towns to soak in those first rays of warm sunshine. This year, however, we are all locked inside our homes because of Covid-19. Do you think we spend the long boring days watching tv or washing our cars? Reading books? Or, heaven forbid, exercising? No! We are cooking and preparing the most delectable meals. Even if I’m not the ‘MasterChef’ of my family (my father, mother, and in particular, my grandmothers were wonderful cooks), I know how to survive in difficult times like these. So thinking about the seaside and the warm sunshine, I’d like to share with you a simple, but very tasty dish of pasta with seafood: Pasta allo scoglio with mussels and clams. Scoglio are the rocks in the sea. When you mix the seafood sauce with the spaghetti, the...

Painting by Pompeo Batoni

Pompeo Batoni? A ‘homespun’ analysis of a Lucchese painting

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My last post was dedicated to the diary of the painter Georg Christoph Martini. In it, I stated that it was probable that Georg had been a teacher to the young painter Pompeo Girolamo Batoni of Lucca. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Batoni was the most celebrated and famous Italian painter of portraits and allegorical and mythological subjects of the 18th century. Batoni was born in Lucca on 25 January 1708 and died in Rome in February 1787. In Rome, the Eternal City, he mastered the art of painting and was bestowed with many honors and accolades, and most certainly great sums of money based on the numerous and pressing requests he received for his paintings by noblemen, princes, and wealthy international and national merchants. In his workshop, located in Via del Leone, the apprentices labored to follow...