The big bus (about 50) left at 8 am, and we immediately noticed something different with our guide--he was Australian, not Italian! The young man had married an Italian girl from Livorno three years ago and moved to Italy not speaking a word of Italian. He took intensive Italian classes and now works as a tour escort. (We had Italian guides in both towns. Our escort said you need much more schooling to get a guide license, and he hasn't decided whether to pursue that career.) Anyway, it was great fun to have someone who lives in Italy, but has lived elsewhere provide a great comparison of things that natives wouldn't think about discussing, like all the Italian "hand-language" and the wild driving and parking. He was very entertaining, and although he loves Italy (and his wife), he had no problems discussing cultural differences we had all observed, but hated to ask a native. Fun bus ride.
We were in Lucca by 9 am, and had a walking tour of the city until 10:30 with the audiovoxes (radios and ear pieces). According to our local guide, Lucca is the only Italian city that still is completely encircled by its walls. It was also the only Tuscan town not conquered and consolidated into the Florence state by the Medici family. Since it was Monday morning, most of the shops were closed. We walked around the city, taking in the churches, squares, and narrow streets. Mom and I didn't think it was nearly as attractive as other small Italian towns we have visited like Volterra, the Cinque Terre towns, Porto Venere, San Gimignano, and Taormina. We missed the flower boxes and outdoor cafes. Since I've heard people rave about how much they loved this city of Puccini's birth, maybe it was just because everything was closed and the town was fairly quiet, or we are just "toured out". (The cafes may spill out into the squares and streets later on Monday.) Like most guided tours, we had no free time to explore on our own, and I hated to leave the tour since we had not been the, re before. Lucca does have an interesting square (which is really an oval) that was built using the foundation and walls of an old Roman amphitheater.
Our next stop was Pisa and its famous (or infamous) bell tower.