Second day of week two of the language school in Lucca, Italy, including an afternoon in Barga.
Today’s class started at 9:15 (yay!) and was focused on one of my least favourite subjects – work! We learned work-focused vocabulary such as lavoro a tempo pieno (working full time), lo stipendio (wage), lavoro nero (illegal work), etc. We were then split up into three groups to discuss a series of work-related questions where we discussed the situations in our own countries. Afterwards we read a text about a woman who wrote a ‘semi-serious’ book about what it’s like to be young and to work behind the scenes in TV. The text was rather difficult since it dealt with a theme that doesn’t come up often (working in TV) and it used a lot of colloquial phrases. We got through it though!
I’m finding the class a bit slow paced for me which I think is a combination of 10 students in the class, and a mix of people at various levels of “intermediate”. This is quite a contrast to last week, where I was one of the least ‘advanced’ intermediate students in the class. I enjoyed feeling a bit like I needed to catch up instead of waiting. We’ll see how the week pans out!
Straight from school, I walked to the bus stop just outside the walls to catch the bus to Barga, a small town in the hillsides (mountains?). The ride was supposed to take about an hour and 10 minutes. Unfortunately for me, I was also on the bus with a very large number of high school aged school kids, so it was standing room only by the time on got on (it was the fourth stop on the route). Fortunately for me, the bus driver let me on since he didn’t stop at the next stops because the bus was too full.
Despite not having a seat, the journey was really pretty since we passed through a few smallish towns and also pretty countryside. Arriving in Barga, the bus’ last stop was just outside the gate to the old part of the town, so very limited walking. The other alternative is to take the train, though the train station is located about 4 kilometres from the town and requires a very strenuous walk on a road with no sidewalks (if you’re unable to catch the bus that goes up to town).
Arriving in town shortly after 2:30pm, I had 2.5 hours to wander before taking the next / last bus back to Lucca. After about an hour, I’d walked through the old town, visited the church at the very top and sat in a lovely piazza and ate a gelato. With an hour and a half to go, I walked down the hill to the ‘new’ part of town, watched some kids playing soccer in a small piazza and then found a cafe called “Lucchesi” to have a cappuccino and a torte al riso (a sweet rice pie). I knew it was going to be a good spot when I saw a mother’s group there with their babies and it filled up rather quickly. With still over a half hour to wait, I walked back up to the old part of the town to wait for the bus. Once we left, with five of us on board, we made the very windy trip down towards the station and onto Lucca. For about a half hour I was the only person on the bus and then eventually an elderly lady was picked up. When we arrived in Lucca, there were three of us on the bus. So definitely a different bus ride compared to the ride to Barga!
In the evening, I met Bjorn and Tina at Trattoria Da Leo, which happens to be a restaurant recommended highly by various homestay hosts, and Rick Steves. I arrived at 7:25pm, five minutes before it opened. There were already people seated at half the outdoor tables. I thought that was quite strange. It is such a popular restaurant (with locals, but also with foreigners who eat at 7:30!) that I guess people assume it is ok to claim tables before the restaurant is open! I thought I’d do the right thing and ask for a table for three, and by the time the restaurant was officially open, we were only able to sit at a table for two with an extra chair. If only we’d been rude tourists!
The food was good and relatively inexpensive (my pasta dish was 7.50 euros) though the service was pretty hit and miss. A new student in our class this week, Tom, messaged Tina at 9pm saying that we’re probably finished for the night. Mamma mia! No we were definitely still there so he joined us and we eventually left the restaurant at 11 … on a school night!