Splashed in the national colors of green, white and red, the streets of Lucca are buzzing in a festive mood. Powered up for Italy’s birthday celebrations, locals take to the streets with the Italian flag in hand and pride in their hearts. Despite the drizzle, the energy is impalpable and the atmosphere contagious.
It’s not everyday that I find myself participating in Italy’s 150th birthday celebration but here I am, standing amidst the crowd and cheering ‘Viva Italia!’. Accompanied by several fellow travel bloggers, I am in Tuscany, Italy with a mission: to experience local life and explore the offbeat area sandwiched between Pisa and Lucca. Organized by Avventurosa and Casa Gentili, the Tuscany Blog Trip promises to unveil secrets tucked within the region and show us Tuscany beyond Florence.
Earlier that morning, we had entered the medieval city of Lucca through the old city walls that surround the entire historical quarters. Meandering our way through the cobblestoned streets and narrow alleyways, we discovered a city oozing with character and bleeding with history.
Lucca swoons like an elegant maiden – its medieval streets resemble those in fairytales while its piazzas bring to mind Renaissance settings. At every street corner, we stumble upon a charming church, an impressive monument or historical building. There is plenty to discover here, yet Lucca remains off the tourist radar.
Our experienced guide, Antonella Marucci, tells us, “Lucca is said to have a total of 100 churches within the historical centre, but according to investigations,” she pauses for effect, “we have just 87.”
Along the way, we find Italian flags draped all over the yellow-washed buildings and people with their faces painted in green, red and white. It’s a special day in Lucca today and within 10 steps into the historical quarters, we get a sense of the excitement.
Street Parades and Music
Antonella tells us that some of these parade participants have lost their children in the war, and the parade is a commemoration of their sacrifice for the country. I snap a shot of a white-haired elder beaming with pride – seemingly for both his country and his son.
We drift further along through the streets of Lucca before arriving at the San Michele church, a stunning Romanesque-style architectural masterpiece standing in the heart of Lucca. Spotting a white facade (symbolizing peace) emblazoned with numerous animal figures, the church was built in the Middle Age and has since been restored to its original glory.
At the Piazza di San Michele, bundles of balloons and confetti have been set up to welcome the parade delegates. Here, the parades culminate and everyone gathers to sing, party and celebrate.
We continue our tour of the city, arriving at the Piazza di San Martino just in time to catch an impressive display of the local flag-waving group. Sbandieratores, as the flag-wavers are called in Italian, re-enact the ceremony that used to take place since the 1500s.
Lucca is best known for its flag-waving performances having given the world some of the top sbandieratores. We are lucky enough to witness the performance of Nikola Cosentino, famous actor and two-times winner of the National Flag-waving Championships.
Dressed in medieval clothing, the flag-wavers throwing white-and-red flags (colors of Lucca) high in the air, wowing the crowds with their precision and skills. More photos to come in my next article on the flag-waving ceremony, stay tuned!
This experience was made possible by Avventurosa and Casa Gentili, but all opinions are my own. Read more about my travels in Tuscany, Italy here or follow me on Twitter with the #TuscanyTrip hashtag.
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