Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Tuscan delight

An unexpected turn of events. I find myself on BA’s midday flight from London Heathrow to Pisa, Italy. The Airbus 320 is packed to the rafters and I have to settle for a middle-of-the row seat between two Italian ladies.

Soon we have left the murky British weather of recent days far below and are flying at around 35,000 feet in clear blue skies and sunshine, probably somewhere over Paris.

I’m heading out for a first visit to the medieval Tuscan town of Lucca, one of the most quaint and beautiful towns in this part of Italy, about 30 minutes’ drive from Pisa and maybe an hour from Florence.

As it happens, the Lighthouse Keeper and his then young wife visited Pisa and Florence in the early 1980s. The towns were stopping off points on one of those quite popular (in that decade) 'overland treks' by minibus.

The visit to Pisa was particularly noteworthy because it was in the days before serious ‘health and safety’ rules and regulations had blighted most of Europe and elsewhere.

It meant that, for a few Italian lira, tourists could climb the leaning tower’s ancient stone steps and peer precariously out over the flimsy metal balustrade from very near the top.

Of course, we had no digital cameras or mobile phones in those days to photograph the experience, though somewhere we have faded colour prints and a few precious colour slides as a record of our adventure.

This year’s Tuscan visit to Lucca was prompted by attendance at the grandly titled ‘Third International Space Conference’, thanks to sponsorship of a dozen or so European media people by ESA and the European Commission.

There’s a bit more on the conference to come later but in the meantime here are a selection of photos I managed to shoot whilst getting lost in the streets of Lucca for a couple of hours on a sunny November afternoon.