Like all kittens, I’m curious. Does this potential young couple have any chance of happiness together?
Fortunately, my nice owner Grace has quite a few books in her apartment about Lucca and Tuscany, and I’ve got a lot of time on my paws, so I’ve been doing some research.
I’ve realized that in order to fully comprehend the difficulties faced by DeDo and Wendy, it is necessary to go way back in time, hundreds of years actually, to the beginning of what I’m calling the “Great Rivalry” between various families in Lucca.
The good news is that if we walk through some history about Lucca, some of which is in the books I’ve read, but some of which by necessity is just my speculation of what probably happened, we may see a possible glimmer of hope for the two young beachgoers, much like the way the street lights on Corso Garibaldi in Lucca help young couples find their way up onto the mura toward a perfect pina colada at San Columbano at 9pm on a Saturday night ….
which of course, must be sipped without a mask.
What I call The Great Rivalry all began in the 1300s.
(Yeah, I know that’s a long time ago, but would you rather learn about Lucca in the 1300’s, or watch a silly reality tv show on RAI featuring goalies on unicycles trying to block kicks by calcio players wearing virus masks that are so big they cover their eyes?)
…. (Come on now people, stop thinking about the goalies riding unicycles, that is a very silly idea, there would be very, very little chance of them blocking any shots, even if the kickers were blindfolded, right?)
Anyway back to the story …
Castruccio Castracani, one of the greatest Lucchesi in history
had an idea for a mammoth development that he was convinced would make Lucca as famous as the Great Pyramids in Egypt.
Millions of people, all over the world, would surely make the trek to Lucca just to see it. These millions of people would pay a small dogana to see the development, but over time millions of lire would add up and would turn Lucca into a major international force!
Castracani called it his “Project BRENDA”
He and his team of architects, engineers and financiers were so secretive about the purpose, design, scope and timing of Project BRENDA that it became a major source of daily discussions and debates at the greatest Caffe’s in Lucca.
For example, at the famous Caffe’ Savoia,
many were convinced that Castracani planned to expand the ancient Roman mura so that it was so high and wide that hundreds of people could ride horses, run and walk around on it at the same time.
One man said “It’ll be so huge, there might even be bars and restaurants on it!“
An elegant lady disagreed, saying “No, the secret Project BRENDA must be something hidden inside the expanded mura, maybe a mammoth art gallery whose size and grandeur will exceed the Uffizi Gallery in Firenze!“
But there was no consensus of opinion, and Castracani and his team refused to comment.
A great amount of excitement and speculation occurred when, just before the start of the magnificent Santa Croce procession through Lucca in 1319,
Castracani’s close friend Aldo “Lippy” DiSimo was heard exclaiming, at a beautiful cafe on Via Fillungo (which he later purchased)
while having an espresso and a slice of lard on some delicious special pane imported from a famous bakery in Viareggio,
“But why would the Duke want so many baluardi?“
No one knew what that meant, but it created tons of gossip and was a popular topic of discussion at the bars, when Lucchese calcio was not being debated.
At the hip new Caffe’ Elvira in the anfiteatro, most of the patrons were convinced that Castracani’s mysterious Project BRENDA had something to do with building a super-elegant swimming and spa complex to be called La Pantera inside the anfiteatro.
The Caffe’s owner, a very clever young entrepreneur named Chiara Chiaro,
insisted that she had already seen a blueprint for La Pantera, saying:
“In the middle of the anfiteatro, there will be an extremely beautiful huge marble salt water swimming pool shaped like a pantera. Elegantly dressed waiters will deliver magnificent rock glasses full of Punt e Mes, Prosecco, and Negronis to the patrons lying on beautiful lounge chairs with thick, soft and fluffy white towels, similar to how it’s done at Reid’s Palace Hotel in Madeira. A quartet of the greatest violinists in Tuscany, sitting on a gorgeous dais overlooking the swimming pool, will play thrilling songs from fabulous new operas that will be commissioned and played exclusively in the anfiteatro.”
This vision of loveliness for La Pantera seemed to take on more credence when one day a splendid carriage drawn by four horses arrived at Castracani’s palazzo,
and the wildly popular composer Ilaria Puccini,
a distant ancestor of a later very famous composer from Lucca, got out of the carriage with her happy little puppy named Irene, and was warmly welcomed by Castracani personally.
But no construction ever began in the anfiteatro.
This started to annoy some of the other prominent families in Lucca. One of them said “Why is Castracani getting all of this public adoration and excitement, when he never does anything useful? Why, the only real thing he’s proposed is turning that huge building at the end of the fosse into a gigantic factory for cigarettes!” Which was true, but more on that topic later….
One of the most annoyed families were the super-rich and successful Guinigis.
The head of the family was named Roberto Roberto Guinigi.
He was very handsome, rock jawed and with a splendid head of black hair, about six foot four inches tall, and fearless. He was so charismatic and charming that nobody minded that his first two names were exactly the same: Roberto. Everybody just called him “Double R”.
‘Double R’ thought that the idea of La Pantera, a street-level swimming pool, didn’t have the majestic, panoramic vision that Lucca needed to create a world-class, magnificent symbol of the city.
‘Double R’ thought that the city needed something much, much higher — looking down at everything — much, much taller —
especially taller than that silly Leaning Tower of You-Know-What, the pride of that low-life swamp-infested river town south of Lucca that was so pretentious that it thought the world should genuflect before its most monumental engineering mistake!
No, ‘Double R’ dreamed of something straight and tall and elegant and ….. it needed something very, very special on top of it ….
For two years, Roberto Roberto Guinigi dreamed about it, but he just couldn’t put his finger on the magical solution that would make his family’s name famous for eternity. But then, one day while having a lunch of some farro and tordelli with his wife Giovanna Gina, whom everybody called “GiGi”, their little four year old son Paolo piped up and said “Papa, why don’t you build …..