Transport for Your Wedding Day

Planning weddings are always a ton of fun. Choosing a color scheme, your flowers, a dress, tasting the cakes and food. Let's face it, these tasks are enjoyable for a lot of women. However, the one aspect of the wedding that is actually quite essential when one marries abroad, but often somewhat overlooked, is the transport. Apart from the fancy car the bride and groom will ride in, the rest of the transport issue tends to be that loathsome task we like to put off or forget about, as there is really nothing sexy or fun about it. That said, without well planned transport, a seamlessly planned wedding can hit many a road bump. Especially here in Italy. I've put together some points I suggest everyone planning an event in Italy consider and work into their budgets.

When you choose your ceremony and or reception venue, try to consider how large a vehicle can ride on the roads that lead to the venue. If the venue is in a beautiful location with tremendous views, chances are, it was pretty hard to get to even in a small car. Make a point of asking the owner how large of a vehicle can travel on the road and where parking for that vehicle would be throughout the course of the evening.

If your wedding is taking place inside a historic center, like Lucca, you'll want to know what the city rules are for incoming large vehicle traffic. In Lucca, for example, only 8 seaters or smaller can enter inside the walls. All other large vehicles must drop-off guests outside the gates and guests must walk in from that point. Consider that inside a historic center, you may need to provide a permit for the cars that enter, as traffic is often strictly controlled by the local government.

Now, when you are creating a budget for all of this transport, try to remember that the easier to get to locations will end up costing you less. If you are in a tough to get to spot, where only a 16 seater max can drive, then you are forced to hire more small cars, therefore more drivers, and therefore more money out of your pocket. If you can manage to find a venue that can allow a 55 seater to pick-up and drop-off guests, that is a great savings to you.

Not planning to provide transport for your guests? That is certainly an option, but then you should check with local taxi services to make sure there are going to be plenty of drivers on duty the night of your wedding. Or perhaps let the villa know that you plan to just have guests call cabs to go home at night. They maybe able to let local drivers know that it is going to be a big night for them.

A final note on vintage cars. They certainly do add a touch of nostalgic glamour to your big entrance and they are fab in the photos. But they are called vintage cars because no one makes them anymore. Which means that they can break down prior to your big day and parts of these cars can be very hard to find. Often the owner has to have a part specially built and it can take a lot of time. If you love the idea of arriving in a vintage car, you don't need to give up on the idea, but you should choose from a place that has a deep garage of vintage cars. That way, if the model you chose is out of service, they can easily substitute you with another unique car. When you make your choices, choose a first choice car and and a back-up car. Also, tell the garage owner where the event is to be held. He may suggest other vintage cars that are more appropriate, especially if there are tricky, steep hills for the car to take on. Better to send a peppy, light Spider in that case than a Rolls Royce.

At the end of the day, well planned transport can be the icing on the cake. It's the inconspicuos element of your wedding that no one notices when done well, yet is usually a big reason why everyone comes away with the impression that the wedding went so “smoothly”.

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posted by gina, 2012-11-13

[Lucca Wedding Tips] []


Driving Yourself to Orsetti Palace

I think this video explains far better than I possibly could the pitfalls of trying to drive in downtown Lucca. As I have said in previous blog posts, I strongly recommend that you hire a car to take the bride to the ceremony on the day of the wedding.

Here is why:

with thanks to Top Gear.

Note also that it is strictly forbidden to drive on the walls.

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posted by Gina, 2012-04-03

[Lucca Wedding Tips] []


Lucca Comics and Games 2011 - A guide to Lucca Comics

Lucca Comics lasted for 5 days this year, from Friday, October 28th to Tuesday, November 1st.
If you like comic books, mostly in Italian, games, from card games to role playing games, and above all seeing lots of costumed people walking the streets of Lucca (see pictures), you'll love Lucca Comics. If you want to join us next year, here is a brief user manual for the event.

First, you need to book, really, really early. All the hotels and B&Bs in Lucca and around are completely full for the whole convention. Then try to find something either in town (the best option) or near a train station. Finding a parking space is nearly impossible, and if you don't park properly, chances are that you will be fined.

Once in Lucca, there is probably no need to buy a ticket to enter the tents. For €15 and most likely a long wait, you get the right to enter the various tents where you can... spend your money on comic books and all sorts of gadgets. I can't even tell you what's the best ticket office to go to, because their location changes every year.
Better to hang around the heart of the action, between Piazza Napoleone and the Walls, by the Cafè delle Mura, and then on the Walls toward the stage on the right. That's where all the people in costume parade and will gracefully pose for photographers. Don't forget the compulsary Gelato break at the Gelateria Veneta, on via Vittorio Veneto.

There is no need to get up too early, as the Sun gets over the trees around 10:30am, which is when you will get the best pictures. In the evening, at that time of the year the Sun sets early, around 5:30 - 6pm, and most costumes aren't really designed for the cold. So everything is pretty much over by 7:30pm. You can still get some nice pictures in the dark though.

The 2011 edition was great: the weather was beautiful for the whole 5 days, which made life so much easier both for participants, no wet costumes this year, and visitors, the Sun helped a lot getting nice pictures.

More links, more photos:Flickr Group

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posted by michel, 2011-11-13

[It Happened In Lucca] [Culture] [Photo] []


Wisterias In bloom!

Planning a wedding in Lucca and thinking about timing it with the flowering of a favorite flower? Well, for those that love the Spring, mid-April to mid-May is usually the period when all of the lovely wisteria come into bloom. This year, they seem to have come early. I first noticed the blooms on the sunny olive growing side of Lucca on April 5th. We've had unseasonably warm weather lately and this must have prompted an early bloom.

If you're planning for a wedding next year and hoping to get this dramatic flower in your wedding photos, try planning a wedding for the third or fourth week in April. You should have a pretty good chance of finding them in bloom. Many of the historic villas in the area have giant wisteria that are 200 years old or more.

One well known villa that is worth booking for its wisteria is Villa Nicoletta. Located in the heart of Lucca's wine country, they have a giant pergola completely covered in Wisteria under which a legally binding civil ceremony can be performed. The sweet perfumed scent of the wisteria in bloom alone is enough to make your wedding one to remember.

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posted by gina, 2011-04-13

[Wedding In Lucca Idea] [Wedding Site] []


Italian Wedding Cakes: A Quick Primer

So, you're planning your wedding in Lucca and all is going well. You've chosen your flowers, the venue, photographer, the music and now it's time for the really fun part, the cake! If you are looking to offer your guests a typically Italian wedding cake, your planner will likely propose three types of cakes for you to choose from, a crostata di frutta, millefoglie, or a pan di spagna. Here is what you need to know about each when you go to your tasting:

  1. A crostata di frutta can be translated as a fruit torte. It is a mosaic of fresh fruit that is usually seasonal, so if you marry in the Spring expect lots of strawberries, blueberries, black berries and raspberries whereas if you marry in the Fall you may find it decorated with pears, apples, kiwis, pineapples and orange wedges.
    Just underneath the beautiful fruit is a pastry cream or chantilly cream filling and supporting the entire cake is a crust that tastes a lot like animal cracker cookies. The crust is quite firm, and depending on the bakery, the bottom can be coated with melted dark chocolate. Some bakeries do a thick crust, which I personally find difficult to cut into at cake cutting time, others produce a thinner, softer crust. This type of cake looks great displayed on a cake stand that is built in tiers from smallest at top to largest at the bottom, see the photo for an idea. It is a good cake to have if your meal is going to be particularly filling as it is a very light dessert that does not weigh you down. Although delicious at any time of the year, it is especially suited to a Summer wedding.
  2. Pan di Spagna is the very versatile cake we all know and love by its humble name, Sponge Cake. In Italy, this simple cake is taken to new levels of decadence. Sponge cake in weddings is usually comprised of 3 to 4 layers of the fluffy yellow cake alternating with different fillings, such as pastry cream, whipping cream, chantilly cream, chocolate mousse, chocolate chips, jam or fresh fruit. Italians often like to soak this cake in a special liqueur like rum or maraschino. The classic pan di spagna is soaked in a syrup made of rum, lemon zest, sugar and water. A happy light summer time syrup that is without alcohol is the kind that is soaked in strawberry juice, "succo di fragole" . This can be then filled with layers of pastry cream and fresh cut strawberries for a dessert that is sure to please everyone.
    An important thing to note about sponge cake is that it is really easy to cut, can be made into the classic American multi tier cake, and it keeps very well after its been made. You can finish the exterior in whipping cream, or fondant. Many Italians like to cover the sides with finely chopped hazelnuts or almonds.
  3. Millefoglie comes from the French, "Millefeuille" and is essentially layers of a flaky, crispy pastry dough. In America the equivalent is the pastry dough used to make Napoleons. The Italian version is lighter than the American version and is usually finished with whipping cream on the exterior, although it can handle a fondant as well. It also can be used to make the traditional American style multi tier cake. Contrary to the sponge cake, the millefoglie is not soaked but should remain very crisp. It is constructed as you would construct a sponge cake with alternating layers of millefoglie pastry followed by a choice of your favorite fillings, like pastry cream, whipping cream, chocolate, lemon curd, fresh berries, etc…..Millefoglie is also a very light cake if you stick with a fruit and pastry cream or fruit and whipping cream filling. Heavier versions have chocolate chips, chocolate mousse and pastry cream , caramel and chantilly cream in them. One thing to note, millefoglie is not very easy to cut into, so it takes a bit more time to serve compared to the sponge cake. Also, its a cake that you want to make sure is assembled say two hours prior to serving, otherwise the delightful crispiness of the cake is lost. The bottom base of this cake can be set in dark chocolate if you like, very, very decadent.

Know your fillings and finishings

  1. Crema Pasticcera: "Pastry Cream" also known as vanilla custard cream, is the filling you find in eclairs, cream puffs, and cream pies. Italian bakers use it copiously to fill the crostata di frutta as well as standard filler of mille feuille and sponge cake. It is yellow in color and has of course a lot of egg yolks in it, so can be quite rich. Mixes really well when you put a layer of sliced strawberries on top.
  2. Crema Chantilly: This is also known in some parts of Italy as,"Crema Diplomatico", but in Lucca you can stick with Crema Chantilly and they'll know what you are talking about. Beware, it is not just Chantilly Cream like you know it with the vanilla flavor and powdered sugar. Rather, in Italy, it is what is produced when you mix pastry cream with whipping cream. The result varies widely as some bakers prefer there to be more whipping cream to pastry cream while others like there to be more pastry cream to whipping cream. If you want to keep it tasting light, try to go for 70% whipping cream to 30% pastry cream. Crema Chantilly is everywhere as a filling and is a popular substitute to plain pastry cream. Sometimes I've had it aromatized with orange flower, and I've found that to be absolutely divine.
  3. Cioccolato: Often is done as a chocolate mousse and used as a filling for millefoglie that alternates between whipping cream or pastry cream one layer and chocolate mouse another. Can also be done with sponge cake. A variation of this is the same kind of mouse, but hazelnut "nocciola" flavored.
  4. Panna; "Whipping Cream". Here it is liberally used both as an outside decoration as well as a filling. Some people prefer to have a layer of whipping cream and fruit as a layer for the millefoglie or sponge cake.
  5. Fondante: Yes, that's Italian for Fondant. Pretty easy to translate this one. While I think it works well with yellow cakes in the English and American tradition, personally, I'm not sure I would recommend fondant over an Italian cake as I find it makes the whole confection a bit too sweet. That said, esthetically speaking, it is very beautiful and does work exceptionally well if you want to have the multi tiered cake.
  6. Glassata: This refers to a sugar glaze that is made when you mix water, lemon juice and powdered sugar. Can be used to finish the top of the cake with swirls of white and chocolate.
  7. Zucchero a velo: Powdered sugar. This often is used sprinkled on top of the fruit in the crostata di frutta or if the millefoglie has fruit on it, they will sprinkle it there as well.

Form

The American/British multi tiered cake that shows up in all the brides magazines is a recent addition to the Italian baker's repertoire. You should know that if you want the cake to look this way, the baker can do this for you, but it requires a bit of slight of hand. As all of the traditional Italian cakes are actually quite low, perhaps measuring no more than 6 or 7 cm high, in order to achieve the height of the multi tiers, they use styrofoam as the base, then place the actual cake on top of the styrofoam, then finish the entire confection with fondant or whipping cream so that the part that is styrofoam looks like its part of the cake. Keep this in mind when it comes time to cut the cake. Don't expect the knife to go all the way down, once you hit the 6 cm mark, you're done.

Timing

Try to get your baker to tell you exactly what time of day they plan to make your cake for. If its a millefoglie, you want it made two hours prior to the event, no later or it looses its crispiness. If its a sponge cake its o.k. to have it made that morning, preferably the later the better. Also, you want to have the bakery promise to deliver the cake to your venue in a refrigerator car. Make certain that the people at the venue have a refrigerator big enough to store your cake if it will be sitting for a long time before cutting. The best thing to do is secure a super late delivery time from your baker so you don't have to worry about sitting around and possibly loosing its shape or freshness. Some bakeries in Lucca will deliver as late as 8 p.m., so do make sure you ask. It's worth it.

* photos cakes by Angolo Dolce courtesy of Sandra Bianchi, Angolo Dolce - Lucca

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posted by gina, 2011-04-10

[Lucca Wedding Tips] []


Lucca Comics and Games 2010

Our annual report on Lucca's biggest event of the year: this year was longer and more crowded than ever, but also more rainy than last year. Despite 2 solid days of rain, 135 000 visitors showed up over the 4 days of the event.
One welcome change was more free areas, a game area just outside the Walls, The Citadel on the Walls... which mean that if you are not really into comics, especially ones in Italian or Japanese, there is very little reason to spend money (and a lot of time queueing!) on the tickets. even access to the Dragon hidden in one of the hidden passages within the Walls was free.

The main trends for this year: quite a few characters from Avatar, less Naruto than in previous years, and above all lot of red: red hair, red hats, red faces, and quite a bit of blood. Of course there were also, as usual, hundreds of anime characters I had never heard of. I did recognize Blastoize (a Pokemon) though but then it was one of the stars of the day.

The next edition will last 5 days, from October 28th to November 1st, 2011.

More links, more photos:Flickr Group

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posted by michel, 2010-11-27

[It Happened In Lucca] [Culture] [Photo] []


Great Fish in Lucca!

As Lucca is land locked, it can be pretty tricky getting really good fish at a restaurant and I have been disappointed on countless occasions. In fact, if you ask many Lucchesi where they go to eat good fish, they will often reply that they go to Viareggio. A friend of mine, Lucchese and fellow fish lover, Stefano Cinquini, told me that if I really like fish I should try the fish market by the Coop and Mercatone Uno in Sant'Anna, about a 5 minute drive from the walls on the road that goes to Viareggio.

Il Mercatino del Pesce, (Fish Market) has a very friendly, serviceable air to it. There is a large fish counter that forms a U shape in the center of the market, and here you can buy fish to take home and cook yourself. On the far end of the U is a pre-prepared fish section for those that want to eat fish at home, but don't feel like cooking it. This offers all the old standard fish sauces to put on pasta, such as lobster sauce, clam sauce, octopus sacue, and shellfish sauce. They also have at least 3 or 4 seafood appetizers you can choose from. So you can have them give you a 1/2 kilo of whatever sauce you like along with a few appetizers. They'll pack it up for you and all you have to do is reheat and serve over pasta when you get home. Really simple and it's actually got me thinking that it would be really helpful for dinner parties when you don't have time to cook all the courses.

The real jewel of the market, however is the very unassuming restaurant, with only a a handful of tables, just a few feet away from the actual fish counter. As there are few tables and the restaurant only takes diners from 12:00 to 2:30 p.m., it is best to either come early, say no later than 12:30 p.m. , or to reserve a table in advance. They are closed on Sundays and Mondays.

To order your meal, you have to go up to the pre-prepared section of the fish counter and there you will find a very friendly lady who will explain all the specials of the day. You can point and choose the prepared dishes you like, or you can find out what the cook has got available for the day. The day I went, we ordered a plate of mixed seafood appetizers (antipasto di mare misto), Livornese style fish soup (Cacciuco) filled with shellfish and big lumps of local fish and served with crispy chunks of bread, and then I special ordered a mixed grilled seafood plate (grigliata mista di pesce). The mixed grilled seafood was prepared on the spot, after I placed my order. I told the woman at the counter to just put in whatever was freshest that day. It was seriously delicious. The chef really knows how to prepare seafood properly. The plate came with grilled squid seasoned with just a bit of olive oil and parsley, super tender and sweet to eat, a skewer of cuttle fish and shrimp dipped in bread crumbs and baked in the oven, and then two fillets of a white fish whose name I did not recognize. The entire dish was some of the freshest fish I've ever eaten. Really, really good. The Cacciuco was also excellent. Not heavy and greasy like others I've eaten. Also, the mixed seafood appetizers were really good and featured a fresh shrimp and spelt salad along with batter dipped and deep fried smelt, hot out of the fryer.

I noticed, after ordering, that other people got oven baked potatoes, which looked delicious. And still others got fresh "fritto misto", (a mix of shrimp, calamari, and small local fish that is batter dipped and deep fried). I think the next time I go, I'm definitely going to order the fritto misto, it looked fantastic. I also noticed that they advertised that all the vegetables they use as well as their bread was organic. Nice touch. My son, deeply inspired by all the yumminess, ordered an organic orange soda, which I have to admit, despite my misgivings, was actually really tasty, not too sweet like most kids drinks. We finished our meal with a small cup full of home made tiramisù. We spent 45,00 euro total on the meal, which I think was a good deal for mixed antipasto for 3 people, two seafood entrees, water, soda, and dessert for 3.

Contact information:
Mercatino del Pesce
via Giacomo Puccini, 1534
S.Anna, Lucca
Tel: 0583 512753
Opening hours of Fish market: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays
Opening hours of restaurant: 12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Driving directions from the walls of Lucca: exit Porta Sant'Anna (the gate that opens up onto Piazzale Verdi, the bus stop and the tourist office), go straight through the light taking via Giaccomo Puccini in the direction of Viareggio. Pass the church of Sant'Anna on your right. Continue straight until you hit a stop light with a mattress store on your right. Turn right at this light and immediately start looking for a parking space. The Mercatino del Pesce is the store with the orange awning that is on the opposite side of the street from the mattress store. You can also bike to this place from the Walls and it should only take you about 10 minutes.

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posted by gina, 2010-10-12

[Life In Lucca] [Restaurant Review] []


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