IF YOU haven't been to Italy yet and it is on your bucket list, I have some good advice for you.
Apart from all the wonders of this vivacious county, all the history, the art, the culture, the magnificent buildings, there are the snacks. You may think this frivolous but not so.
You see, in most of Italy, whenever you order an aperitif you receive a dish of something to snack on. Depending on the glamour-scale of the establishment you are drinking in, the snack could be anything from a bowl of peanuts to a full-blown plate of antipasti.
In the wonderful walled Tuscan town of Lucca recently, we enjoyed a variety of snacks at different bars when we took our evening beverage. At one place we received nothing more than a few crisps in a little silver bowl, at another, some cashews, and at another mozzarella balls tooth-picked with a basil leaf.
But at one bar edging the Piazza dell'Anfiteatro, when we ordered an Aperol Spritz (a delicious blend of Aperol, Prosecco and sparkling water) out came a platter so large it wouldn't fit on the table. Prosciutto, salami, bread sticks, olives, cheese…all this just because we'd ordered a drink.
What a great pity we were going to dinner after our drink and such a feast would have spoilt our appetites. Regretfully we had to send the wonderful "snacks'' back.
So, I have warned you. Be prepared for the snacks in Italy.
It goes without saying that there is more to Lucca than the size of its snacks.
Puccini, the composer of some of the world's most important operas, was born in Lucca in 1858 and today his genius is celebrated with a permanent festival in the walled city. That is, every night of the year, without interruption, Puccini's music is presented in the church of San Giovanni. The music is always performed by professional Italian performers, always with different programs each night. It is quite remarkable that a town should be so dedicated to perpetuity, but Puccini must be performed every evening in Lucca come hail or shine.
In September the church morphs into a grand opera theatre complete with full orchestra, choir, lights, costumes and scenery for a full-scale performance.
This is just one highlight of lovely Lucca. Its maze of streets, its historic buildings, its myriad cafes, restaurants and bars ensure a visit will provide delights every day of your visit.
The town is enclosed by centuries old walls, and once inside it is all about exploring the criss-crossed streets and alleyways. We have Australian friends who now live there. When they first arrived they strolled out one evening for their nightly libation (and the snacks) and although they were only a few metres from their apartment, it took them an hour to find their way home. Getting lost in Lucca is all part of the adventure.