Day Six: Lucca

I wake up, thinking that I’m either on a train or a ship, and wondering why my bed isn’t moving around. Then I remember. I’m in Lucca, and it’s buying books day. After a comprehensive, included-in-the-price breakfast and a bit more wirelessing I go back over the walls and, by either luck or instinct, certainly not conscious thought, find myself in the little ‘piazzetta’, the open square where the second-hand books and prints are sold. I select a modest eighty-six or so, and airily pack them into my enormous fabric bag. I manage to stagger out of the piazza with something like insouciance, only to collapse on a step round the corner, under the incurious gaze of fifty or sixty American tourists. After a few more false starts, the bag and I work out some sort of modus operandi, and I succeed in lugging it back to my room. Even the fact that the bag is considerably wider than the hotel doors doesn’t faze us for too long, as we come up with the revolutionary scientific principle of turning sideways for a bit.

Piled up on the floor, eighty-six books look like quite a lot, and I package twelve or so up to post back to myself. I’ve looked at the PosteItalia website, and reckon it ought to cost around six euro using the economy service. After a battle of wills between me and the Scotch tape, won by the Scotch tape – something about a Presbyterian upbringing, I expect – I take the packet to the central post office, using the same vaguely divining method by which I found the books in the first place. Alas; the economy service no longer exists, and the parcel will cost thirty-three euro to post; more than it cost me to travel on the sleeper train from Paris. After various discussion of alternatives, none of which help with much except to practice my Italian, I walk out with the parcel under my arm and console myself with a lemon sorbet at a nearby gelateria. It’s a very good sorbet, and I am thoroughly consoled, especially when I get back and find that I do, after all, have room for all eighty-six books, together with the twenty-eight that I go out and buy later in the afternoon. By then the booksellers are all celebrating the birthday of one of them, with a large bottle of bubbly stuff, and I enter into a confused conversation about Delft. It turns out that the confusion is my fault, as my pronunciation of Irlanda sounds to them like Olanda. Insufficiently rolled ‘r’ I think.

After a little more wall-meandering I go back to the rest of the Roquefort. Somehow I don’t feel quite as fond of it as I once did. To improve my Italian listening skills (honest) I watch the Italian version of Deal or No Deal. It’s considerably jollier than I remember the English one to be, with computer-animated characters, contestants from each of the provinces, audience-participation songs with actions, beautiful hand-made boxes with weird things in them and the contestant’s family sitting on a sofa next to her. Tonight’s was unlucky, ending with a choice between 250 euro and a cactus, but 7,000 euro appeared from a small sack, by way of a consolation prize, and a good time was obviously had by all.