I love the Italian language – how it seems to roll so melodically off the tongue – not mine of course, but I am an Italophile, so everything sounds better to me when spoken in Italian. Via del Fosso is the name of the street that fronts our hotel of choice in the historic center of Lucca. Via del Fosso is divided down the middle by an open waterway. It is a little canal – our own mini-Venice in the heart of northwest Tuscany!
The clear water in Via del Fosso flows down a brick-walled channel, perhaps eight feet below the level of the pavement. It enters Lucca’s historic center from beneath the ancient city walls several blocks north of our hotel; first rushing into a pool below the foundation of a large stucco building before continuing on its course. Schools of fish, probably some type of carp, swim against the swift current, with the largest ones congregating in the pool near the mouth of the opening. Many others of various sizes swim back and forth along the length of the canal, darting amidst waving aquatic plants and, I must admit, the occasional plastic bags and discarded bottles. After passing our hotel the little canal heads south for a few more blocks, skirting the Orto Botanico, then takes a hard right against the Passeggiata
delle Mura where it flows parallel for a while longer; eventually exiting near Baluardo San Columbiano.
I love to walk up and down Via del Fosso. It is not a through street; so there is not much traffic; mostly bicycles and pedestrians. In fact, the entire center of Lucca has only limited vehicular traffic. The paucity of automobiles along the Fosso makes it easy to stop to watch the Lucchese version of Sea World while at the same time satisfying my voyeuristic urges. The center canal makes for an unusually broad street that affords a top-to-bottom view of the apartments on either side with their daily changing displays of colorful laundry strung between balconies and the intimate glimpses of domestic life played out behind warmly lit night windows. There are obviously some wealthy people who live along Via del Fosso along with the middle class, and perhaps some that are slightly less fortunate. It is a cross-section of Tuscan life.
My Italian vocabulary is adequate, but not exactly comprehensive. I have visited Lucca many times over many years. I have brought two of our Arts Sojourn travel groups there and we plan to return again in 2011. I have spent many hours painting along Via del Fosso, but it was only last year that I decided to look up the word, fosso. I discovered that it means “ditch.” The Via del Fosso is actually Ditch Street. How I love the Italian language!
Matthew Daub is a professional artist and university professor with works in major public and private collections throughout the United States and Europe. He has been leading plein air painting workshops in Italy since 1994. In 1999, Matthew and his wife Barbara formed Arts Sojourn as “a vacation for artists and their friends.” The program is designed to appeal to artists of all levels as well as non-artists who enjoy the company of creative people in a slow travel format.