GROWING UP IN LUCCA
I was born in Lucca, a beautiful early Roman-medieval city in Northern Toscana. Lucca is called the great walled city due to its impressive medieval ramparts, moat and massive wall. The wall was constructed in the middle ages when Lucca was continually at war – mostly with Firenze. Lucca won most of the battles, but finality occurred when the Fiorentini cheated and hired a Hessian mercenary army to finish off the Lucchesi. That was the last battle for Lucca. However, it’s wall kept them safe for centuries.
I was born outside the walls of Lucca, in a little Village called San Donato, surrounded by fields and streams in the Summer of 1935. I don’t really know why I was named Verano. It is not an Italian name. My wife Nancy, of Spanish descent from Barcelona, laughs that it is a Spanish name meaning Summer. So am I a real Lucchese since one can’t tell by my name? My good friend Giuliano Bugialli reminded me, while I was a student at his culinary school, that I was not a true, blue blood Lucchese because I was born and raised Outside the walls. “Only those born within the walls are considered true Lucchesi”, he reminded me. I thanked him for reminding me of my humble beginnings but in my heart of hearts, unquestionably, I am a Proud Lucchese with an American flag flying proudly on the porch of my Indianapolis law office.
As a child I never felt we were poor, even though by most standards we were. I always had a roof over my head and had family that cared about me. I was too young to know better. Kids are resilient and they don’t expect what they have never had.
Thinking back now, I remember the truth in what my good friend and mentor, Ruddy Nucilla, a Veneziano, told me in one of his enlightened moods. He always said that he would never be poor even if he lost everything. Really, I inquired? “Yes, Verano, we Italians are resilient. Many of us who migrated here never had much there. So, as long as we had a loaf of bread, a little cheese and olive oil, a few tomatoes and a clove of garlic, we were fine. Especially if one could add a touch of vino and some pasta. Italians can make magic out of practically nothing and nobody can ever take that richness away from me, you see”. Viva Adolfo and la Dolce Vita he and Rosa created! Rudy’s winning attitude rubbed off on the people around him, including me. It brought me back to my humble beginnings in Italy where I lived until I was 11 years old.