The women’s majlis: Going back in time in Italy

Recently, I went on a trip to northern Italy – and what a trip it was.

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Nostalgia. What if we were given the choice to live in a lifetime other than our own? Just imagine for a moment if you went back in time, perhaps as a different person, living a life – as simple or luxurious as you like – that is absolutely technology-free.

I’ve been always fascinated by life in the 16th and 17th centuries. For me personally, Italy is the perfect place to experience life during that time for many reasons, because Italy is a birthplace of art, food, philosophy and a great culture. I would choose to live during the renaissance cultural movement.

Recently, I went on a trip to northern Italy – and what a trip it was. The moment I arrived in Lucca and walked inside its walls, I felt a complete attachment to the tiny city. The fact that it’s small made it easier to live the experience and explore its historical essence through getting lost in its tight ­alleys.

There was one must: forgetting I was a tourist and trying to avoid touristy attractions. One cannot miss the magnificent piazzas and duomos that tourists usually visit, but perhaps a better way of putting it is to avoid the usual touristy congestions, and instead, for example, eating at a restaurant where the menu has not a single word of English; even if you don’t understand Italian, I believe you’ll find joy in trying to figure out and surprise yourself with the dish that’s served to you. Plus, I don’t think any Italian dish could be a disappointment anyway. For me, it’s more enjoyable to live the city randomly without planning ahead – and Lucca will charm you, once you stumble upon its hidden treasuries, which are almost all around.

Food is a very important element in travelling, since it can tell you a lot about the culture of the city you’re visiting. I was lucky to come across one of the oldest pizzerias in Lucca, which is famous for a traditional Lucchese pizza. The special thing about this pizza is that it’s simply made of chickpea flour, olive oil and butter. Despite the simplicity of its ingredients, the taste is delicious and takes you to a different, beautiful dimension. It’s truly an art, I believe.

I happened to chat with one of Lucca’s locals and she told me that a friend of hers, who is 60 years old, still enjoys eating chickpea crêpes while sitting on the small benches outside the tiny restaurant and reminiscing about the old days when she used to pass by and eat the exact same thing on her way to school.

Travelling to cities with a full history that’s still preserved today gives the opportunity to live this feeling – and once you’re in it, you feel completely detached from the stress of your everyday routine and can see the world from a different angle.

Zainab Al Mousawi, 26, studied psychology and digital media in Australia and is currently working as a clinical social worker.

If you have a good story to tell or an important issue to debate, contact Shireena Al Nowais at salnuwais@thenational.ae.

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