A friend is visiting Italy with her mother in June. She told me yesterday that at her mother’s cautious behest they’ll only be visiting mainstream tourist magnets like Florence and Siena and Montepulciano. And that they’ll be starting out with a visit to Lucca. I replied as follows:

“I’m begging you for your own spiritual good (and your mom’s) — don’t submit to a typical-tourist agenda in Tuscany. And please think about compassionately persuading your mom to submit to a little Sheltering Sky atmosphere with visits to San Donato or Volpaia. Or places like them, at least.

“Lucca is fine — architecturally appealing and all that — but the topography, while contoured, is on the flat side and too far north of the really cool area. It’s not part of the truly verdant, rolling-hill wine-country wonderland that San Donato and particularly Volpaia are part of.

“To do only tourist spots is to ensure that your journey will be colored if not compromised by mobs of people, and worse than that — people from Topeka, Trenton, Minneapolis, Augusta, Waco, Terre Haute, Orlando and Sacramento. It’ll be like making love with re-runs from TV Land and Nickleodeon playing loudly on the TV nearby. It just breaks my heart, knowing what you guys are headed for. And willingly yet!”