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Lerici - Berlin - Lucca

LANGUID LIGURIA - BREAKING DOWN THE WALL - WALKING THE WALL

sunny 32 °C

LERICI

Whilst it only rates a couple of paragraphs in Lonely Planet Italy, this port town 20 kms south of La Spezia (gateway to the Cinque Terre) is a gem. Dominated by the 12th century castello, Lerici has historic links to Lord Byron and Percy Shelley.

Porto Venere - gateway to the Cinque Terre

Porto Venere - gateway to the Cinque Terre

We were staying in an apartment overlooking the harbour and the Ligurian Sea courtesy of our Australian travelling companions Leonie & Brent (and their 6yo daughter Hazel who became good mates with Gabi & Nat). Leonie & Brent participate in a worldwide home exchange program, so it was that we found ourselves hosted by the ever-genial Gianluca.

Dan, Gianluca, and Brent enjoy a hard earned local red and aperitivi

Dan, Gianluca, and Brent enjoy a hard earned local red and aperitivi

Gianluca was an interesting contradiction for an Italian. Strongly traditional in that he used to share the house with his grandmother, runs a small business with his father, and still lives in the area he was raised in. Atypical in that he is not married to his long-term girlfriend Rafaella, and they are both inveterate travellers, visiting more countries than there are days in July by my estimate! The average Italian seems to venture overseas infrequently, and usually to 'known' destinations like Switzerland and Greece.

Many happy memories will last from this too-short stay : chats with Gianluca; visiting the beautiful Porto Venere by ferry; poolside aperitivi each evening; and for the little 'uns the frequent swims in said pool with the spectacular backdrop. Italy, or The Azzurri, getting flogged in the Euro 2012 final was the only dampener on our visit - amazing how quiet a town can become!

Mr and Mrs H after a beautiful seafood lunch at Porto Venere

Mr and Mrs H after a beautiful seafood lunch at Porto Venere

BERLIN

Our first exposure to Easyjet (predictably re-named Sleazyjet by the good wife) on the Pisa-Berlin route was a happy one. New plane, efficient German staff, and early arrival ticked the boxes. And being two families with kids, we were allowed to board before the masses (an experience not repeated on our return).

Four days in Berlin was enough to whet our appetite for this fantastic city. It helped that we were staying in the hip area of Mitte, which is only one of two boroughs that comprise parts of the old east & west cities. Hip cafes, stylish clothes shops, bohemian crowd, and tiny neighborhood pubs were just the start. The beautiful old buildings are well maintained, and the city's history is readily accessible through existing monuments and well presented exhibits.

Reichstag from the outside

Reichstag from the outside

Reichstag (new) from the inside

Reichstag (new) from the inside

Some especially tasty meals kicked the German gourmet reputation into touch (Reichstag lunch was our best meal to date), and even the slightly intimidating sight of glamorous 6ft 2" tall 'ladies of the night' working the nearby streets of Mitte did not hinder the amiable party atmosphere that pervaded the area. Surprisingly a shopping trip to the famous KaDaWe store was enjoyable for the blokes as well - a beautifully presented retail outlet with a food court that needs to be seen to be believed. Westfield take note ...

LUCCA

Lucca pre-dates the Roman Empire, and is famous for its intact Renaissance city walls. It is a charming, attractive town, and makes for a pleasant stay inside the walls as vehicle traffic is severely restricted. Leonie introduced us to locals Fabrizio and Giovanna, and they said that 10 years ago there were hardly any tourists, which gives an indication how popular this town has become in the past decade.

wild local children run amok on the walls

wild local children run amok on the walls

Our first night was memorable for running into a singing group from St Michaels Grammar in Melbourne (Alma mater of Asher Keddie). They were performing in the vast and attractive Piazza Anfiteatro, and gave away their nationality by handing out mini koala bears! The irony arose because Gabi is on the St Michaels' wait list, so she was very excited to meet some of her potential schoolmates.

view from apartment kitchen into town centre

view from apartment kitchen into town centre

Leonie & Lisa undertook a 5 day Italian language 'immersion' course - that is, no English spoken - which they enjoyed, although not without some teething problems. I made a few day trips with the kids, including to lovely nearby towns Bagni di Lucca and Montecatini Alto, and we all enjoyed a home cooking lesson with the vivacious Francesca. The runners were dusted off to complete a circumference of the Lucca town walls, whilst the kids and the mums chose the more sedate version of walking, along with many of the locals. The walk around the walls is quite beautiful, with stunning views, usually a refreshing breeze, and a strong sense of community.

Posted by happellfamily12 15:13 Archived in Italy Tagged berlin lucca wall fortified lerici

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