Italy/London – Part 1 – Lerici | February 2012

Work beckoned overseas again, this time to Italy. The development team I’d be working with was based in La Spezia, Italy, right next to Cinque Terre. Given that La Spezia is a large industrial town, the Italians told us to stay in the nearby town of Lerici for a better experience. Since personally we needed to check out London for neighborhoods we might want to live in, Gen and Aman came along as well. We spent 12 days in Lerici. I spent most of my time in La Spezia with colleagues during the day (a 20-min drive), while Gen and Aman explored Lerici.

After connecting through London Heathrow, we arrived in Pisa on Saturday afternoon. Immigration was a breeze, and after fumbling around with the rental car GPS for a minute or two, we got our bearings and got onto the A12 highway pretty easily. The drive was quite spectacular with the Apuan Alps on our right. Also known as the Marble Mountains, the Apuan Alps are the source of the popular Carrara marble used in sculptures and buildings, including the Pantheon in Rome, Michelangelo’s David, the Marble Arch in London, and many other places.

The Marble Mountains of Tuscany

Just under an hour later, we turned off the highway and navigated the narrow winding roads to Lerici. The Doria Park Hotel‘s official/GPS address is a pedestrian street, so the GPS or Google Maps was of no use; so we followed the directions provided by the hotel. Thankfully it was still light out because there is no way we would have found it the first time in the dark. The hotel is owned by one of our La Spezia colleague’s cousin, so we got a nice room overlooking the town, the Gulf of Poets, and Lerici Castle.

Room with a view
Twilight over Lerici

By the time we checked in and got settled in, it was almost 7pm, so we decided to forgo a nap and stay up until bedtime at a more normal time. We had to, since no restaurants in town opened until 8pm or so. We walked down Via Doria and found ourselves in Piazza Garibaldi in a couple of minutes. Lerici is a small village with a very nice waterfront. Lerici Castle dominates the view. This being February, the place was quite dead. We walked around the main piazza for a bit; Aman was getting really hungry and tired, and fortunately we found one place that was open by 7:30pm, so we ducked in for dinner.

Lerici street
Piazza Garibaldi, the main town square
Lerici Castle; while it is now a Museum of Paleontology, it was unfortunately closed for renovations when we were there
Exploring Lerici

The next day, Sunday, we returned to Pisa to pick up one other colleague who was flying in from the Netherlands.

The week starting Monday was pretty busy for me. For the most part, I didn’t get back to Lerici from work until 7 or 8pm most nights. Gen and Aman explored all the streets, alleys, and trails of Lerici. One evening though we did return early with the specific intention of shooting some sunset pictures. And fortunately we picked a good day because the colors were quite stunning.

Lerici harbor
Fishing boats in the harbor
Sunset over the Gulf of Poets
Portovenere in the distance
Twilight
Lerici at dusk

On Saturday, we went up to Cinque Terre. It was a very easy 20-min drive to La Spezia, followed by a 7-min train ride. We spent the whole day there before returning to Lerici.

Sunday started out quite rainy. Our plan was to visit Portovenere, but we decided to hang around Lerici for a while to see if the weather would clear. Aman loved walking around with his umbrella.

A rainy morning in Lerici
A splash of color
#11
Exploring Lerici in the rain

Despite the rain, we decided to go to Portovenere anyway in the afternoon.  A 45-min drive took us to the gorgeous little town where we walked around and got drenched (report coming).

The weather was turned dry, sunny, and warm the rest of our time in Lerici.

Waterfront garden
Aman’s new Italian friend, Francesco, the son of the hotel owner; despite the fact that Aman didn’t speak Italian and Francesco didn’t speak English, they went off together, played and explored fine
Last morning glow in Lerici

Despite the sometimes chilly and rainy weather, we enjoyed our stay. The food was very good with lots of fresh seafood, pasta, and great local wine. The fact that Lerici (and in fact the whole region) was not busy due to the off-season was actually not too bad; saved us having to deal with crowds.

After Italy, we went off to the next leg of our trip, London.

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