We found a good camping supply shop just south of Florence and purchased a few items before driving the hour on to Lucca and our Camping
“La Valle” 4 kilometres from the centre of Lucca. It was a relatively new and very well laid out campsite complete with excellent facilities and a pool.
It was about a 25minute walk to the tiny station of Ripafratta and then only 7minutes by train into Lucca.
Lucca reminded us of the small village of Pingyao in China which is also a small walled city. We walked around the wall in Lucca in about an hour to get our bearings. Some of the wall dates back to the 9th century. Most of the wide walkway was lined with avenues of trees where people were walking or cycling. On our friend’s Vicky and Mark’s recommendation who have visited Lucca many times we had good aperitifs at “Santa Zita”,a delicous meal at “Da Pasquale” where we were given amuse bouche and unlimited bread and mineral water and delicious chocolates before we left. The locals were suffering being hotter than normal so early in the season but we were enjoying the heat.

After a couple of days we headed north to Rapallo along the Autostrada in the end after our Tom Tom tried to take us down some country roads which were 2metres wide and 2.30metres high (not for Van Mauriceson).
The seaside town of Rapallo has some interesting old buildings and is full of harbourside cafes and restaurants and is a starting point for boat trips up to Portofino, Cinque Terre and various other places along the Ligurian Riviera.
I asked a local to recommend a good fish restaurant and he kindly walked ten minutes with us showing us three of his favourite ones. The Italians are passionate about their food and it is a big part of their general converstation (whether they are men or women).
We had bought tickets on the ferry the previous day to take us to Portofino ( a place I had wanted to visit since seeing it in a brochure when I worked on the tours desk at Qantas in the 80’s). It a very reasonable fare euros 13 each return for the 1/2 hour trip each way. It was unfortunately a dull, cloudy day but at least there was no rain.

Portofino is a very picturesque small town built around a bay where a couple of very luxurious launches were moored. We climbed up to the church where we got a good view of the town from above. I had a cappuccino euros 7 which confirmed Portofino as a high category tourist destination! We decided after a couple of hours to return to Rapallo and have lunch at the recommended restaurant ‘Eden’. We thought that it would be hard pressed to surpass the delicious prawn tempura and spaghetti marinara that we had had at Orbetello but we were pleasantly surprised and enjoyed every morsel of our meals with a large amount of the freshest seafood and delicious basket of a variety of breads and it’s national award wining ‘Agazan’ Ligurian olive oil made from the ‘Taggiasca’ olive.

One sad aspect of so many places in Europe are the abandoned houses in villages and abandoned farmhouses and their land. In places like Roccamandolfi as the old people die their houses remain vacant because in most cases their offspring have moved into a city or off the mountain and down to a more level area without so many steps and with vehicular access.

Our next stop was to be Verona and we took the Autostrada so that we could stop in the city of Cremona famous for it’s ‘Torrone’ or nougat and it’s beautiful architecture. Cremona’s other claims to fame are it’s violin makers (still 140 in the city) and the ‘Tramezzino’ or soft white bread (no crust) sandwiches with various fillings. We sampled a couple tasty ones for lunch.
The hot and humid weather continued as we made our way to Verona and the amazing camping site of ‘Castel San Pietro’ built amid the old walls of the castle which was destroyed by the French centuries ago. The terrace of the campsite overlooked the city of Verona with the river ‘Adige’ winding around the old part of the city.

The ‘new’ Castel San Pietro which was only 100metres from the campsite had even better views of the city and 200 steps connected it to the road below and then a short walk over the bridge to the old town. We managed to ascend these steps a couple of times and then opted for the funicular which had only be reopened a month before, after having been in disuse since the 1940’s.
After wandering around the city it was a welcome respite from the steps. On Sunday the church bells started early and the city was overrun with tourists – foreign and local but on weekdays we could wander the streets admiring the beautiful architecture and piazzas without throngs of people especially in the early morning or later in the afternoon.

We visited the popular ‘Juliet’s balcony’ from below and the ‘Museum of the radio’ which was extremely interesting as well as Juliet’s tomb and a wonderful museum of Cavalcaselle’s frescos in the same complex. We had a coffee with Marta who we had met in India about 18months ago at the Ayurvedic centre. She part owned a very nice spa so Maurice had a hair cut and I had a spa treatment. She also had a couple of tickets for ‘Aida’ in the Arena of Verona which she couldn’t use so we bought them from her. We were given the tip to take a cushion as the marble heats up during the day and the steps are extremely hard.

We enjoyed a meal at the ‘Osteria dei Signori”. I had the spaghetti with shaved truffle which was delicious. Truffles seem to be used far more in the north. Specialites of Verona were Donkey and Horse meat dishes which we definately were not going to try.
We bought a lot of very tasty Summer fruits – peaches, nectarines and melons from markets in various towns.

I managed to have a few of my favourite Aperol Spritz’s and at ‘San Nicolo’ winebar they were very reasonable and the nice waitress opened another couple of red wines and gave me generous portions to taste. On the bar was more or less a meal with abundant nibbles to accompany the aperitifs. We wouldn’t get any of that in Australia.
Verona was one of our favourite Italian cities so far.

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