Luxurious rental accommodations with wide beaches in Lerici, and wonderful hotels, framed by the Genoese Castle dating back to the 12th century, are all good reasons why this little town in the Riviera di Levante is considered a pearl of the gulf. Chosen by D.H. Lawrence and the English Romanticists as their elected summer residence, today Lerici is the place to go for elegant visitors all year round. In the beginning of the nineteenth century the English poets Percy B. Shelley (together with his wife Mary, the clever creator of Frankenstein), and George G. Byron, were drawn to these areas not only to find physical well-being, but also by the romantic notion of travel for intellectual and spiritual fulfillment. Numerous poets and writers chose these areas through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Lerici Italy: on the Italian riviera
The gulf of Lerici, initially a way-station for the medieval pilgrims, became a center of art and the cradle of poetry, as a consequence in 1919 the dramatist Sem Benelli, who wrote part of his most famous work (La cena delle beffe) in the small tower of Villa Marigola, called it the Poets’ Gulf, the name by which it is nowadays universally known. Here in the nineteenth century the French writer George Sand lived a chapter of her love story with Alfred de Musset.
In the beginning of the last century the German Frieda von Richthofen and the English author of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, David H. Lawrence, also found a haven for their love story in these parts. The same happened to Annie Vivanti with Giosué Carducci. This was true also for Gabriele D’Annunzio, and for the writer Emma d‘Orczy, author of La Primula Rossa (The Scarlet Pimpernel), who had the villa La Padula built at the Bellavista.
In the twelfth century Lerici was already a maritime port of call and a significant trading centre. The three destinations of the medieval pilgrims from the north towards Rome and Jerusalem, and in the opposite way towards Santiago de Campostela, became sea journeys from this point. Dante talks about Lerici in his Purgatory, Bocaccio sets the last scene of one of his novellas here and Petrarch chooses the fortissimus Eryx as the home of the goddess Athena, who found olive oil. The medieval town of Lerici is built upon the promontory which sticks into the sea closing in the massive structure of the castle. It was fought over by the Maritime Republic of Genoa, which held the stronghold of Porto Venere, and by the Maritime Republic of Pisa, which, for a brief period (1241-1256), made it its most advanced outpost to the north in its defence system. This town was the venue for significant peace negotiations, economic agreements and the centre of the salt trade.
The fortified town of Lerici underwent several modifications from the twelfth to the sixteenth century. In the beginning there was the slim solitary tower inside the perimeter of the castle and now the tower consists of two buildings, an internal pentagonal one and a hexagonal one, separated by a space about two meters wide. In 1555, during the Corsican war – “as the Turks and the French were ravaging the coast of the Republic of Genoa” – as a few headstones report, extensions were carried out and massive walls, in some areas eight meters thick, were built to cover the slender medieval structure. In the heart of the castle there is the austere chapel dedicated to Sant’Anastasia, a precious illustration of the ligurian gothic architecture of identical period as the façade of San Lorenzo in Genoa; on its architrave an inscription documents the reconquest of Lerici (then under Pisa) by the Genoese (thirteenth century).
Travel Guide to Liguria
The most impressive stretch of this coastline is of course the world-famous Cinque Terre, which, along with Portovenere, Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto, have been declared a Unesco World Heritage site. In the Cinque Terre, colorful houses and vineyards cling to steep terraces where Sciacchetrà wine is produced; walking paths (chief among them the cliffside Sentiero Azzurro), local trains and boats connect the villages of Manarola, Riomaggiore, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso, historic and colorful ‘borghi’ in spectacular seaside locations. The Cinque Terre are home to a very fragile environment, for this reason a national park was established in the area.
The Gulf of La Spezia nearby, also known as the Gulf of Poets, is the stretch of coast closest to Tuscany, and takes its nickname from the many writers who chose it as their residence, including British poets Byron and Shelley. Some sights not to miss here include colorful Portovenere, and the island in front of it, Palmaria, where a visit to the Blue Cave is recommended; Lerici and its castle; and Tellaro, considered one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. Moving westward along the coast, you’ll encounter glitzy Portofino, the picturesque former fishing village turned into glamorous international destination, with luxury yachts anchored in the small harbor. Sit in the piazzetta for an aperitivo to soak in the atmosphere. Take the 20-minute boat trip to the tiny island of San Fruttuoso, an isolated village of fishermen with a small beach and a Benedictine abbey. The best way to reach Portofino? By driving the old coastal road Via Aurelia, which starts at Nervi and passes the towns of Camogli, Santa Margherita Ligure, Rapallo, Chiavari and Sestri Levante, affording great coastal views. –
Castle to Castle Along the Gulf of the Poets at Lerici – A Travel Guide
The small harbor of Lerici has a lungomare (seaside walk) from the Lerici Castle to the Castle of San Terenzo, and a bit beyond. The walk has a wonderful Ligurian feel and is so full of sights and sounds that you can walk it 50 times – and we have – and not tire of it. The length is only about 3 kilometers each way, but you should allow at least a half a day, including a lunch or a dinner. There are two towns to explore, four beaches, two castles, many restaurants, many stores, a harbor, and, not least, lots of people. For ideas on where to stay, what to eat, and other practical info, scroll way down.
The Walk. Along this shore, the Gulf of the Poets – as it’s been called for the last century – meets the land in a series of five scalloped bays. The order in which you encounter them will depend on how you arrive, but this description proceeds from Lerici Castle toward San Terenzo (i.e. toward La Spezia).
The largest bay is the harbor of Lerici, with its boat moorings overseen by its prominent castle. The castle was built by Pisa in the 1200’s and is one of the most beautiful in Liguria, a superb example of military architecture. It is now a visitable Museum of Palaeontology, and it’s worth a climb if only for the views of the Gulf, and the walk around the castle perimeter. The stairs up are accessible from the harborside molo (quay) which is interesting on it’s own as there’s a fish market, a breakwater, good views of Lerici, and the activity of the fishing and sport boats. When descending from the castle, follow the little alley-like streets inland and down. Walking among the crowded hillside buildings makes it easy to imagine the original town so different from the fashionable resort below. For more on one of these streets, Via del Ghetto, see our article The Jewish Ghetto of Lerici.
Featured Lerici Hotels
from € 80
Via Carpanini 9, Lerici (La Spezia)
Two minutes’ walk from Lerici historic centre is Doria Park Hotel. Surrounded by beautiful Mediterranean gardens, this hotel offers panoramic terraces with stunning views and suites with Jacuzzis.
Doria Park is peaceful despite its central location. Stroll through olive groves and green lawns or just take in amazing views of the Gulf of Poets, the castle and Lerici’s old town from the panoramic terrace.
Feel free to take your time and relax at Doria Park; you can enjoy the hotel’s generous buffet breakfast on the terrace until 12:00.
The beach is just 5 minutes’ walk from Doria Park and boat and wind-sailing excursions organised by the hotel start just 12 metres away. The hotel also offers a free shuttle service to and from local train stations. read more…
from € 90
Via Lungomare Biaggini 42, San Terenzo di Lerici
Hotel San Terenzo overlooks the Bay of Lerici and San Terenzo village with its 15th-century castle. It offers a panoramic terrace, private car park, and air-conditioned rooms with balconies.
All rooms come with free Wi-Fi, a minibar, and satellite TV.
You have excellent public transport links with buses stopping right outside the hotel. You can catch a ferry from Lerici Bay to the Cinque Terre and Portovenere. read more…
from € 70
Via Carpanini 1, Lerici (La Spezia)
Enjoy stunning views of the Gulf of Poets from panoramic Europa Grand Hotel. Surrounded by olive groves, the hotel is just 200 metres from Lerici’s historic centre.
Set on the Maralunga hill above Lerici, this newly renovated hotel is linked to Lerici’s main square by a flight of steps. You can be at the seafront in just 5 minutes. Boat trips leave from just 12 metres away and are run daily.
Family-run, Europa Grand Hotel provides generous services including free on-site parking, free shuttle transfers to the beach and rail station as well as other local areas.
Affordable internet access is provided via an internet point in the lobby and Wi-Fi.
The Europa has a lovely sea-view terrace, perfect for enjoying a few drinks and watching the sun set. Inside relax in the lounge or bar.
Roll out of bed whatever time you like at the Europa; the hotel’s award-winning breakfast is served at from 06:30 until 12:00 and can even be served directly in your room. Enjoy a large array of fresh, local products. read more…
from € 30
Via Della Libertà 22, Cerri Di Arcola
The hotel, situated on a hill in the secluded, ancient village of Cerri, overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and is ideal for those who long to immerse themselves in nature.
Guests can benefit from the fresh and mild climate whilst making the most of the easy access to a variety of local attractions, including the bathing structures in nearby Lerici, the sandy beaches of Marinella and the beautiful Palmaria Island, which can be reached by boat. read more…
from € 95
Lungomare Biaggini 35, Lerici
Hotel Florida enjoys a beachfront location around 10 minutes’ stroll from Lerici and San Terenzo. Expect great facilities such as a rooftop terrace and free Wi-Fi internet.
Well-equipped beaches are located just across the road in front of Hotel Florida Lerici. Enjoy beautiful views of the Gulf of Poets from some of the rooms and the sun terrace.
Hotel Florida’s air-conditioned rooms feature stylish, contemporary décor and have satellite TV, Wi-Fi, and their own balconies. There is also an internet point at reception.
Go for a walk into Lerici, or dine at one of the restaurants close by Hotel Florida Lerici. Breakfast is a generous selection of meats, cheeses and homemade pastries, served from 07:00 until 10:00. read more…
from € 70
Gerini 37, Lerici
Since 1990 Hotel del Golfo offers comfortable accommodation in Lerici. Friendly and comfortable this 2-star establishment is family managed
Situated in a central but quiet and shady area, 150 metres from the beach, Hotel del Golfo is ideal place for a beautiful holiday in the Gulf of Poets area.
Just 200 metres from the hotel, there are boat departing for Portovenere and the Cinque Terre.
The hotel has 20 rooms with all modern facilities, it has a lift and parking for 10 cars. read more…