In the twelfth century, Lerici was already a maritime port of call and an important trading center. The three destinations of the middle ages pilgrims from the north in the direction of Rome and Jerusalem, and in the opposite way towards Santiago de Compostela, became sea journeys from this point. Dante references Lerici in his Purgatory; Bocaccio sets the last scene of one of his novellas here, and Petrarch selects the fortissimus Eryx as the home of the goddess Athena, who discovered olive oil.
The medieval town of Lerici is built upon the promontory which juts 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 defense system. The town was the place for important peace negotiations, economic agreements and the center of the salt trade.
The fortified town of Lerici underwent numerous changes from the twelfth to the sixteenth century. In the beginning, there was the slim solitary tower within the perimeter of the castle, and now the tower is made up 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 Turcs and the French were ravaging the coast of the Republic of Genoa – as a few headstones document, extensions were completed 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 devoted to Sant’Anastasia, a precious example of the Ligurian gothic architecture of the same 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).
The Walk from Lerici to San Terenzo
Along the seaside promenade are resorts with their pay-to-sit beach chairs interspersed with stretches of “wild” beaches, where anyone can just plop down and enjoy the sun or jump in the sea. Sun worshipers increase as we round the bend into town, and the trattorie, gelaterie, alberghi, and other signs of Italian good life begin to appear. We see older folks, Italian vacationers who come every year for the joy of having a home away from home where waiters and shopkeepers greet them by name.
Continuing along the coastline, the path becomes concrete and follows the shoreline. Look up and there’s a cafe promising sandwiches that may or may not be open when you want it. Then head back, this time skirting the little pleasure-boat port of Lerici. High on the hill is the castle, the oldest tower of which was built in 1152 during the Pisan occupation of Lerici. The Genovese arrived in 1256 and further revised and enlarged the castle. Today the castle is host to a Museum of Paleontology. Your kids will love the dinosaurs.
The romantic walk from Lerici to San Terenzo is well documented in Castle to Castle Along the Gulf of Poets. By the way, it’s not just a walk, you can also swim from Lerici to San Terenzo and this swim has a name: Il Miglio Blu, or The Blue Mile. Small buoys spaced 50 meters apart start just under the castle at Lerici and lead swimmers along the coastline to San Terenzo, ending at Shelley’s house, the Villa Magni, known locally as the Casa Bianca, or White House. The rules of the route are posted on a sign in the harbor.
How to Get to Lerici, the Cinque Terre and Other Compelling Destinations
There is no train station in Lerici so if you don’t have a car, take a bus from the port city of La Spezia, on the main rail line. From La Spezia you can also take the Cinque Terre Express train that stops in each of the 5 villages.
From La Spezia, ferries travel to Lerici from late spring through early fall, a nice way to arrive. See the Consorzio Marittimo Turistico schedule. From Lerici’s harbor, their boats can also take you to the colorful town of Portovenere or the villages of the Cinque Terre. There is also the little ferry that takes you to Tellaro. More…
Lerici Italy hotels
Luxurious accommodations with extensive beaches, 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 throughout the year.
At 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. The Gulf of Lerici, initially a way-station for the medieval pilgrims, became a centre 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. At the start of the twentieth 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.
Hotels in Lerici
Via Carpanini 9, Lerici (La Spezia)
Two minutes’ walk from Lerici historic center 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 take in fantastic 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 organized by the hotel start just 12 meters away. The hotel also offers a free shuttle service to and from local train stations. read more…
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…
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 meters from Lerici’s historic center.
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 meters 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 sunset. 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…
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…
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 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…
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 meters from the beach, Hotel del Golfo is an ideal place for a beautiful holiday in the Gulf of Poets area.
Just 200 meters from the hotel, there is 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…
An Italian Beauty Without Foreign Suitors
Not so known outside Italy, that is. Lerici (pronounced LEH-ree-chee) is a jumble of pastel buildings that jockey for attention with its beaches, crescent-shaped coves and rocky cliffs that melt into the sparkling sea. And in July and August, the town is bustling, the beaches filled with local residents, vacationing families from northern Italy and a loyal crowd of in-the-know Milanese.
Around town, young couples flirt at waterfront cafes, children kick soccer balls beneath palm trees, and groups of white-haired men stroll along the beachfront promenade. Very few are speaking English. In Lerici, unlike many other Riviera towns, the lingua franca is still poetic Italian.
Lerici is flanked by areas all too well-known to foreign travelers. To the south, the flashy Tuscan resort towns of Versilia boast miles of sandy beaches crammed with pasty northern Europeans and bronzed Italians alike. And a few miles to the north is the Cinque Terre, five cliff-clinging hamlets connected by narrow footpaths that are overrun with Americans.
In fact, Lerici holds much of the same appeal as its more popular neighbors, with beautiful swaths of beach and miles of hiking trails with photogenic vistas, minus the suffocating crowds. The imposing medieval castle that looms above Lerici’s main piazza is the town’s defining feature, but the scenic mile-and-a-half-long promenade that stretches along the waterfront is its most dazzling. After passing boats bobbing lazily in the harbor and tracts of enormous rocks where sunbathers lie like sea lions, the promenade winds past a string of beaches en route to a smaller stone castle that anchors the neighboring village of San Terenzo. More…
Seeing the place is never disappointing! It is full of aristocratic private villas , charming landscapes and enchanting beaches. It’s no surprise that it was the favored vacation location and origin of ideas for the Romantic English poets – from Shelley to Byron and D.H. Lawrence.