Right next to Cinque Terre there is a bay that was loved by writers like Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and David H. Lawrence. Known as the Gulf of Poets or Gulf of La Spezia, this land stretches from Portovenere through La Spezia and up to Liguria’s border with Tuscany.
While we have already talked about Portovenere and its islands in this article, today we will explore more hidden gems not to be missed a few steps from Cinque Terre: the fishing villages of Lerici and Tellaro.
Due to its strategic location between Liguria and Tuscany, Lerici was highly contended by the maritime republics of Genoa and Pisa during their war in the XIII century.
It was dominated by Genoa, Pisa, France, Spain and Lucca, and this history is evident when you stroll in its historic center. For example, the Borgo Pisano is the walled village that was erected during the Pisan occupation, while the Castello di Lerici is the beautiful castle that already existed as a watchtower around the year 1000 and that was completed (as we see it today) by the Genoa Republic in 1555.
While the buildings in Borgo Pisano are more like tower houses, around the areas of Piazza Garibaldi and Piasseo you can admire the beautiful XVIII-century palazzi that were home to the maritime middle classes and wealthy families.
Lerici also features some wonderful villas, such as Villa Marigola surrounded by sublime gardens. Many important people lived here on a permanent or vacation basis throughout the years, such as Marchesi Ollandini, English banker Reginald Jenkin Pearse, German Empress Victoria, and the Magni-Griffi family.
Villa Marigola is today a venue for congresses and is sometimes open to the public for cultural events.
Another famous and historical building is Villa Magni, located in Lerici’s small fraction of San Terenzo. This is where Percy Bysshe Shelley and his wife Mary Shelley lived at the beginning of the XIX century, and where they composed some of their famous writings.
Other artists that decided to spend some time in Lerici were D.H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, Gabriele D’Annunzio and he who coined the phrase “Gulf of Poets” – Sam Benelli.
While Lerici is a must-visit village because of these legendary poets, you can’t miss its neighbor, Tellaro, because of its legend.
An ancient local myth says that, on a stormy night, the villagers were suddenly awakened by the sound of the bells. When they ran to the church right by the sea, they saw that a giant octopus had rang the bells to warn them of a pirate incursion, allowing them to defend and save their village.
You won’t find much in tiny Tellaro, yet it was elected as one of Italy’s most gorgeous villages (Borghi più belli d’Italia). From its colorful buildings, to the tranquil piazza, to its iconic pastel-pink church of San Giorgio right on the sea, this is simply a mesmerizing place.
Tellaro is home to two interesting traditional events.
One is held on Christmas night and is called Natale Subacqueo: the statue of Baby Jesus emerges from the sea, transported by a group of subs and taken into the village, where the streets are lit with thousands of candles.
The other is for foodies: the Sagra del Polpo takes place yearly on the second Sunday of August, celebrating local fish and especially the octopus!
If you want to visit Lerici and Tellaro, BeautifuLiguria can organize boat tours for you to experience them like a local: contact us for more information.
These are just some of the many beautiful villages surrounding the famous Cinque Terre.