Lerici is an attractive harbour town to the south-east of La Spezia, on a natural inlet on the Liguria coast (known here as the Riviera di Levante) of north-west Italy and across the gulf from the Portovenere peninsula, with an attractive backdrop of rolling green hills.
Although popular with Italian visitors, Lerici is usually much less crowded than the (exceptionally busy) villages of the nearby Cinque Terre.
Explore Lerici: tourism and travel guide
The town runs up the hill behind the sea and facing out over the attractive boat-filled harbour below. The castle is on a promontory to the east and the main beach to the west of the harbour. Lerici itself, especially around the harbour and Piazza Garibaldi, has lots of the tall, pastel coloured houses so typical of this part of the Italian coast and very pleasant public gardens.
The most interesting part of Lerici is the historical quarter around the Via del Ghetto between Piazza Garibaldi and the castle, and the stroll along the picturesque waterfront promenade - including of course a pause in one of the many restaurants. Start your exploration of the historic centre in the streets around the main square in the centre of Lerici, the Piazza Garibaldi.
The most important religious monuments in Lerici are the 17th century baroque style Church of Saint Francis; and the Oratory of San Rocco (13th-16th centuries) in one corner of Piazza Garibaldi which is dominated by its large belltower and contains several notable paintings.
After exploring the centre you can climb the hill to the 12th century castle that dominates Lerici, the Castello di Lerici, that stands forebodingly on a raised area to one end of the bay, or take the lift. The paths wind through theold Jewish Quarter of Lerici, which seems a world away from the tourist town below.
The main reason for entering the castle is for the great views across to Portovenere from the top, although there are also some interesting features in the dinosaur museum (museum of geopaleontology).
Back down at the coast, there are several small rocky beaches around the harbour if you need to cool down, or more importantly cool the children down. If these are crowded you dont need to venture too far on foot to the south to find quieter bays set among the cliffs and a little solitude.
The town also has its fair share of newer villas and apartments, fish restaurants and tourist shops, and is an upmarket holiday resort for wealthy Italians. Many of the most luxurious villas are half hidden behind the beach.
Both parking and dealing with the crowds can become a challenge on a hot summer day so if possible why not try to visit Lerici outside July and August - the weather is pleasant here almost all year round.
Following a suggestion by Lerici tourist office on Via Baggini (off Piazza Garibaldi) we followed a path along the coast south to the pretty little village at Tellaro, and another northwards to the nearby village resort and castle of San Terenzo - both are easy walks and recommended.
Literati might recall that San Terenzo was home to Shelley from 1818-1822, before he drowned in a boat accident off the coast from here. He was buried at Villa Magini in San Terenzo. DH Lawrence and Yeats also spent time in Lerici.
There are several small traditional villages in the hills behind Lerici that are also worth exploring, and boat trips to Portovenere and the Cinque Terre villages are available from the harbour. You can also see the world's oldest crucifix in the cathedral at nearby Sarzana, and some interesting roman mosaics and ruins uncovered during excavations at Luni.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Liguria guide.