Lerici, part of the Riviera di Levante, is on the spectacular Bay of La Spezia, otherwise known as the Gulf of Poets, and is famous for its natural beauty. Near Liguria's border with Tuscany, this picturesque village dates back to medieval times when, under the rule of Pisa, it fought cross-bay battles with the Genovese town of Portovenere, as well as with local pirates. The town is set on a magnificent coastline of gray cliffs jutting down into a crystal clear sea and surrounded by a national park that is like an unframed painting of pine forests, olive trees, and tiny colorful hamlets. The waterfront piazza is filled with trompe-l'oeil frescoed buildings, and seaside cafés line a charming little harbor that holds sailboats and gozzi, the typical small fishing boats of the area.

Several white-sand beaches and bathing establishments dot the 2-km (1-mile) walk along the bay from the village center to nearby San Terenzo. From the village, you can also reach some beautiful hiking trails that head southeast to both seaside and hilltop villages like Fiascherino, Tellaro, and Montemarcello.

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Fodor's Essential Italy 2024

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