The Most Romantic Walk in Liguria - Lerici to San Terenzo
|Gulf of Spezia (1884) Henry Roderick Newman Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.|
Whatever romantic notions of Italy your soul harbors, this is the walk that will indulge them. The painter Henry Roderick Newman clearly felt the romance as he painted the San Terenzo/Lerici shore, framed by its two castles, over 125 years ago. Good writers and poets of every sort have striven to communicate the experience of these towns and this Gulf, and for good reason - this area is prose and it is poetry. Even though these villages and their little bays have been discovered as many times as love, it's your turn now.
The small harbor of Lerici now has a lungomare (seaside walk) along the entire length of its shore, from the Castle of Lerici 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 from Lerici to San Terenzo
Bus / Taxi / Boat Info
Where to Stay
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). Orient yourself by looking at our Overview Map.
|Lerici Harbor from the Castle|
|Piazza Garibaldi & San Rocco Photo-Paolo da Reggio|
To the right of the church is Via Cavour, a charming little street that leads uphill. There are neighborhood shops, touristy shops, snack and food shops, and restaurants whose menus tantalize, including Bonta Nascosta near the top of the street. Tourists and locals bump along, everyone gawking at the shops and the menus and each other. When you come back down Via Cavour, turn right for more shops, including art galleries and an antique shop or two. Perhaps you'll notice a stairway or two leading off up the hill. Follow one up for a while and see a quieter part of the melange of history, resort, and hometown that is Lerici.
|Lerici, Liguria. Walk along the Gulf of La Spezia.|
As you continue to walk, you'll turn a corner and reach the small second bay called Lido, which is devoted to a pay beach club. It's seems quite family oriented, and always well maintained, but there's not much action. Soon the sidewalk rises and curves to the third bay, which is Venere Azzurra. This is much larger and there's more to watch. There are pay facilities as well as a free beach. This beach seems to attract more teens and young adults, so there's always something happening - a ball game, a card game, a splash fest, burying a friend, etc. There are a couple of snack bars, and the sidewalk serves as a kind of a peanut gallery where passersby can watch, leer, envy, compare, and study - all without embarassment. Halfway along Venere Azzurra there's a bus stop and also a little side street which leads uphill to the large parking area of La Vallata, mentioned below. If the waves are large, there might be some surfers on the far side of this bay. It's a kind of a theoretical surfing, however, as the waves never seem to cooperate, but the dudes get an 'A' for effort and persistence.
|San Terenzo, Liguria.|
|Lo Scoglio, Mano di Dio.|
Arrival By Driving You can arrive by ATC bus from La Spezia or from Sarzana (see below). You can arrive by boat, with much less risk than Poet Percy Shelly (see below). But most likely you will arrive by car. Yes, you can arrive by car, but usually not directly to the center. The center of Lerici and San Terenzo is a ZTL (Zone of Limited Traffic) in the summer (June 15 to Sept.15) and on Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays year round and thus requires a permit to enter, enforced strictly by police and cameras (N.B. the ZTL dates can vary in the political winds). Mercifully, Lerici has very clear ZTL signs with red and green traffic lights. ZTL Details (IT) And even when you can drive in, the parking is very limited with confusing signs. However, the town has provided satellite parking and two free 'Girobus' routes (little buses a/k/a navette) to make visiting possible even when the ZTL is in force. Note: If you are staying in Lerici, we would advise you to contact the police or your hotel before you drive into the ZTL .
Renting A Car in Italy. If you drive in urban areas at home, you can drive in Italy. Educate yourself on a site like this: Slowtrav Driving Intro, and plan your itinerary. Car rental prices are important, but don't rent based solely on low price and stick to well known companies. We recommend the car hire broker Auto Europe where you can compare companies, have a low price guarantee, no deductible insurance, cancel easily, and have 24/7 customer service before and after the car hire. If you want to do us a favor, please use this link: Auto Europe.
|Gelato just tastes better when the sea is near.|
The free Girobuses leave from the bus stops in the center and the top of La Vallata about every 15 minutes. Girobus Routes Map (Percorso PDF at bottom) One Girobus circles to Lerici and one to San Terenzo. Of course, you can also walk downhill from the La Vallata parking, and you'll join the walk description at Venere Azzurra. From the other two parking areas, you can catch the Girobus on the statale or you can just walk downhill to San Terenzo and start the walk there.
The parking garage (unsuitable for large vehicles) above the town center is reached by following the road toward Lerici from the roundabout on the Statale 331. As you descend down into town, you'll encounter the ZTL sign at a tiny roundabout, and the entrance to Parcheggio Lerici Centro is off this roundabout. Take a ticket when you enter, and pay at a machine on the lowest level as you return to your car. The rate in June, 2012, was 1.50 Euro per hour from 8am to midnight, and .50 Euro per hour overnight.
ATC Bus Info. We have written a riveting piece on bus transport Getting Around La Spezia which will give you the skinny on the buses. If you are coming from La Spezia, midday buses leave about every 15 minutes. If you are coming from Sarzana, the buses run about every 1/2 hour. You can catch either bus at stops midroute, of course, and you can see the schedules and stops by going here: Orario (Schedules). The La Spezia-Lerici route is L/S and it begins on pages 48 and it's ticket codice 3. The Sarzana-Lerici route is also L/S beginning on page 48 and it's codice 2. (As we write this, the ATC Google Planning function is down, so we are avoiding mentioning exactly where in La Spezia and Sarzana the buses travel). However, if you drill down on our Overview map (by Google), you'll see little clickable blue bus stops which give ATC route info.
Boat Information. Lerici is served by boats that travel to La Spezia, Portovenere, and the Cinque Terre. The main website for the La Spezia area services is Maritime Coop which posts schedules only when the boats are operating. The boats arrive and depart from a pier near Piazza Garibaldi. You can see Summer 2013 schedules in our riveting story Cinque Terre Portovenere Lerici Boat/Ferry Schedules.
Where To Stay
If you'll be staying in a Lerici hotel, the following hotels are along the Castle to Castle walk. Listings are from Lerici harbor toward San Terenzo. If you are driving, remember to contact your hotel regarding entry to the ZTL.
Click the Lerici hotel name for information or booking.
The upscale Doria Park Hotel is on the hill which overlooks the center of Lerici. It's quite close, but you must climb a bit from town. The views of the Gulf are the compensation and its restaurant is well regarded. The entrance by auto does not involve the ZTL.
Hotel Shelley Delle Palme is close to the center of Lerici and on the lungomare. There are balconies on the front rooms. On our very first trip to Liguria, we enjoyed a bottle of wine on one while watching a lightning storm highlight the Gulf's points of interest.
|Hotel Florida overlooking Venere beach.|
On the little bay called Lido, further along the lungomare, is the Hotel del Lido.
Hotel Florida overlooks the beach at Venere Azzurra, and also has balconies in the front.
Next door is the aptly named Hotel Venere Azzurra, also overlooking the Venere Azzurra beach, and also with balconies.
Hotel San Terenzo is a new hotel on the Lerici side of San Terenzo's bay. It is set below the lungomare, close to the water.
The B&B Il Nido is less than a 100 meters from the water, centrally located in the village of San Terenzo.
|Spaghetti allo Scoglio. Mano di Fatima|
For info on area specialties, see our article, A Guide to the Local Food of La Spezia. For help with Lerici restaurant options, see our notated map of this Caprione Promontory, Restaurants Map. We've given info on restaurants we've tried, that Megan Guerrera of Bella Vita Italia has reviewed, and that a friend, Julie H., has tried. For planning purposes, note that the restaurants are concentrated more on the Lerici Harbor side of the towns. Lerici also maintains a listing on its website. Town Restaurant List For picnic supplies, there are small supermarkets and prepared food outlets within an easy walk in both Lerici and San Terenzo.
|Americans Abroad Gallery MFA, Boston|
NY Times Lerici The New York Times has discovered Lerici, and they sent a good and sensible writer.
Bella Vita Italia Megan Guerrera has created a nice blog and website from Lerici. She's offers rental lodging, reviews restaurants, blogs on many subjects, and is always enthusiastic for her adopted city and country.
Lerici Hikes. The Caprione peninsula on which Lerici is located has hikes every bit as enjoyable as those of Cinque Terre. We describe two in detail: The Forgotten Villages of the Gulf of the Poets and The Brides Walk, Ameglia to Tellaro
Renting A Car in Italy We recommend the car hire broker Auto Europe where you can compare companies, get a low price guarantee, no deductible insurance, and cancel easily. Click here: Auto Europe.
Written by Martha Bates