Castle of Lerici
piazza San Giorgio - 19032 Lerici (SP)
Telefono: 0187 96 90 42
Fax: 0187 96 30 08
Il castello e l'isola del Tino Il castello e l'isola del Tino

The small village of Lerici stands on the far eastern side of Liguria where the Golfo dei Poeti closes, facing the archipelago of Palmaria.  A jewel of the La Spezia coast, encased in a bay with a crystalline sea, it developed around the spectacular castle, built precipitous near the sea, on a hill that dominates the port area and the historical centre.

Mentioned by Dante in Canto III of Purgatory, Lerici has always been the favourite destination of artists, painters and writers who for centuries remained enchanted by the beauty of the village and its partial views.
The great romantic poets Byron and Shelley and the wife of the latter, Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, stayed in Lerici for a long time.  Shelley died during a sea storm as he was returning from Tuscany to the Ligurian village.

The nerve centre of the whole town is its medieval castle, in perfect condition, from the tower of which it is possible to enjoy a spectacular view of the whole Golfo della Spezia (Gulf of La Spezia). Home of the Geo-paleontological museum, which was established after fossilised footprints were discovered on a rocky surface, it contains among other things some reconstructions of prehistoric environments and the dinosaurs that lived there.  In addition to this, the external and internal spaces are used to host events and temporary exhibitions. 

With the Development of the natural and cultural resources of Liguria project (Level 4 of the ROP ERDF 2007-2013) the aim is to continue with the preservation and restoration of the castle’s inner courtyard, now exposed to bad weather, by placing a transparent covering made of steel and glass. 

A little bit of history

The castle walls have hosted extremely important people from Medieval history: Francis I of France and the brothers of Simone Boccanegra, the first doge of Genoa, were held prisoner by its doors, while Henry VII, the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, and probably even Dante Alighieri refreshed themselves in its rooms.

At the centre of a long dispute between the Republics of Genoa and Pisa, which contended Lerici and its castle because of its strategic position, it was finally conquered by the Ligurians who held it for more than two and a half centuries, with an interval between 1241 and 1256 when it was held by Pisa.

Building of the castle started in 1152 on the ruins of a previous watchtower, which had been built to defend the coast from Saracen raids.
After the disputes between the Geneose and the Pisans, the Aragonese and Florentines also entered the struggle to establish control over Lerici, until it was conquered again by the Genoese at the end of the 15th century. The current shape of the fort dates back to 1555, when the third phase of construction was completed.

The intervention

The castle has an irregular polygon layout, and a truly imposing curtain wall, while the massive pentagonal tower rises to the east. The structure shows some problems caused by humidity which make part of the interior rooms unsuitable for exhibitions, especially paintings or wooden pieces.

In addition, with the subsequent construction and strengthening works carried out during the centuries, the oldest walls remained on the edge of the courtyard, losing their central position and, as such, significance. The programmed intervention will give this section its correct level of importance.

The scheduled works will therefore make it possible to reclaim the original nucleus of the castle, limiting the problems of humidity and increasing use of the spaces, allowing additional protected fittings.

A walkable steel and plate glass covering will be installed in the courtyard, with its height being set at around two-thirds of the current height of the courtyard. Suspended flooring made using the same technology will also be installed, making it possible to access the new exhibition space without any differences in level and architectural barriers. Thanks to the high-tech technology and materials, the intervention will be completely reversible and clearly autonomous from a perceptual point of view with respect to the castle context.

The shading system will be made of a thin layer of water on the glass surface, and will waste very little energy.


The tiny village of Tellaro is in the far eastern section of Lerici town. Its small group of houses, built in the typical Ligurian style between the cliffs and the sea, culminate with the church close to the waves.

Tellaro is a small hidden jewel that connects with Lerici by a single road and various footpaths; it is where the great writer and film director Mario Soldati lived and died, but also where the poet Attilio Bertolucci, father of director Bernardo, took refuge.

Among the celebrations that take place in the village, the Natale Subacqueo (Underwater Christmas) is very striking. Every year the statue of the Infant Jesus emerges from the water, carried by a group of skin divers, and is then placed in the manger, in a setting with more than 8.000 small lights. Fireworks over the sea help celebrate the event.


Like any self-respecting castle, the one in Lerici also has its legends and ghost: all Lerici inhabitants have heard, at least once, about the existence of an underground escape route that goes from the Castle to the central Piazza Garibaldi.
There are, in fact, tanks in various rooms of the castle, and there is a room under the Chapel of Saint Anastasia which can be entered through a small trapdoor.

As for the ghost, the one in Lerici Castle is called Maddalena di Castello, also known as Madì, and she was the manager of the Ostello della Gioventù (Youth Hostel) from 1949 until the mid-1970s.

When entering the Castle, there are some very large round stones on the right: they are catapult projectiles.

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