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Golfo dei Poeti

Back when Cinque Terre was but a collection of remote hardscrabble fishing villages, the Golfo dei Poeti (Gulf of Poets) was already drawing an it-crowd. Renamed for the English poets Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, who escaped here in the 1820s, its natural beauty had inspired writers and artists as far back as Petrarch and Dante.

The port of La Spezia, Italy's largest naval base, is the main town and makes for a nicely urban, if supremely easygoing, base. Around each side of the bay, mountains loom on the horizon and cliffs plummet into the sea, and there's a deliciously remote feeling to the many forest-fringed sandy coves. Bumping up against Tuscany, there are the ridiculously beautiful, discrete resort towns of Lerici, San Terenzo and Tellaro, while at the other end sits the historic sentinel village of Porto Venere. Each has its own charm, but all share the evocative vertiginous tumble of pastel houses.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Golfo dei Poeti.