The land, situated on the coastline between two blue crystal clear bays, had already sparked the attention of the romantic English writers back at the beginning of the 1800's for the intense blue color of its waters and its pink colored sand. Percy Bysshe Shelley would vacation there with his wife Mary and right in this village, unforgettable pages of English literature were born.
Shelley and his wife Mary stayed with another couple in Villa Magni, a white house located along the coastline, which at the time, was quite isolated from the rest of town. Shelley left San Terenzo onboard the "Ariel" from which he was shipwrecked. People say that the spirit of this romantic English poet still lives on between the inlets and the rocky points of Marinella, which have maintained their charm and bewitched this English poet
"I still live in this divine bay, reading Spanish plays, sailing and listening to the most enchanting music". So wrote Percy Bysshe Shelley from San Terenzo in 1822.
The Bay of Lerici was Shelley's last home. " The blue extent of the waters, the almost land-locked bay, the near castle of Lerici shutting it in to the east and distant Porto Venere to the west ; the varied forms of the precipitous rocks that bound in the beach; . . . the tideless sea leaving no sands nor shingle, ... a picture such as one sees in Salvator Rosa's landscapes only" are portions of Mary Shelley's descriptions of the place, as true to-day as when they were written. Here were passed Shelley's happiest days ; here, almost for the first time, hehad something like health and serenity of spirits.
The Gulf of Poets invites you quietly and it is not surprising that it was loved by poets, painters and writers like Byron, who visited his friend Shelly at San Terenzo, the Swiss painter Arnold Bocklin, Gabriele D'Annunzio, Paolo Mantegazza, Virgina Wolf, the dramatist Sem Benelli, who composed his masterpiece "The dinner of the tricks" and that thus spoke: "... humble, serene blessed my life in beautiful San Terenzo. To him we owe the name of "Gulf of Poets" attributed to the bay that includes Lerici and San Terenzo.
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Lord George Byron
Sem Benelli e Italo Montemezzi
LETTER OF PERCY SHELLEY TO LEIGH HUNT (At Genoa) Lerici, June 19, 1822.
My dearest Friend, — I write to you on the chance that you may not have left Genoa before my letter can reach you. Your letter was sent to Pisa, and thence for- warded here, or I should probably have ventured to meet you at Genoa ; but the chances are now so much dimin- ished of finding you that I will not run the risk of the delay of seeing you that would be caused by our missing each other on the way. I shall therefore set off for Leg- horn the moment that I hear you have sailed. We now inhabit a white house, with arches, near the town of Lerici, in the Gulf of Spezia. The Williamses are with us. Williams is one of the best fellows in the world; and Jane, his wife, a most delightful person, whom we all agree is the exact antitype of the lady I described in " The Sensitive Plant", though this must have been a pure antici- pated cognition J as it was written a year before I knew her. I wish you need not pass Lerici, which I fear you will do ; cast your eye on the white house and think of us. A thousand welcomes, my best friend, to this divine country ; high mountains and seas no longer divide those whose affections are united. . . . Give me the earliest in- telligence of your motions.
Lines Written in the Bay of Lerici
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
She left me at the silent time
When the moon had ceas'd to climb
The azure path of Heaven's steep,
And like an albatross asleep,
Balanc'd on her wings of light,
Hover'd in the purple night,
Ere she sought her ocean nest
In the chambers of the West.
She left me, and I stay'd alone
Thinking over every tone
Which, though silent to the ear,
The enchanted heart could hear,
Like notes which die when born, but still
Haunt the echoes of the hill;
And feeling ever—oh, too much!—
The soft vibration of her touch,
As if her gentle hand, even now,
Lightly trembled on my brow;
And thus, although she absent were,
Memory gave me all of her
That even Fancy dares to claim:
Her presence had made weak and tame
All passions, and I lived alone
In the time which is our own;
The past and future were forgot,
As they had been, and would be, not.
But soon, the guardian angel gone,
The daemon reassum'd his throne
In my faint heart. I dare not speak
My thoughts, but thus disturb'd and weak
I sat and saw the vessels glide
Over the ocean bright and wide,
Like spirit-winged chariots sent
O'er some serenest element
For ministrations strange and far,
As if to some Elysian star
Sailed for drink to medicine
Such sweet and bitter pain as mine.
And the wind that wing'd their flight
From the land came fresh and light,
And the scent of winged flowers,
And the coolness of the hours
Of dew, and sweet warmth left by day,
Were scatter'd o'er the twinkling bay.
And the fisher with his lamp
And spear about the low rocks damp
Crept, and struck the fish which came
To worship the delusive flame.
Too happy they, whose pleasure sought
Extinguishes all sense and thought
Of the regret that pleasure leaves,
Destroying life alone, not peace!