The province of La Spezia has three souls: the city and Golfo dei Poeti; the renowned Cinque Terre; and the inland valleys. All are united by their culture and natural environment, a mix of villas, castles and gardens.

We shall start with La Spezia and the San Giorgio castle, an imposing military fortification dating from the 13th century that towers over the city. Today, it is home to the Ubaldo Formentini Archaeology Museum.

Another important museum space CAMeC in a for­mer early 20th-century school is given over to contempo­rary and modern art. The gulf is known as the Golfo dei Poeti and many poets – from Dante to Byron and Shelley, who drowned in the sea here, to mention but a few - have fallen in love with its locations as too the painters Turner, Böcklin, perhaps even Botticelli... Must-sees in the gulf are the 16th-century San Terenzo castle in San Teren­zo (Lerici), today an exhibition venue; and, on the facing headland, the Lerici castle, a fortress built in the year 1000, altered in the 16th century and now a museum. Also in Lerici, the 18th-century Villa Marigola is a confer­ence and events centre, set in a grand park. In Portove­nere, the imposing Doria castle looms over the vil­lage and is also an events venue. The second stage of our tour visits the Cinque Terre. The Riomaggiore castle, a 13th-century fortress, hosts educational and cultural activities. In Monterosso, the Eremo della Maddalena, a mediaeval monastery dating from the 13th-century, is now the setting for dream weddings.

Splendid events, exhibition and museum spaces also lie just inland: in Ponzano Magra, Villa Pratola is a baroque gem; in Sarzana the Sarzanello fortress is an ancient stronghold on the Via Francigena; and the Firmafede fortress or Citadel is home to MUdeF, a fortress museum. A fun fact: Sarzana is apparently where Napoleon Bonaparte’s family originated from! In Val di Vara there are two castles: in Calice di Cornoviglio the Doria-Malaspina castle, a museum, and the Madri­gnano castle, an exhibition venue now restored to its ancient splendour.

For more information
 Download the Brochure