With a coastline so beautiful that it is the stuff of fiction and fable, the Italian Riviera towns of Sestri Levante and Lerici have been inspiring titans of literature for centuries.
Situated with the Bay of Fables on one side and the Bay of Silence on the other, Sestri Levante is an enchanting narrow stretch of land that begs to be admired. Small fishing boats dot its tranquil shores as moody bars, quaint shops and family run eateries line its stone streets. It is no wonder that such a place would inspire the imaginations of famed literary figures like Hans Christian Andersen and Lord Byron. The legendary beauty of the town was even commemorated in an 1821 poem by Lord Byron, in which he describes Sestri Levante’s Bay of Silence as a paradise on Earth. The Bay of Fables itself was named in honor of Andersen, who lived in Sestri Levante for a period of time starting in 1833. Today, the community continues to pay homage to Andersen through an annual literary contest that takes place at the end of each May. Entitled “The Hans Christian Andersen Literary Award”, the 42 year old tradition recognizes authors for their noteworthy, unpublished fables. Thousands of writers, both young and old, professional and novice, convene for three days to celebrate the very best in creative literature and acknowledge one outstanding contribution from their peers.
Known as much for the beauty of its waterfront promenade as the medieval castle that flanks its bay, Lerici has been captivating authors since the 18th century. It has been theorized that Mary Shelley was inspired to write her epic “Frankenstein” during a trip to Lerici, where she encountered its castle for the first time. Mary and her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley are said to have anchored their sailboat at Lerici’s harbor while living a few miles away in a nearby boat house. D.H. Lawrence chose Lerici as a summer residence to contemplate his work in the serenity and beauty of this Mediterranean hideaway. Virginia Woolf is quoted as describing the town as “the pearl of the gulf”, while the Baroness Emmuska Orczy, author of “The Scarlet Pimpernel”, commissioned a villa to be built upon the hills overlooking town. Over time little has changed in the tiny village that once inspired international literati. Sail boats and small fishing vessels still bring color to its serene bay, as the cold stone facade of its ancient castle keeps watch over the coastline. While sitting in Lerici’s vibrant red, yellow and orange hued main piazza, one can easily envision a time when authors strolled the promenade seeking inspiration as the bay’s fresh sea breezes helped to cultivate those glimmers of creativity into solid masterpieces.
About the author
Dejou Marano is Co-Founder of CountryBred and Founding Editor of The Bred Blog. Splitting her time between Los Angeles and Europe, Dejou seeks to bring the imagination and wonder of Europe to all travelers through her never-ending pursuit of undiscovered cultural gems and experiences, which she shares through her travel writing.
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