“Blessed are you, poet of science, who rest in peace in the Gulf of Poets”. Thus wrote the playwright Sem Bonelli to celebrate the death of Paolo Mantegazza, a famous doctor with the appearance of a senator and the artist’s eye. Throughout his life Mantegazza had shown a particular fondness for that stretch of coast that closed like a creek, as if to protect the purity of a small patch of sea. Right here, overlooking the Gulf of Poets, the scholar spent his last years.
The "Golfo di Venere"
What we now know today as the Gulf of Poets, so named by Sem Bonelli, was once known as the Gulf of Venus. It is not difficult to understand the reason for this new name, if we think of how many verses, how many paintings, how many symphonies inspired the soul of the artists.
From Dante to D’Annunzio, passing through Lawrence and Lord Byron, an extraordinary number of men of letters have admired the La Spezia coast, which has become a favorite destination for artists seeking refuge from the world. Just think of Eugenio Montale, who spent his summer holidays here, or the Baroness Emma Orczy, who fell so much in love with these coasts that she had a villa built for her.
Percy Shelley, the gulf poet
But the most fascinating story concerns another poet, famous for his romantic and passionate verses. This is Percy Bysshe Shelley, whose restless spirit drove him to Liguria in search of tranquility. His biography tells that during the Italian period, together with his companion Mary, the poet, finally serene, wrote his most beautiful works. His great love for the sea led him to the purchase of a schooner, which Shelly had christened as Ariel. It was just sailing off the edge of Ariel that, on a stormy night, the great artist lost his life in a shipwreck. His body, found ten days after the tragedy near Viareggio, was cremated in its entirety with the exception of the heart, taken from the stake and delivered to his companion.
So the story goes, similar to a legend. However the verses of the poet are true, which still echo in these superb, enchanted places, of such a beauty that they also seem to be legend.