One of the main sights of Lerici is its notorious castle controlling the entrance of the Gulf of La Spezia. Today the castle contains a museum of palaeontology.
English writers Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley lived some three miles north in an isolated old boat house called Casa Magni, and anchored their sailing boat in Lerici. Their closest neighbors were the villagers of the tiny hamlet of San Terenzo. Percy Bysshe Shelley was drowned on July 8, 1822 in the Bay of Spezia, returning to Lerici from a journey to Leghorn and Pisa. His corpse eventually washed up on the beach at Viareggio, located approximately halfway between Livorno and Lerici. The popularity of Lerici with the Shelleys and with Lord Byron earned the Golfo di Lerici its nickname as the Golfo dei Poeti.
Hungarian author Baroness Emmuska Orczy, author of The Scarlet Pimpernel had a villa built in the hills above Lerici, near the locality of Bellavista, and called it La Padula . Orczy and her husband Montague Barstow spent several months there in the 1930s - alternating between La Padula, Villa Bijou in Monte Carlo, and trips to England. Eventually they decided to abandon fascist Italy for Villa Bijou. La Padula still stands today. Italian painter Oreste Carpi spent many years in San Terenzo making hundreds of paintings and drawings reproducing town landscapes.