Byron's Bay / by Mario Mirabile

English romantic poet Lord Byron considered himself a excellent swimmer, and apparently he was. His contemporary, Percy Bysshe Shelly, considered himself an excellent boat designer and sailor, but perhaps he shouldn't have. Both spent time on the Italian Riviera at the Bay of Poets and would venture across the Gulf of La Spezia to the pretty little resort town of Porto Venere. Byron would like to round the point and swim in a rocky little bay dominated by a large cave and now known as Lord Byron's Grotto. Shelly preferred to sail, and deigned his own boat. However, during a patch of bad weather, the boat sank off Porto Venere, and Shelly was drowned. His wife, Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein), tried to lay the blame on the boat builder, but it was more likely to have been lack of sailing nous. 

Porto Venere is the the starting point for most  boat trips to the Cinque Terre. It presents a charming facade to the harbour, with many of the tall row houses seeming far too narrow to provide usable living space. Behind the harbour, it rises steeply through narrow streets and tortuously long and precipitous staircases to the two features which dominate it's skyline - the imposing Castello Doria, and the tiny but beautiful church of St. Peter. You can still swim in Byron's Bay if you wish, but watch out for storm clouds if you go sailing.