Portovenere is located 11 km from La Spezia and together with the islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto represents one of the extremities of the Gulf. Since 1997 it has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, together with the Cinque Terre.
Its name derives from Venus, the Roman goddess of love and beauty. A temple dedicated to her stood at the end of the promontory where the Church of San Pietro stands today.
Its origins date back to the 1st century BC, over time it was under Byzantine control and was partially destroyed by the Lombards around 643. In the following centuries the town was then used as a naval base by the Marine Republic of Genoa but also by France and Sardinia.
How to get there
It can be reached easily by bus (n. 11 / P from La Spezia), by car or by ferry from the port of La Spezia. It takes about 20 minutes by bus / car and about 30 by ferry. From the Cinque Terre / Levanto you can also take the ferry. If you like hiking, there is also a path that you can start from Riomaggiore. It takes 4 hours but it’s just amazing.
The Carugio is the main street of the town. In northern Italy, especially in Liguria, this term refers to narrow streets, typical of the Riviera. Following it, you will arrive at the Church of San Pietro.
A peculiarity of Porto Venere are precisely the houses arranged in parallel rows on the sea, which thus give life to the historic center arranged on small alleys one above the other.
The Church of San Pietro
The origins of the church date back to the 5th century. This peculiar construction stands out on a cliff at the end of a small promontory. Nowadays, couples from all over the world come here to celebrate their wedding. Its terrace is a fantastic point of view of the coast and the open sea.
The Doria Castle and the Church of San Lorenzo
The Doria castle overlooks the entire town, wrapping it in the walls that enclose the historic center. It was built during the occupation of the Maritime Republic of Genoa to defend the town from attacks from the sea around 1130. Today it is used for events and exhibitions, but it can be visited and offers a magnificent view from its panoramic terrace.
The church of San Lorenzo is located between the castle and the town center. It was built around 1120 in Roman style. It is also the sanctuary of the White Madonna, patron saint of the town.
This is the largest island in the gulf with an area of just 1.89 km2, yet it offers an enviable trekking route, some restaurants and magnificent beaches.
but it offers many trekking routes, some restaurants on both sides and beautiful pebble and sand beaches.
The Byron Cave
It is a natural inlet along the coast, under the Doria Castle. You can admire it from the church of San Pietro but also from the “beach” of rocks so loved by the locals which takes its name from this inlet. It is dedicated to Lord Byron, who apparently came in search of inspiration in our gulf.
Where and what to eat: if you are looking for a restaurant with typical cuisine and affordable prices, surely the Osteria del Carugio is the one for you! You will find it in the main street, about halfway.
You will find the best ice cream ever at the La Pitonetta ice cream parlor, at the beginning of the carugio. It has many flavors invented by the owner and all inspired by places in the gulf!
Trekking: I recommend that you give physical activity a chance and go around the Palmaria island! It offers a breathtaking view, immersed in the Mediterranean scrub with easy and clean paths. You can also admire Porto Venere from a different perspective and the island of Tino.
Source: Steep Steeps Cinque Terre Local Guide