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Portovenere is a medieval village on the Ligurian Riviera located south of the Cinque Terre, on the western shore of the promontory of the Gulf of La Spezia. This enchanting town will enchant you and is easily reachable with a maritime service from the Cinque Terre and with a bus service from La Spezia. It is not advisable to reach it by car, due to the scarcity of parking spaces in relation to the high number of tourists, especially in summer.
Together with the Cinque Terre and the three smaller islands, Portovenere has been included among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites for its extraordinary beauty and the wonderful views over the sea it offers. From the port of Portovenere, boats leave every day for the Cinque Terre and the three nearby islands: Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto.
The houses overlooking the port are very characteristic, tall, narrow with the typical colored facades of the Ligurian villages on the sea. Beautiful is the entrance through the medieval gate, but it will be even more beautiful to discover its monuments and its fantastic views.
Continuing the road, on the promontory overlooking the sea, there is the Church of San Pietro dating back to the 5th century built on an ancient Roman temple. To discover other beauties, you can go up to the castle to have other splendid views, until you reach the Sanctuary of the White Madonna.
The historic center of Portovenere is located above the seafront. It can be reached from the steep stairways that start from Via Calata Doria or by passing through the Porta del Borgo, the ancient access that has remained intact since the 12th century. After crossing the entrance of the door, you will be in the narrow main street of the historic center of the town, full of shops and shops.
After passing the street, you will find yourself in front of the large Piazza Spallanzani, in front of which, on the promontory, the Church of San Pietro is unmistakable.
The Church of San Pietro appears as a large building, perched on a spur overlooking the sea and made up of two buildings: one in ancient Romanesque style; the other Gothic, more recent. It was founded in the 13th century on the remains of an old pagan temple, which gave the town its original name: Portus Veneris.
The rather small church has three naves, with a beautiful white marble altar in plain sight. The motif of the facade is in black and white bands, as is the presbytery inside. Above one of the two side chapels rises the bell tower.
Do not miss the loggia located just outside the church. The view from the colonnade will be enchanting. Above the church you can enjoy another enchanting view towards the Ligurian coast.
The Grotta di Byron, or Grotta Arpaia, is located a few tens of meters from the Church of San Pietro and can be seen clearly from a cliff, which is accessed through a door in Piazza Spallanzani. This place attracts numerous tourists and bathers. Centuries ago it was inspired by the poet Lord Byron, from whom it takes its name.
The Doria Castle is located on the promontory just above the Byron Cave. It looks like a majestic fortress and connected to the village thanks to a mighty wall. The building, made up of two blocks, one lower and one upper, was built by the Republic of Genoa for the need to defend against enemy attacks. Under the Napoleonic rule, however, the Castle was used as a prison.
During the walk you will come across two cylindrical constructions, once used first as windmills and then as watchtowers.
In the ancient nucleus of Portovenere, just before going up to the Castle, there is the Sanctuary of the Madonna Bianca, in Piazza San Lorenzo, dating back to the 12th century. It has three naves, with large arches supported by columns of local black stone.
Inside the church you can admire several interesting works, including the painting of the White Madonna, protector of the village. According to tradition, this fresco came to Portovenere directly from the sea and freed the city from the plague in 1399.
The seafront, through Via Calata Doria, follows the center of the town in parallel and, via a staircase, you can directly reach Piazza Spallanzani without going through the center.
Moving away from the center, you can take the Aldo Moro promenade to the town beach. At the beginning of the walk, there is a terrace, from which it is possible to take a souvenir photo of the entire village.
Palmeria Island is the largest and closest of the three islands of Portovenere. Despite its smallness, this island was inhabited in ancient times and San Venerio was born here in 560 after Christ.
Interesting excursions can be made on the island, such as the one that leads to Forte Cavour and in search of marvelous panoramic visits from an altitude of nearly two hundred meters above sea level. There are numerous caves present, among which the most famous are the Blue Grotto and the Grotta dei Colombi.
The islands of Tino and Tinetto also preserve part of the history of the Portovenere area. However, they are open to visitors only on 13 September on the occasion of the feast of San Venerio.
Near the Doria Castle you can take the long path that leads to Riomaggiore, called the"Path of the infinite". This path, 12 kilometers long for about 5 hours of walking, passes by the Colle del Telegrafo and the Sanctuary of Montenero and offers magnificent views of the sea and the coast.