Portovenere is a beautiful little town, located near the Cinque Terre, which is why the Italians call it "Sesta Terre", meaning the sixth village. Like the Cinque Terre villages, Portovenere is built in steps, with tall buildings and colorful facades, and has the advantage of being quieter and less populated by tourists. Personally, I found it just as charming as the Cinque Terre villages, and the fact that it's not so touristy seems to give it a greater touch of authenticity.
Portovenere is located in the bay of La Spezia, which is also known as the Bay of Poets, due to the fact that over time, it magnetically attracted and was a source of inspiration for poets such as Petrarch, Dante, Byron, or Shelley.
If you're going on vacation in the Cinque Terre, it would be a shame not to make a stop in Portovenere as well. It's a place with typical Italian streets, a relaxed atmosphere, and some tourist attractions worth visiting.
How do you get to Portovenere?
If you stayed in La Spezia, you can reach Portovenere by boat or bus. We tried both. From La Spezia to Portovenere I took bus P which took half an hour. The price of the trip was 2.5 euros, and I bought the tickets in a tobacco shop. You can also buy them from the driver, specifying that if you opt for this option, the price will be double.
You should also know that the road to Portovenere is full of serpentines, so if you have motion sickness, you better say step.
On the way back, I took the ferry from Portovenere to La Spezia. For one trip I paid 8 euros, and the time spent at sea was almost equal to the journey by bus. The walk was pleasant. We caught the sunset at sea and on this occasion, we also saw the port of La Spezia.
If you have stayed in one of the Cinque Terre villages, then you can reach Portovenere by ferry from any of the villages.
How long are you staying and what are you visiting in Portovenere?
The first tourist attraction you see when you come to Portovenere is the Church of San Pietro which rises on a rock, at the end of the cliff. It seems more lonely, but once you get closer, you realize that most of the tourists who come to Portovenere cross its threshold.
The church has an extremely simply decorated interior and a small balcony through whose arches you can gaze to your heart's content, the sea. And if you want to start your adventure through Portovenere with a visit to San Pietro, you also have the advantage that until you reach it, you cross the entire seafront, which is beautifully landscaped with benches and terraces where you can stop to eat.
Near the church you can find Byron's Grotto, the place from where it is said that the poet, being a more rebellious nature, would have swum across the sea to the town of Lerici, to visit the poet Shelley, with whom he was a friend.
The grotto is actually a rocky cliff with dark rocks, a place that, when it is not very populated, really invites meditation. I say this because the grotto was also where Byron used to come to retreat.
From Byron's Grotto, the road leads to another objective - Doria Castle. Paraphrasing the saying "all roads lead to Rome", in Portovenere all roads lead to Doria Castle.
It is located at the highest point of the city, and to get there, you don't need too many directions. From wherever you are, you just have to start climbing the streets that come your way and you will surely reach the castle.
I recommend that you go up to Doria Castle even if you are not a fan of ruins or historical walls because from there you will have a superb view of the bay and the church of San Pietro. Also at the castle, you can also find a small park with benches, where you can relax looking at the sea.
On the way down you can make a stop at the Church of San Lorenzo, much less visited than the "star" on the rock, then I recommend you take a walk from one end to the other on Via Capellini, a gorgeous street with colorful buildings and many souvenir shops.
And if you want to extend your stay in Portovenere, you can take a boat ride around the 3 nearby islands: Tino, Tinetto, and Palmaria. The trip lasts 40 minutes, costs 13 euros, and if you get on board, you have the opportunity to admire the beauty of the surroundings from the water.
We visited Portovenere on the last day of our Cinque Terre holiday and although the weather was not on our side and it was more cloudy, we were happy to discover new places and spend a little more time near the sea.
So, when you get to Cinque Terre, maybe make time for the little Portovenere, which will reward you for your visit with beautiful experiences.
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