The small port of Portovenere stands on a peninsula overlooking the Gulf of La Spezia on the eastern coastline of the Italian Riviera. It is a charming village notable for the colourful houses which surround its ancient fishing harbour. Thanks to its strategic location it has been settled by numerous peoples who have ruled the region since as far back as the first century BC.
Only passengers from small cruise ships can visit Portovenere directly as the port is far too small for large vessels. On arrival visitors can appreciate the beauty of this charming fishing village at a café on the waterfront then take a wander through the cobbled streets of the old town. The main attraction beyond the port is the five historic villages known as the Cinque Terre which are accessible by ferry from Portovenere. Other visitors may prefer to take a boat trip to the small islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto which lie just offshore and are included along with Portovenere on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Port of Portovenere
Portovenere can only cater for small cruise ships which anchor offshore then tender passengers to shore. All of the village is easily accessible on foot and the pier from where ferries depart for visits to the Cinque Terre is right next to where the tender boats arrive. Larger ships dock further north at La Spezia. Bus P-11 goes from Portovenere to La Spezia from where there are train services to the Cinque Terre.
Airport Transfers to Portovenere
If you’re flying into Italy then travelling to Portovenere there are two main airports to choose from. Genoa Airport lies 125km to the north-west whilst Pisa Airport lies 100km to the south-east. From both cities there are train services to La Spezia from where travellers can take a bus or taxi to Portovenere. Private transfers with Shuttledirect are a far more convenient option with services available from Genoa Airport and from Pisa Airport. Transport can be arranged directly to Portovenere or to La Spezia where most larger cruise ships usually dock.
Main Tourist Attractions
Portovenere doesn’t tend to get too crowded as many visitors simply use it as a destination from where they can take ferries along the coast to see the Cinque Terre. Those who don’t take the time to wander around this stunning fishing village dominated by colourful houses looking out to sea are missing out on one of the gems of the Italian Riviera.
Specific sights worth seeing include the Gothic Church of Saint Peter which was built on a former pagan temple dedicated to Venus and the Doria Castle whose ancient walls surround the historic centre. An important natural attraction is the sea cave known as Byron’s Grotto from where the English poet, Lord Byron, swam across the Gulf of La Spezia to visit his friend Shelley in San Terenzo in 1822.
Insider Tip: A lovely spot for an outdoor lunch is La Marina da Antonio (Piazza Marina, 6). Located on the seafront looking towards the island of Palmaria this long-established restaurant is one of the best around for enjoying excellent local seafood dishes.
Later that same year Shelley drowned in these waters when his sailing boat sank in these waters. If you visit in August be sure to look out for the annual Byron Cup swimming challenge which attracts many competitors keen to swim across the 7.5km ‘Bay of Poets’.
Shore Excursions Beyond Portovenere
Whilst Portovenere is a lovely town in its own right, for many visitors it simply serves as a gateway to the beautiful coastal villages of the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre. These colourful fishing villages standing beneath rocky sea cliffs have been recognised by UNESCO for being:
distinguished exemplars of the ways in which man has been able to model and transform the environment here, without, however, altering the beauty of the landscape.
Villages of the Cinque Terre
From east to west the five villages are as follows:
Riomaggiore is the closest of the villages which lies approximately 25km north-west of Portovenere by road. With its tower houses painted in pastel colours, its historic ‘centro storico’ and its quaint harbour it provides a simply stunning introduction to the Cinque Terre.
Manarola is best known for its excellent Sciachetrà wines which are cultivated on steep terraces overlooking the sea. The village itself is quite a remarkable sight as the local fishing boats are moored on the main street to protect them from the high winds which affect this coastline.
Corniglia stands high above the sea on a rocky clifftop. It is the most rural of the five villages where many of the local people are engaged in wine production from the vines which grow on terraces surrounding the village.
Vernazza is an ancient port reminiscent of how the Mediterranean used to be many decades ago. With its colourful houses surrounding the quaint fishing harbour and the Doria Castle high above the village, this is probably the favourite stop for many visitors.
Monterosso al Mare the largest of these picturesque villages. It is home to a charming historic centre and the beautiful Fegina Beach. It is well equipped for tourism, attracting many Italian holidaymakers to its tourist hotels.
Getting There: The most popular way to visit these villages is by taking a ferry from the pier in Portovenere. This service stops at all the villages except for Corniglia. Some days the sea can be very rough so if seasickness is a problem you’d be advised to take a bus or taxi to La Spezia (15km to the north) then visit the Cinque Terre by train. In addition, official excursions are usually made available by cruise lines.
About Shuttle Direct
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