What to see in Portovenere

PortoVenere, la perla del Golfo dei Poeti-porticciolo-palazzata al mare-Golfo dei Poeti-Porta del Borgo-Torre Capitolare-Castello Doria

What to See and Experience in the UNESCO Heritage Village, Portovenere: The Pearl of the Gulf of Poets

Are you planning a trip to Liguria but uncertain about which places to visit? Read on to discover what to see in Portovenere and incorporate it into your itinerary.

Portovenere, a charming village in the Gulf of Poets just a few kilometers from La Spezia, derives its name from an ancient temple dedicated to Venus on its promontory. According to tradition, the goddess was born from the foam created by the waves crashing on the rocks. Renowned for its architectural beauty and panoramic views combining sea and picturesque hillsides, Portovenere has become a favorite destination for tourists and a UNESCO World Heritage site, alongside the Cinque Terre. Let’s explore the reasons behind its success!

Parking Tips

Our journey begins with a practical tip! If you can’t do without a car, consider parking in areas farther from the historic center. Not only are they cheaper, but the stroll along the promenade offers splendid views. If you’re staying in nearby villages, take a bus from La Spezia or a ferry from the Cinque Terre or Lerici.

What to See in Portovenere: Capitol Tower, Borgo Gate, and San Lorenzo Church

Approaching the harbor, you’ll notice the walls that largely encircle the village, built by the Genoese during the 12th-century wars with Pisa. These walls, along with old houses and narrow alleys, transport you almost a thousand years back in time.

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Borgo Gate (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

Before entering the ancient part of the village, take a moment to admire the imposing Capitol Tower, softened by mullioned and trilobed windows on its four faces. To enter the historic center, cross the main gate, called Borgo Gate. It bears an inscription, Colonia Januensis AN 1113, and an alcove on the inner facade features a fresco of the Madonna Bianca, the town’s patron saint.

Entering the old town, you’ll be immersed in a unique and evocative atmosphere, urging you to explore the alleys and numerous staircases. Wandering through Portovenere’s narrow streets, the pearl of the Gulf of Poets, you’ll reach San Lorenzo Church, a beautiful Romanesque church built in 1130. Located in an exceptional panoramic area, it offers stunning views and a park for relaxation.

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Panorama of the Gulf of Poets from the Church of San Lorenzo (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

What to See in Portovenere: Doria Castle and San Pietro Church

A few steps away is Doria Castle, a massive fortress dominating the village and reflecting the Genoese attachment to this port. It is now open for visits and hosts numerous art exhibitions throughout the year, providing views of the Gulf and lush Palmaria Island.

Descending towards the harbor, you’ll encounter the remains of two cylindrical watchtowers, once used as windmills. Here, the breathtaking view of the promontory with San Pietro Church perched on it will leave you speechless. Surrounded on three sides by crystalline sea and waves crashing on the rocks below, it’s a truly romantic spot, inspiring poets like Petrarca, Montale, and especially Lord Byron, who found refuge in the nearby Arpaia Cave to pen his verses.

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Church of San Pietro in Portovenere seen from the Mills (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

Although the church appears castle-like from the sea, a closer look reveals its characteristic Genoese Gothic style with alternating bands of white and black stones. Adding to its charm is a beautiful portico providing a splendid view of the Cinque Terre.

Returning to the harbor along the walls, you’ll reach Palazzata a Mare, a row of colorful old houses built partly on the waterfront and partly on the rock, with the main street of Portovenere running parallel to it.

What to See in Portovenere: Excursions and Paths Beyond the Historic Center

After exploring the historic center of Portovenere, if you’re not tired, consider the “Island Tour,” a boat trip around Palmaria, Tino, and Tinetto islands, revealing their wild nature and caves. Alternatively, visit the Roman Villa of Varignano in the Le Grazie district, showcasing the area’s ancient history.

For longer stays and hiking enthusiasts, two spectacular trails await: The Periplo dell’Isola Palmaria, winding along coastal paths, and CAI Path 1, leading from Portovenere to Campiglia, offering breathtaking views of forests and cliffs diving into the sea. The Palmaria Island is also the protagonist of a curious legend that talks about its origins. Read it in our article!

The Gulf of Poets is often chosen by tourists as a starting point for excursions to the art cities of nearby Tuscany.

Certainly, during your stay in Portovenere, the Pearl of the Gulf of Poets, you’ll want to savor the excellent culinary offerings this village provides. Continue reading to discover them with us!

What to Eat in Portovenere: Mussels, Fish, and Delicious Sweets

Portovenere, the Pearl of the Gulf of Poets, boasts seafood restaurants offering excellent dishes in a magnificent atmosphere.

Menus feature stuffed mussels, carpione-style boghe (a dish highlighting the typical Gulf fish), fresh grilled and baked fish, accompanied by exquisite first courses like risotto or linguine with seafood. Pair them with a glass of Cinque Terre DOC. For dessert or a souvenir, try the “spungata,” a simple baked sweet with a filling of jam enriched with nuts, honey, herbs, and spices.

Now that you know what to eat and, most importantly, what to see in Portovenere, you can seamlessly integrate it into your Ligurian exploration itinerary. If you’re considering staying a few nights, click here to discover the best accommodations at the best prices!


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Article Name
What to see in Portovenere
"Planning a trip to Liguria? Discover what to see in Portovenere for an unforgettable experience! Explore the charm of this UNESCO gem."
Publisher Name
La Scimmia Viaggiatrice

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