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Small fishing boats, pastel-coloured houses and turquoise waters characterize Portovenere, a picturesque village between the sky and the sea. This small Ligurian fishing village in the province of La Spezia, south of the Cinque Terre, seems to have come out of the brush of a skilled painter. When you arrive in Portovenere, it feels like entering a fairy tale. The visit to Portovenere becomes a journey through the beauties of Italy, and all we need is a smartphone and a video camera to capture the magnificent views offered by this place. Portovenere is a perfect destination for a romantic holiday, but also for sportsmen and adventurers, for the possibility of trekking, climbing, water sports and boat trips.
Portovenere is the smallest of the villages in the province of La Spezia, located in the Gulf of Poets, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, together with the nearby Cinque Terre and the three islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto. The Gulf of Poets includes La Spezia, Lerici and Portovenere and owes its name to the numerous artists and writers who loved and mentioned these places and spent part of their lives there (Virgilio, Dante, Petrarca, Byron, Shelley, Lawrence, etc. ).
Between Lerice and Turbia the most deserted, the most broken ruin is a staircase, towards that, easy and open (Canto III of Purgatory by Dante Alighieri).
The name of the village derives from the temple of Venus Euricina, which stood where the Church of San Pietro now stands, in one of the most beautiful and picturesque places in Italy. In fact, this small and romantic church is located in the most extreme part of the promontory, on a cliff overlooking the sea. Legend has it that the goddess was born from the foam of the sea right under the promontory.
Visiting Portovenere is an experience of pure beauty, with the impression of always being inside an illustrated postcard, walking around the village or admiring the breathtaking views. The city is not big but compact, in half a day you can easily visit it, and you can even think about doing the “tour of the islands”. In fact, to frame this enchanted place, there are many beaches and the three famous islands La Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto.
As in other places in Liguria, first of all, Portofino, even in Portovenere, the facades of the houses facing the sea are coloured in pastel colours. Colour dominates in Portovenere, with the facades of the houses, the colourful boats and the thousand shades of blue of the sea, ranging from intense blue to bright turquoise. The best place to photograph the colourful facades is the pier, which can be reached from the main street.
The original fishing village was located in Piazza Spallanzani, but during the Lombard invasion, this was totally destroyed, and in the square today, we find only a few Roman remains. But the most evocative, most photographed and most Instagrammable point is undoubtedly the Church of San Pietro, whose images are known all over the world. Another place full of sacredness is the Sanctuary of Madonna Bianca, visited in all seasons by many people.
The Church of San Pietro is made up of two adjacent buildings of different architecture: the oldest in Romanesque style, and the other in Gothic style, dating back to the 13th century. From this mix of different styles derives a unique and magnificent monument, with its black and white stone facade and majestic bell tower.
Another imposing place that can be visited is the Doria Castle, whose fortress dominates the historic centre from above. The castle represents a typical example of Genoese military architecture and dates back to 1160. Its majestic and austere appearance testifies to the power of the Republic of Genoa. During the visit, the most interesting point is represented by the view of the sea.
It is a natural cavity of rare beauty, a jewel to be discovered, located between the castle and the Church of San Pietro, just west of the village. Many marine species, such as crustaceans, sea anemones and colourful fish, have found a home in this cave, which is also visited by snorkelers.
The cave has a minimum depth of 5 meters, a maximum of 20 meters, and a wall full of tiny crustaceans. His name derives from the English poet Lord Byron, who chose to spend some periods of his life in Portovenere. It is also said that he arrived at the cave, swimming for 8 kilometres, to meet his friend and colleague Shelley, who at that time was staying in nearby Lerici.
Along the path leading to Byron's Grotto, we can admire the bronze statue of Mater Naturae, created in the late 1980s by the sculptor Raffaele Scorzelli.
This beautiful church in Portovenere, also known as the Sanctuary of Madonna Bianca, was built in 1130 and modified several times. Inside it houses numerous works of art, the most famous of which is the painting on parchment of the Madonna Bianca. Legend has it that this painting came from the sea inside a cedar trunk from Lebanon; both the parchment and the cedar trunk are visible inside the church.
Palmaria Island is the largest archipelago compared to the islands of Tino and Tinetto. This island is much loved by the area's inhabitants and tourists for the beauty of nature and the clarity of the waters. While the eastern part of the island descends gently towards the sea and is covered by Mediterranean scrub, the western part is characterized by cliffs overlooking the sea, up to almost 200 meters high.
One of the most famous beaches on the island of Palmaria is Pozzale Beach, considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Liguria. The advice is to take a tour of the island, but also a tour around the island by boat, to admire the beauties it offers, such as the Blue Grotto and the Grotta dei Piccioni, which can only be reached by sea.
The island of Tino is located south of Palmaria and under the navy's jurisdiction, with restrictions and closures. It can only be visited on September 13th, the day of San Venerio, the island's patron saint, with organized excursions.
The island of Tinetto is very small. It could be better defined as a rock and houses the remains of the first monastic settlement, dating back to the sixth century.
While visiting Portovenere, admiring the crystal clear sea from above, and if the season permits, various small beaches and enchanting coves await you for a swim. Most of the beaches are made up of pebbles.
Calata Doria is the city beach, right next to the ferry terminal. It is recommended to stop here during the low season, as it can be overcrowded in the summer. Arenella Beach is located about 400 meters from the historic centre and overlooks the island of Palmaria. The free Spiaggia dell’Olivo is the most popular beach in Portovenere and has more convenient access to the sea.
The Sporting Beach is a classic equipped bathing establishment, which offers the possibility to rent sunbeds and umbrellas, to take an aperitif or have a full meal.
However, to experience the sea in the most classic sense, it is necessary to go as far as the island of Palmaria, where the most beautiful and wild beaches are located: Pozzale Beach, Cala Fornace and Spiaggia del Secco.
At the end of the visit to Portovenere, your eyes will be full of wonder. You will carry with you, in the drawers of your memories, the colours of the facades of the buildings, the sound of the sea, the scent of the Mediterranean scrub, the taste of Ligurian focaccia, which is prepared in ancient shops ... and all your senses will be satisfied in the best of ways. So do not miss the visit to Portovenere, the picturesque village between the sky and the sea!
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