Porto Venere, in the park where nature is poetry
The name of a goddess is fitting: Porto Venere rises from the waters in a splendid position at the southern end of the peninsula in the Gulf of Poets.
For lovers of the sea, this is a true paradise, among the UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Porto Venere Regional Natural Park includes the ancient village, the Protected Marine Area to protect the purity of the waters, and the three nearby islands: Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto.
The joys of the sea
Regular ferries departing from Porto Venere land on the island in front of Palmaria, a splendid marine oasis. You could be content with just a panoramic sea tour, admiring the other two islets in the archipelago, Tino and Tinetto, but it is worth stopping on Palmaria to enjoy an amazing day at sea.
The beaches here are among the most beautiful in Liguria.
Once on Palmaria, the ferry stops at Cala Pozzale and Cala Fornace, beaches that cannot be reached in any other way. In the first, the tongue of pebbles and small rocks is framed by pine and myrtle trees and the water is emerald, as it is also in the second, a bay with a cliff behind it. Larger is the Spiaggia del Secco, on the tip of the same name, equipped to provide every comfort.
For divers, the wonder continues in the seabed, a diverse world of sheer cliffs that continue into the depths and submerged caves. Seahorses, starfish and the Poseidonia prairie of aquatic plants are just some of the surprises you will encounter while diving. And all it takes is a simple mask to get lost among the fish.
By boat, you can visit the Blue Grotto, so called because the reflections of light paint a palette in all shades of blue.
If you wish to explore the interior of the island, you can set off along the well-maintained paths organised in loops for a total walking time of about 3.5 hours, with dry stretches alternating with patches of Mediterranean scrub.
Nature and architecture, allies in a magical setting
Porto Venere boasts a prestigious history, dating back to the 6th century BC, in Roman times. Here, nature meets architecture, because among the alleys and houses with their typical pastel colours are ancient testimonies of the many peoples who have passed through this strategic military and commercial port.
At St Peter's Church you will appreciate the two buildings, one more recent in Gothic style, the other Romanesque, and you will be amazed by the location. The complex is perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the sea, the Promontorio delle Bocche: a place surrounded by an atmosphere of spirituality enhanced by its natural setting. Look out from the loggia outside for a view of the coastline framed by the arches.
The Sanctuary of the Madonna Bianca, in the old town, is an imposing Romanesque masterpiece, and after visiting it, go up again to the highest point of Porto Venere with the Doria Castle, the fortification that watches over the sea.
An inspiring place: Byron's Cave
Without moving too far from the old town, Porto Venere offers small beaches to cool off with a dip.
The place not to be missed, however, is Byron's Grotto, near St Peter's Church, so named because the British poet found inspiration for his writing there. You can get there on foot via a footpath or by private boat. Jump in equipped with a mask and let yourself be captivated by this deep cavern carved out of an impressive cliff. Also observe the cave walls, rich in fascinating concretions.
In the evening, shopping and the pleasures of the table
A walk through the village is also an invitation to go shopping.
You will be attracted by the hand-painted silks and shawls of ancient tradition, the precious “mezzari” once used by local women to cover their heads and now reinvented in fashion.
Also interesting are the vibrantly coloured majolica tiles on sale in the many ateliers.
Then choose a restaurant, either with an intimate and romantic atmosphere in the old town or in movida style on the promenade characterised by the Palazzata: the row of tower-houses built on several floors clinging to each other against the rock.
When ordering, remember that Porto Venere is famous for its mussels, oysters, sea bass and sea bream, plus a species of shellfish named after the place. The mussels of Porto Venere, similar to mussels, are delicious fried or as a condiment for a dish of spaghetti.