The Church of St Peter, also know as the church of teh fishermen.
With its wonderful black and white fa├žade is a wonderful and popular setting for wedding cerimonies.

Speaking about Liguria, everyone would immediately think at Portofino or The wonderful UNESCO Heritage area of Cinque Terre, but not many would think at La Spezia halfway between Genoa and Florence on the Ligurian coast. Instead Porto Venere is an unmissable destination.

Porto Venere is a wonderful fishermen town located on the Ligurian coast of Italy in the province of La Spezia. It comprises the three villages of Fezzano, Le Grazie and Porto Venere, and the three islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto. It is very close to the beautiful area of Cinque Terre and in 1997 Porto Venere and the villages of Cinque Terre were designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

The village lies at the southern end of a peninsula, which, breaking away from the jagged coastline of the Riviera di Levante, forms the western shore of the Gulf of La Spezia Gulf, or also known as the Poets. The beaches of the area are very popular, with a water crystal clear and the strong current of the Ligurian Sea.

The typical fishermen's houses along the sea front.Note the similarity with the houses of the Cinque Terre villages.
Why to visit Porto Venere?

Well, if photos are not enough, here a short list of what to see in Porto Venere, just to give you an idea of why to go there:
  • Church of St. Peter: The Gothic Church of St. Peter, consecrated in 1198. It was built over a pre-existing 5th century Palaeo-Christian church, which had rectangular plan and semicircular apse. The new part, from the 13th century, is marked externally by white and black stripes.
  • The Romanesque church of St. Lawrence, erected in 1098 by the Genoese. It probably occupies the site of ancient temple dedicated to Jupiter. The church was damaged by a fire in 1340 and by the Aragonese attack in 1494, and was further restored in 1582.
  • The Doria Castle with the walls around the historic center.
  • The Grotta dell'Arpaia (now collapsed), known as Byron's Grotto, from which the English poet Byron swam across the gulf of La Spezia to San Terenzo to visit Shelley in Lerici, in 1822.
  • The medieval nucleus of Le Grazie is set around the 14th-century Church of Our Lady of the Graces; nearby is a medieval convent, which once belonged to the Olivetans, and the remains of the 1st century BCE Roman villa of Varignano. Finds from recent excavations at the villa are held in the Antiquarium della Villa Romana del Varignano in Porto Venere.
  • In Fezzano the medieval alleyways are noteworthy, along with the church of St. John the Baptist (1740) and the recently restored Villa Cattaneo.
Promenade to St Peter's Church along the old walls
Porto Venere is a wonderful place for a day trip all year. You can walk along the sea front or dine in one of the many fish restaurants along the bay. You can taste the famous Ligurian Pesto, the olives, the cheese or just take an aperitive at sunset. L'Isola Plamaria offers a wonderful trip if you want to escape the hordes of tourist invading the little town at weekends.

Among the natural places in the Porto Venere is the famous sea caves Byron (Cala dell'Arpaia), Azzurra or Blue Cave (semi-submerged) and Tinetto. The Byron's cave, named after the English poet George Gordon Byron in this place that drew inspiration and meditation for his literary works, it is located at the spur of rock below the church of St. Peter and the old defensive position.

The bay beloved by the poet Byron
Here some practical tips for you:

I. You can visit Porto Venere on a day trip from the beautiful area of Cinque Terre where I suggest you to make your base for discovering Porto Venere.

II. If you want to stay longer plan to stay in Porto Venere one or two nights and visit also the Isola Palmaria just in front of Porto Venere.

III. Be aware that accommodation in Porto Venere is very expensive!

IV. Plan to stay longer in Porto Venere if you want to enjoy great restaurants and a nice beach!

View of the Bay
V. Porto Venere is not connected by train. So unless you are travelling by car you would have to take a bus from La Spezia. In summer check out for seasonal boat trips from Cinque Terre and La Spezia (We want to add web links to some reliable companies to this post).

VI. Don't walk just along the sea front, try to explore the narrow streets on the back of the village.

VII. Porto Venere is very busy at weekends and parking places are very difficult to be found. Avoid visiting at weekends!
Wonderful sunset on Porto Venere
IX. Don't miss the experience of a great aperitive at sunset in a balmy summer evening! Unforgettable!

X. Plan some trips in the area, for example to nearby Cinque Terre or Florence in the heart of Tuscany.

Aperitive at Porto Venere: a must.
XI. Read more about Italy posts, destinations and useful info to plan you visit on our page Visit Italy