We got up early and had breakfast in the apartment – yogurt, raspberries and granola – with coffee and orange juice. After showering, we drove our little Mercedes 12km south of La Spezia to Portovenere. This historic fishing port perches on the romantic Golfo dei Poeti’s western promontory.
We parked in Zone 3; we didn’t know how far it was from the town, but we had read parking could be problematic. It turned out to be a 20-minute walk into town, all downhill.
Portovenere is often referred to as the sixth town of the Cinque Terre, but it’s not officially part of it. What a lovely town it was, not crowded at all. There were a couple of groups, but large Chinese tour groups were conspicuously absent. The town, a quintessential Ligurian seaside village, has colorful facades along a pedestrian-only calata (promenade). A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Portovenere’s harbor is lined with tall, thin terratetto houses that date as far back as the 11th century; they form a wall-like formation which at one time protected against attack by local pirates and the Pisans.
Tiny carruggi (alley-like passageways) lead to charming shops, homes and gardens, and up to the picturesque medieval Chiesa di San Pietro to the west.
Nearby, in a rocky area on the sea, is Grotto Arpaia, or Byron’s Cave, named after Lord Byron (1788-1824); this spot was one of the poet’s favorite spots for swimming out into the sea. Byron is said to have written Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage in Portovenere. He swam across the gulf to the village of San Terenzo, near Lerici, to visit his friend Percy Shelley (1792-1822).
It was hard to imagine anyone swimming here as the waves pounded the rocky coastline all along the coast here.
The famous cave eventually collapsed, but the disheveled rocky terraces remain stunningly beautiful.
We dropped into the dramatically situated Chiesa di San Pietro, a Gothic church built in 1198 on the site of a temple to Venus (Venere in Italian), from which Portovenere gets its name. It sits atop a solid mass of rock above the Grotto Arpaia, standing guard over the Mediterranean. Its black and white exterior make it a unique landmark from far out at sea and upon entering the village. We enjoyed a view of the Cinque Terre coastline from the front porch of the church.
Walking through the town, we passed San Lorenzo Church.
San Lorenzo Church was built between 1118 and 1130 by the Genoeses, after they purchased Portovenere. It was erected at the center of Portovenere as the official cathedral of the colony.
We also climbed up to Castello Doria, an impressive castle high on an olive-tree-covered hill. We had great views from the high point.
It was windy and cool and I had worn shorts and hadn’t brought a jacket, so I got a bit chilled and started feeling not so great.
We wandered back into town through the narrow carruggi, popping into enticing shops offering fresh pesto, pasta, herb packets, souvenirs, and olive oils.
We bought focaccia with olives and nibbled as we walked down to the waterfront. We also bought a jar of pasta and a package of Tagliatelle because we planned to make dinner in our apartment in the evening. I bought another scarf (surprise!) and a pair of funky earrings. We enjoyed cappucino at a waterfront cafe and realized time was running out on our parked car, so Mike sprinted uphill to fetch the car, while I walked quickly to the end of the promenade, past a red submarine and huge glitzy yachts to take pictures of the the town’s façade.
I started hiking the long road uphill to our car; luckily, Mike picked me up along the road. We drove back to the apartment in La Spezia, where we dropped our food and purchases, along with the car. Then we were off to the station to take the train to Manarola, one of the Cinque Terre towns we hadn’t seen the day before.
Portovenere was one of our most pleasant experiences in the Cinque Terre area because it wasn’t crowded and we had our car, so we didn’t have to depend on public transportation.
*Steps 17,972, or 7.62 miles* (including Manarola & La Spezia)
*Sunday, April 28, 2019 (first half-day)*
On Sundays, I post about hikes or walks that I have taken in my travels; I may also post on other unrelated subjects. I will use these posts to participate in Jo’s Monday Walks or any other challenges that catch my fancy.
This post is in response to Jo’s Monday Walk: Beja Blues.
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