Visiting Porto Venere when staying in Levanto? A great idea!
Levanto is situated in a very comfortable position to visit many of the better (or lesser) known Ligurian towns, including Cinque Terre. Through our new series of articles on the surroundings of Levanto, last month we showed you around Portofino; this time, we will take you to Porto Venere.
Porto Venere needs little introductions, having been nominated World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997, along with Cinque Terre and the islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto. Despite being the smallest municipality in the whole province of La Spezia, there are several reasons not to miss it.
In this post we will show you its main attractions.
Visiting Porto Venere from Levanto
The first thing to know is that it is not possible to reach Porto Venere by train. You can get there by bus, ferry, car or … hiking!
During summer, a very suggestive way to reach Porto Venere from Levanto is by ferry, but at the moment the timetables for 2018 are not yet available. For more information you can call the number +39 0187 732987 or consult the official website Navigazione Golfo dei Poeti.
If you decide to reach Porto Venere via public transportation, the matter becomes more complicated: you have to switch between a train and two buses. The first route is Levanto – La Spezia by train, the next one by bus from the train station to via Chiodo in La Spezia and finally La Spezia – Porto Venere, also by bus.
If you have a car, you can reach Porto Venere through a winding road, but be aware that there are no free parking spaces: the more parking is close to the city, the higher the rates get. Some free parking spaces are located outside Porto Venere, connected to the town by a shuttle.
Finally, if you are a true hiker, you can reach Porto Venere from Levanto after about 12 hours of walking!
What to see
Porto Venere, located on a peninsula on the Riviera di Levante south of La Spezia, overlooks the romantic Gulf of Poets that reaches up to Lerici and is a maritime village of very ancient origins. The reasons that push thousands of people to visit it every year go from the unspoilt nature of the hills and beaches to the sea with crystalline reflections, passing by the architectural beauties of the historic center.
Because of its position so exposed on the sea, Porto Venere was constantly plundered by Saracen and Norman pirates; at the beginning of the 20th century it assumed the appearance of the village that we know today, with an exclusive VIP tourism. It is impossible not to remember that, among the many illustrious holiday-makers who have stayed there, there is the English author Lord Byron, to whom a cave is dedicated.
To enter the historic center of Porto Venere you pass through the Porta del Borgo, from where the main artery of the village, via Cappellini, starts. Along the street there are shops selling local products and crafts. You can also eat in some characteristic restaurants. The colorful houses that overlook the sea form the so-called “Palazzata”, made of ancient buildings lying on the rock.
Among the iconic places that best describe Porto Venere, one is certainly the famous Church of St. Peter, perched on a promenade overlooking the sea. The church, which can be reached via a very scenic staircase, is very old, well preserved and is accessible for sightseeing.
Another noteworthy church is that of St. Lawrence (also known as Santuario della Madonna Bianca), built between 1118 and 1130 and subjected to frequent restoration. It is located in the town close to Castle Doria. On August 17th the Madonna Bianca, saint patron of Porto Venere, is celebrated with a town feast.
The Castle of Porto Venere is the ancient and majestic fortress of the Doria family and is one of the main attractions of the village. The castle is accessible for sightseeing and from the top of its keep you can admire the beautiful landscape. Between the Doria Castle and the Church of St. Peter are the so-called “mills”, two cylindrical constructions used in past centuries both as windmills and as watchtowers.
Another well-known place in Porto Venere is Grotta Arpaia, close to the church of St. Peter and indicated by a plaque. It is also known as the Byron Cave in honor of the English author.
The islands facing Porto Venere
Near Porto Venere there are three islands: Palmaria, the largest island of the La Spezia Archipelago located in front of the village of Porto Venere, Tino and Tinetto.
Palmaria is separated from Porto Venere by a narrow stretch of sea called “le bocche” (i.e. mouths) and can be reached via the ferries that leave from the port of Porto Venere. The island is inhabited and is characterized by typical Mediterranean vegetation, pristine beaches and few scattered buildings. Refreshments can also be found here.
The island of Tino is located in the south of the island of Palmaria and is a military area, which is why access to the island is allowed only twice a year: on the 13th of September for the feast of St. Venerio and the Sunday thereafter. Tinetto, on the other hand, is the smallest island of the gulf, just a little more than a rock, and is devoid of vegetation but preserves traces of the presence of religious communities.