Portovenere: what to see, where to eat and what to do in the evening

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Joel Fulleda

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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Among the many pearls that Liguria offers, Portovenere is by far one of the most popular.
It is located in the Gulf of Poets, a short distance from La Spezia and Tuscany, this picturesque fishing village it attracts thousands of tourists all year round, also thanks to its position, in close contact with the famous Cinque Terre.

Her exciting views and dazzling scenarios over the centuries they have attracted artists such as Montale, Wagner and Lord Byron, who chose it as their destination for their stays.
Its beauties, its position, its colors, the ancient churches, the picturesque islands and the numerous caves, have earned it the recognition of Unesco World Heritage Site.

It is said that the name derives from a temple dedicated to the goddess Venus Ericina, which was located exactly in the place where the church of San Pietro stands today.

It is a jewel to be discovered and admired, the perfect destination in any season of the year, here's what to see in Portovenere, where to eat and what to do in the evening!


  1. 10 things to see in Portovenere in a weekend
  2. What to see in Portovenere in one day: recommended itinerary
  3. Where to eat in Portovenere: the best restaurants
  4. What to do in the evening: the nightlife areas and the best clubs in Portovenere
  5. Plan your stay in Portovenere: info and useful tips
  6. User questions and comments

10 things to see in Portovenere in a weekend

1 - Church of San Pietro

A black and white bands, is the business card with which Portovenere presents itself to those coming by ferry from Riomaggiore.

Perched on a spur overlooking the sea, is made up of two buildings: one in Romanesque style, ancient and the other Gothic, more recent. It was built in 1198 on the remains of an old pagan temple, which gave the town its name: Portus Veneris.

Small, bare and very simple, the church of San Pietro fascinates precisely for its linearity. The entrance is on the left side.
Do not miss the loggia located just outside the church; from the windows the view is breathtaking!

The church is the "Christian temple" mentioned by Eugenio Montale in a poem dedicated to Porto Venere.

  • via Via Calata Doria: about 700 meters, 5 minutes on foot - Get directions
  • 9: 30-12: 30/16: 00-18: 00, closed on Mondays
  • € 2,00

2 - Palazzata a Mare

By land or by sea, it is the first thing you see as soon as you arrive in the village.
A long wall of tall and narrow houses, leaning against each other and dyed in pastel tones, overlooking the sea.

Color, history and tradition. All in a single glimpse. The tones of Liguria and its main features are all represented in this palette that never tires the visitor's eye.

The amazing Portovenere skyline, the one that appears in all the photos and that is reproduced on all kinds of souvenirs.

To make a beautiful photograph, we recommend that you go to the Aldo Moro promenade and immediately turn right, ending up on the pier. This is the perfect vantage point!

  • from Portovenere terminus 200 meters on foot following Via Calata Doria - Get directions
  • always accessible
  • free

3 - Porta del Borgo and historic center

The historical center it develops parallel to the seafront. The ancient access, which has remained intact since the th century, is represented by the so-called Porta del Borgo.

Crossing the door you are faced with the typical Ligurian urban scenario made of narrow, somewhat steep streets, the so-called caruggi, where the sun's rays penetrate only partially because they are covered by the tall houses leaning against each other, in pastel tones.

Here, the beauty is stroll aimlessly, get lost in the alleys and be surprised by delightful squares that suddenly peep out. But the historic center is also the hub of the commercial life of the country: in fact there are numerous souvenir shops, artisan shops, bars, focaccerie, fry shops and so on.

Without forgetting the picturesque views that you will meet every time you turn your gaze!

  • you can get there on foot via the steep stairways that start from Via Calata Doria, or by passing through the Porta del Borgo - Get directions
  • always accessible
  • free

4 - Church of San Lorenzo

One of the two main churches of the country. The Church of San Lorenzo was built by the Genoese in 1130 in a dominant position over the town.

In Romanesque style, it has three naves, with large arches supported by columns of local black stone. It was remodeled and rebuilt several times following fires and enemy attacks.

Inside you can admire interesting works including the painting of the White Madonna, protector of the village, who saved the country from the plague. According to legend, this miraculous painting arrived in Portovenere directly from the sea, inside a well sealed tree trunk.

The Church is also called the Sanctuary of the White Madonna.

  • In the ancient nucleus of Portovenere, just before going up to the castle - Get directions
  • accessible during the hours of the Holy Mass
  • free

5 - Doria Castle

It stands on a rocky hill and was built by the Genoese around 1500.
Place above everything, dominates the town and the sea and represents one of the most powerful and majestic military architectures that the Republic of Genoa built in eastern Liguria.

Her defensive importance it is still clear today in observing its profile that stands out from afar, arriving in Portovenere.

La extraordinary location it is the added value for every visitor who, once they have reached their destination, can enjoy a wonderful view.

During the uphill walk to reach it, you will come across the remains of some watchtowers, in the past used as windmills.

  • from the Church of San Lorenzo, walk up for 30 meters along Salita al Castello - Get directions
  • 10:30AM - 18:30PM
  • € 5,00

6 - Lord Byron's cave

A few meters from the Church of San Pietro opens the Arpaia cave, better known as Lord Byron's Grotto, in honor and memory of the English artist who, in this very place, drew inspiration and meditation for his literary works.

An opening in the rock contains one white plate which states:
"This inspiring cave of Lord Byron recalls the immortal poet who brave swimmer braved the waves of the sea from Portovenere to Lerici".

The staircase leading to the cave it is immersed in a natural setting fabulous.
Leaving the cave, just on the left, there is a Junoesque statue that depicts Mother Nature.

  • 2 minutes walk from the Church of San Pietro (less than 100 meters) - Get directions
  • Timetables: always accessible
  • free

7 - Fort of Muzzerone

Imposing fortification built around 1876 on top of Mount Muzzerone.

With the original function of anti-naval battery, the building, perfectly intact, is still today used by the Navy for training. The building has an irregular plan, is surrounded by the moat only on 2 sides and is built on a vertical overhang that reaches up to sea level.

To reach the Fort Muzzerone you have to go along a simple trekking about 40 minutes which includes a short but steep climb, then you pass the deep Sella dei Derbi and climb up to the small town of Campiglia with ever wider views.

The first part of the path takes place in an extremely suggestive environment, on the cliffs overlooking the sea that make up the tip of the Portovenere peninsula.

  • path n. 1 starting from Piazza Bastreri - Get directions
  • the path is always accessible but the fort cannot be visited
  • free

8 - Shrine of Our Lady of Grace

It is a wonderful church surrounded by olive trees and with breathtaking sea view.

In 1389 the monks of Monte Oliveto from the island of Tino settled in this area and began the construction of a convent surrounded by olive groves. The building was built on two floors and subsequently expanded to reach the maximum expansion of the th century. In this ancient monastery, adjacent to the church, it is possible to admire splendid fifteenth-century frescoes by the painter Nicolò Corso, accidentally rediscovered in the former refectory in 1902.interior is in Gothic style with arched vaults. Above the altar the portrait of the Madonna delle Grazie dominates, but there are also other paintings and a copy of the Shroud.

The simple facade it can be reached via a beautiful staircase.

  • Via Libertà in the hamlet of Le Grazie. From Portovenere Bus terminal n. 11 towards Scarciara Superiore; Varignano stop - Get directions
  • always accessible
  • free

9 - Tour of the islands

Exactly in front of the village there is a small archipelago and marine natural park consisting of three islands also included by Unesco as a World Heritage Site.
The island Palmaria is the closest to the coast and can be easily reached with a service of small boats that from the port of Portovenere touch its coasts after only a few minutes of crossing.

The Tino is military territory; it can be visited only once a year on the occasion of the feast of San Venerio. The Tinetto is the size of a rock or little more.

Very interesting is theexcursion boat which allows you to admire the nature, caves and rock formations of the archipelago.

  • both boats and smaller boats leave from the port of Portovenere - Get directions
  • Every day, from April 1st to November 2nd. Ferry departure times: 12:00 and 15:00
  • € 12,00

10 - Tower of Portovenere

Close to the ancient city walls and the promenade that leads to the seafront, in the old part of the village, is the Torre di Porto Venere.
A sixteenth-century structure once used for military purposes and which offers a beautiful 360 ° view of the Gulf of Poets.

After a military past, the structure was used as a residential structure during the 800th century and today it has some rooms where you can stay.

  • in the historic center, close to the ancient city walls and the promenade towards the sea - Get directions
  • today it has become private property as it has been transformed into a Bed & Breakfast

What to see in Portovenere in one day: recommended itinerary

Breakfast at the Zurich Bar (€ 3,50); take the uphill to visit the symbols of Portovenere: the delicious Church of San Pietro overlooking the sea and then the Arpaia cave, better known as Lord Byron's.
Take Via Mulini and in 200 meters you will reach the Castle Doria, a mighty fortification, today a beautiful vantage point. Along the way, you will encounter watchtowers, formerly used as windmills.

Eat a frying cone or a fish sandwich at Anciuà (€ 7,00), stroll on the marina admiring the scenographic Palazzata a Mare and, by 15:00, embark for the tour of the islands by boat which allows you to admire the nature, caves and rock formations of the small archipelago and marine natural park consisting of the three islands: Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto.

Upon returning, immerse yourself in the typical atmosphere of Old Town crossing the Porta del Borgo. Visit the Church of San Lorenzo, also known as the Sanctuary of the White Madonna and then stroll through the alleys, admire the colorful facades of the tall and narrow houses and take a look at the little shops selling handicrafts.

Dinner at the Antica osteria del Carugio (€ 40,00).

One day itinerary at a glance

  1. Breakfast at Bar Zürich
  2. Church of San Pietro (9: 30-12: 30 and 16: 00-18: 00, closed on Mondays, € 2,00)
  3. Lord Byron's cave
  4. Castello Doria (10: 30-18: 30, free)
  5. Lunch at Anciuà
  6. Marina
  7. Palazzata a Mare
  8. Tour of the islands (from April 1st to November 2nd every day; ferry departure 12:00 and 15:00, € 12,00)
  9. Porta del Borgo and historic center
  10. Church of San Lorenzo (accessible during the hours of the Holy Mass)
  11. Dinner at Antica osteria del Carugio

Where to eat in Portovenere: the best restaurants

  1. The Mouths: restaurant with sea view, well-kept location that offers fish-based dishes served between rattan chairs and wooden tables.
    Average price per person: € 45,00
    Address and contacts: via Calata Doria, 102 (Get directions) / tel: 0187 790622
  2. Anciùa: small but delightful place that offers an extensive list of sandwiches. The best are the "sea" sandwiches. The anchovy and mullet frittini are also excellent.
    Average price per person: € 5,00
    Address and contacts: via cappellini, 40 (Get directions) / tel: 331 7719605
  3. Ancient tavern of Carugio: location with attention to the smallest details. High quality products and dishes revisited with the right balance
    Average price per person: € 40,00
    Address and contacts: via Capellini, 66 (Get directions) / tel: 0187 790617

What to do in the evening: the nightlife areas and the best clubs in Portovenere

Nightlife is mostly made up of walks along the promenade, aperitifs and comings and goings between bars, wineries, breweries and a good ice cream to be enjoyed after a typical dinner. All concentrated mostly close to the sea.

If you want to spend an evening dancing you have to head mostly towards Santa Margherita Ligure or La Spezia; in high season, even in Portovenere itself you can go wild in the improvised discos on the beach that often organize theme nights.

The best pubs, clubs and discos

  • Venus Bar Portovenere: magnificent venue located inside the Grand Hotel Portovenere but freely usable. Excellent aperitifs. They organize tasting events and jazz music evenings.
    Address: via Garibaldi, 5 (Get directions)
  • The Vineyard of Neptune: captivating location overlooking the harbor specialized in aperitifs.
    Address: piazza Darsena, 18 (Get directions) / Facebook page
  • Tower of Venus: lounge bar in a very suggestive location. Wide variety of exclusive long drinks, cocktails and mixes, prepared with fresh and top quality natural products.
    Address: piazza Lazzaro Spallanzani, 3 (Get directions) / Facebook page

Plan your stay in Portovenere: info and useful tips

  • car not recommended for parking problems. A valid alternative is to leave the car in La Spezia and take the 11 / P bus which reaches Portovenere in about 30 minutes (€ 2,50), or by ferry the route from La Spezia runs from late March to early November (€ 6,00)
  • Getting around: a small town and almost all pedestrian; the best way to experience it is to visit it on foot
  • Where to park: Portovenere Zona P1 car park, between the town and Arenella (€ 3,00 / 1h); Zone P2, between the Arenella and the second Olivo street (€ 2,50 / 1h); Zone P3, between Salita Cavo and Via Garibaldi (€ 2,00 / 1h). Alternatively, leave your vehicle in La Spezia and take bus 11 / P, you will arrive in 30 min
  • Hotel and b & b starting from € 91,00 per room -
  • What to see in the surroundings: Cinque Terre, archaeological site of Varignano, Lerici, La Spezia

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