Portovenere is a small town in the province of La Spezia in the Liguria region. Romantic coastal town par excellence, frequented by thousands of foreign tourists, Italians, and many celebrities for the beauty of its “Golfo dei Poeti”.
Portovenere is famous for its beauties: the Doria Castle, colorful houses, churches and picturesque islands with numerous caves. Along with the Cinque Terre, this area has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
In this post I will tell you the highlights to visit in Portovenere in one or two days.
Portovenere is famous for the incredible beauty of its historic center and the fortress overlooking the gulf, and of course for its beautiful coastline, beach, restaurants, bars, venues, Mediterranean perfumes, and flavors. The symbol of the city of Portovenere is the Church of San Pietro, located on the cliff of the rocky peninsula. This church is one of the main attractions of the city.
Portovenere’s historic center is slightly elevated compared to the port area and preserves evidence of its ancient past. Crossing the walls of the historic center of Portovenere you reach the highest point where the castle is located: from here you enter the town through the medieval gate and the tower.
What to see in Portovenere
There are several places to visit in Portovenere, above all the church of San Pietro, a true jewel of Portovenere. It is a Gothic-style church built in the 10th century; the polychrome marble interiors and pointed arches are truly evocative. Another important religious building is the church of the Madonna Bianca, a sanctuary located between the castle and the church of San Pietro. The church was built in the 10th century in Romanesque style and polychrome marble. Many interiors are original from the construction period.
The jewel of Portovenere is precisely its castle, a magnificent fortress located at the highest point of the village in a dominant position on the sea. The Doria fortress was built during the Genoese Republic in the 10th century and later expanded over the centuries. While Fort Cavour dates from the 19th century and was built during the kingdom of Sardinia to expand the defense together with Castle Doria and Fort Umberto I, it is located on the island of Palmaria a few kilometers from the city of Portovenere.
Another point of interest that deserves to be visited is on the nearby island of Tinetto: it is the complex of the early Christian oratory with an adjoining church. Also on this island is the San Venerio lighthouse located in the upper part of the island and built in the 19th century.
Portovenere old town
You can enter the medieval area of Portovenere through its ancient gate, with a Latin inscription from 1113, the year PortoVenere was subjected to Genoa. To the left of the door are Genoese measures of capacity dating back to 1606. Via Capellini, a typical Genoese carruggio, the main street, is lined with shops and restaurants. It is the best area to eat and enjoy the typical flavors, this area runs parallel to the coast and leads to the esplanade of San Pietro. The inner part of the city is connected by very steep and vaulted stairs, called “capitoli”. The houses facing the sea have two entrances from via Cappellini, one low on the beach, for boats, and another high, from the road, for the house. The continuous constructions also served as a wall and were integrated into the defensive system; that is why they are never interrupted by road crossings.
Church of San Lorenzo
In the old nucleus of Portovenere, just before going up to the Castle, this is one of the two main churches of the town. The Genoese built the Church of San Lorenzo in 1130 and has undergone several renovations throughout its history.
It has three naves, with large arches supported by columns of local black stone. Inside the church, you can admire several interesting works, including the painting of the White Virgin, protector of the town. A legend says that this fresco came to Portovenere directly from the sea, inside a well-sealed tree trunk.
The Castle of Doria, was built between the 12th and 15th centuries by the Genoese, on the old remains of another fortification. The Castle is imposed from a rocky ridge that dominates the sea and the city of Portovenere. The Castle was modified over time, both in its exterior and interior layout.
Today you can visit it during the summer, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The entrance costs 5 euros per person. Free for children under 6 years old and reduced for those over 14.
The Doria fortress has an almost regular pentagonal plan, with the bastion to the south extending towards the sea. The front door leads to a great room. From this environment, a stone staircase leads to the first embankment dominated by the Hypostyle Hall: built with local materials, the ceiling consists of rib vaults placed on eight intermediate pillars and sixteen perimeter pillars. Above the Hypostyle Hall is the Casa del Capitano. The north wall of the Castle appears equipped, for conventional defense with arquebuses and adequate weapons to repel the besiegers. Access to the patrol walkway or upper curtain is through a side terrace overlooking the sea; It runs from southwest to northwest and is made up of two sections whose vertex is a large and massive circular tower with an inserted sentry box.
Map of the main tourist attractions to see in Portovenere
In the following map, you can see all the attractions to visit in Portovenere.
Where to sleep in Portovenere
Portovenere is one of the most beautiful coastal towns to sleep in Liguria. From Portovenere, during the summer, you can visit the entire coast by boat and enjoy the best of Italian life!: good food, romantic sunsets, excellent company, and incredible natural beauties.
If you are looking for accommodation in Portovenere, here are the ones that I consider the best:
- Gran Hotel Portovenere 4 stars – Excellent location, panoramic view and elegance.
- Torre Porto Venere – Incredible hotel with a view, new rooms.
- Hotel Belvedere 3 stars – Excellent location and quality.
- Residence Le Terrazze 3 stars – Rooms and apartments, excellent location, with swimming pool.
- Ostello Porto Venere – Hostel with shared rooms, good quality / price ratio.
- All hotels and apartments in Portovenere
How to get to Portovenere
The best way to get to Portovenere is by bus or boat if you visit other cities in the area. Unfortunately, the train does not go to Portovenere, the nearest station La Spezia.
How to get to Portovenere by bus
You can reach Portovenere by bus from La Spezia with line 11 / P, it takes less than 30 minutes and leaves every 15 minutes (depending on the season). You can buy the ticket at the “Tabacchi” or at the designated ticket offices. If they buy it directly on the bus it costs them more.
How to get to Portovenere by car
You can reach Portovenere by car following the indications to La Spezia, and from there take the SS370 state road towards Cinque Terre – Portovenere. Follow the indications to Portovenere. The city is quite small and in some areas it is not possible to pass with the car (either because it is pedestrian or because it is ZTL) so you will have to park outside the city. Most of the parking lots are paid and tend to be high during the summer. For this reason, in the months of July and August it is better to leave the car in La Spezia and move by bus or boat.
How to get to Portovenere by train
The closest train station to Portovenere is La Spezia, from there you can continue by bus, car or boat. According to your tastes. If you base yourself in La Spezia, you can visit Portovenere roundtrip in one day.
How to get to Portovenere by plane
The closest airport to Portovenere is Pisa Airport (85 km from Portovenere). From Pisa you can reach Portovenere by train to La Spezia and from there continue by bus or boat.
The second airport close to Portovenere is the Genoa Airport (113 km away), from Genoa you can reach La Spezia by train and from there continue by bus or boat.