Porto Venere and Palmaria Island
Even if never heard of it, Porto Venere and its whereabouts are really worth a visit, the name itself evokes something beautiful. It is confirmed from the fact that it has been declared World Heritage Site from UNESCO, and its territory is part of the Natural Park of Porto Venere.
To visit Porto Venere means to walk on its narrow street (carruggi), to stop and enjoy a seafood dish, to be charmed in front of San Pietro’s Church, but also to take a ferry and reach Palmaria’s island, that is right in front of its coast. This is a place where the nature is still uncontaminated and it is characterized from gorgeous and pristine beaches. In Porto Venere do not miss the occasion to go shopping in the historical center.
The charm of this ancient hamlet is known to famous personality as Andrea Bocelli, Sting, Roman Abramovic, Steven Spielberg and the grooms Beckham. The Director Steven Spielberg, comes back to it almost every year with its yacht and never miss the occasion to eat at Locanda Lorena, a well-known restaurant on the Island.
You can reach Porto Venere by taking the ferry from La Spezia, which departs from the seaside promenade Morin. It is possible to reach it also by car or bus, on the via Napoleonica, it takes about 20 minutes’ drive. If you come by car please take your time and visit Marola, Cadimare, Fezzano e Le Grazie. They are small but gorgeous seaside hamlets.
Once at the roundabout, keep going on the left towards the parking or simply go down to the city center and leave the car along the parking on the side of the road, but be advice that during summer time there are not many free parking spaces.
It does not matter how you will get there, in any case the first thing you will see it will be San Pietro’s Church, that rises majestic on the cliff. Built in 1198 in the Romanesque period, in the typical ligurian style, it is always possible to visit it. It is a very apprised and a very requested location for weddings: it is possible that you would have to wait at least on year to be able to celebrate your wedding there. Usually the bride is escorted by car just till the end of Calata Doria and then she climbs by foot the steps that lead to the church square.
On Calata Doria Street there is the main houses complex on the seaside. Once the houses painted in different colours, were settled directly on the sea so that the waves were actually hitting just the rocks at their base. Nowadays the seaside promenade is full of cafés, shops and restaurants.
To enter the historical center, you must go across the Porta del borgo (the hamlet’s door), built in 1113, which leads in via Cappellini. Once through it, we suggest you to turn around to behold the wall painting that is situated above the door’s arch. In via Cappellini you will find shops, boutiques, ice-cream shops, bakeries, restaurants.
Above via Cappellini there is San Lorenzo’s Church, where it is celebrated the feast of the White Virgin Marie, guardian of Porto Venere, on August 17th. That night the town is light up to celebrate with thousands of candles, and it is magical the atmosphere that surrounds it.
Right next to the church there is Doria Castle. It is possible to visit it from 10.30 am to 6.30pm and the ticket has a cost of 5 euros.
Coming back towards the church you will find an arch that leads to Grotta Arpaia or Byron, a cave that has been named like this in honour of the English poet Lord Byron, who loved these hamlets. The beaches are a little bit further way from the city center, you must walk on the promenade that starts from Calata Doria to reach them. They are public and supplied with sunbeds and beach umbrellas.
It is now time to embark on the ferry and visit Palmaria’s Island. The area in front of San Pietro is called Terrizzo, where you will find a shallow sandy beach, while on the other side of the island the is Pozzale, where the beach is mainly rocks and cliffs. At Terrizzo you can lay down on the beach or access to the beach property.
Here it rises Umberto I Fortress. It seems a fortification, but in reality, it is just a cannon, built inside defensive walls, a very advanced piece of technology for the time. It was built at the end of the XIX century. On the very top of the hill you will find the Batteria del Semaforo, it is a fortification used as watchtower. Its name comes from the fact that to inform about the danger, colourful signals were launched from it.
Tino Island, just in front of Palmaria it’s a military area accessible on San Venerio’s day (who lived in retirement on the island), on September 13th and the next Sunday. On that day it is possible to visit the lighthouse as well. At the side of the island there is the big rock that is the small isle of Tinetto.
Suggestions for the taste
As said a little while back, mainly in Via Cappellini you will be able to find many typical food shops, where you can buy and taste Ligurian products. A classic is pesto sauce; delicious is the one of Bajeicò (which means basil in Ligurian dialect). At Olioteca Bansigo you can buy the typical olive oil and taste other local products.
As for the restaurants you will find the well-known Iseo and Le Bocche, both are situated on Calata Doria. Are worthy of mention La Marina and Trattoria Tre Torri. On Palmaria’s Island apart from Locanda Lorena, where you can also spend the night, on the Pozzale you will find the homonymous restaurant.
Suggentions for your shopping
Porto Venere will satisfy all your needs, does not matter what you are looking for; if it is antiques or clothes you have a lot of options. The heart of Porto Venere’s shopping is Via Cappellini. You can find colourful majolica, extremely delicate painted fabrics. If you want to buy jewelry you will find classical and quality products, as well as new and original design. To complete your outfit, you can visit one of the many shops for shoes, purses, foulards and general accessories, all of fine quality.
If you are in search of something unique Gocce di Byron is the right place. This fine boutique offers body creams, perfumes, shower gel and candles with delicate fragrances, that will remind of the territory.