People come to Italy from around the world to see the famous Cinque Terre, five fishing villages suspended between the mountain and the sea. These charming villages boast colorful houses, vertical vineyards and olive tree plantations. But how many know about Portovenere, a gem just a 20-minute boat ride away from the Cinque Terre, that shines every bit as brightly as the more famous quintet of villages?
Our 10-day Wonders of Northern Italy Tour will take you to discover this wonder and get familiar with Portovenere on land and from the water. The name means Port of Venus, hearkening back to ancient times when the Romans built a temple to their goddess of love, beauty, and fertility here.
The breathtaking village of Portovenere stretches along the Golfo dei Poeti (Poets’ Gulf). The gulf got it’s name because many famous poets and artists, like Lord Byron, Percy Shelley and Eugenio Montale, loved to stay in this stunning amphitheatre made of water, rocks and colorful houses. It’s easy to see how this magical space offered creative minds rest and inspiration in equal measure.
When you visit Portovenere, walking along the caruggio (the little alleyways) is a veritable symphony for the senses. You can follow the smell of freshly baked focaccia sold from the little shop where a curtain of dry pasta hangs at the window, taste the delicious pesto made from fresh basil and offered by a kindly lady to passers-by, see wonderful architecture all around you, touch the quality clogs made by a skilled artisan out of wood and leather, hear the rich romance of Italian spoken everywhere and taste some of the many delectable flavors of gelato.
At the end of the caruggio, the church of St. Peter welcomes travelers from its commanding perch atop the breath-taking promontory of Arpaia. The church was built in the thirteenth century on the site of a fifth century church and seems to rise up in bands of white and black stones from the rocks of the cliff. Inside you can rest, enjoy the cool and quiet sacred space, and outside enjoy the incomparable view of the Golfo dei Poeti.
After you’ve walked the streets and enjoyed the scenic viewpoints, the best way to embrace the full beauty of Portovenere is by boat. We recommend you make the most of the hours that precede sunset and enjoy a memorable small boat tour with an expert local leader.
Mario, a distinguished young man who grew up surrounded by the water and the colorful houses of this Gulf, welcomes travelers to his little motor boat with a kind smile and a glass of wine for the kind of personalized tour that only a local can offer.
With Mario’s expert guidance, you’ll explore Portovenere from the sea while he regales you with stories about this incredible region of Italy. The itinerary includes seeing the secret caves of Palmaria Island and exploring little inlets that are accessible by boat only. Here, where the water is warm, clean and of an intense blue, you can enjoy a relaxing dive and swim surrounded by solitude and the beauty of nature.
As the sun starts to change color, Mario ends your leisurely lingering in the water by clapping his hands and announcing, “E’ Pronto!” (“It’s ready!”). He welcomes you back on board his boat to a feast of focaccia, cheese, anchovies and the fresh, seasonal goodies that he carefully sources from the best local producers. If you’re really lucky, and Mario’s granny is in a good mood, you’ll get to try her homemade pesto on a tasty focaccia bread.
Before long the sun will dip below the horizon and the ruddy sky will fade to black. Don’t forget to fill your glass and raise a toast to the wonderful treasures you’ve uncovered in Portovenere. Salute! (Cheers!)
To enjoy the wonders of Portovenere and Cinque Terre, Venice, Pisa and Florence, the Chianti Region of Tuscany and Rome, book the 10-day Wonders of Northern Italy Tour with LocalWonders Travel. Our friendly, knowledgeable Italy tour specialists are ready to help you discover the best of Italy.