04 July 2018   •   Carolina Attanasio

Portovenere, a trip in the postcard of beatiful Liguria

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«The photogenic pearl of the Riviera di Levante and an excellent landing place to visit the nearby Cinque Terre, La Spezia as well as other parts of Tuscany. You can’t say you’ve been to to Liguria if you haven’t visited Portovenere. »

You will have seen it in one of those thousands of postcards that represent the iconic places and typical viewpoints in Italy. The buildings are all attached to each other, forming strips of bright colors, reflected in the green water of the small port, which seems to be there to act as a shield against the bad days, if ever there may be any a small paradise like this. Portovenere (institutional website), with just over 300 inhabitants in the province of La Spezia, is one of the fetish villages that makes tourists from all over the world want to immediately book a flight to Italy. Located at the end of a small peninsula on the Riviera di Levante, it’s the western point of the so-called ‘Gulf of the Poets’, so named for being the home of Lord Byron, Wagner, Montale, inspiring their verses. Together with the islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto and the Cinque Terre – which are a little further – it has been named Unesco Heritage for the way in which man has managed to model its structure in total harmony with the surrounding landscape.

Visiting Portovenere means losing yourself and finding yourself among the streets of this town, where life goes slowly and there is no hurry. If you arrive from the sea, you will be struck by the contrast between its rocky profile and the pastel of the buildings. The village is simple and elegant at the same time, attracts the low profile chic tourism that, just like this land, enjoys beauty without flaunting it.

Immediately overlooking the sea, there is the church of San Pietro, proud to remember that once – from the bell tower – even enemies were sighted. Consecrated in 1198, it stands on the ashes of an ancient temple dedicated to the goddess Venus, from which the village takes its name. Also cited by Eugenio Montale, “from the waves that lap the remains of a Christian temple, and every hour is near and ancient “, the church enjoys a spectacular panoramic position, especially on its right side, where – through a loggia -the Cinque Terre greet you in all their splendor. Even the church of San Lorenzo, located inside the village, deserves a visit. As a result of numerous restorations, it’s in excellent conditions: here, on August 17, we celebrate the White Madonna, protector of the village.

To visit Portovenere you will pass under the ancient entrance of the historical center, dating back to 1113. Here the village is full of restaurants and shops and walking around here really brings you back a thousand years. Going up the village, you arrive at the Doria Castle (built between the 12th and 14th centuries). From the name you will understand that it belonged to the Doria family, a powerful protagonist of the events of the Republic of Genoa. Visiting it only costs 5 euros and it’s really worth it.

On the coast, you will notice small cylindrical constructions, the ‘mills’. You can’t visit Portovenere without taking a look at these buildings, or what remains of ancient watchtowers – also used as windmills – from which the enemy coming from the sea was taken by surprise.

In the evening, indulge in an aperitif along the ‘palazzata a mare’, the magnificent glimpse of colors overlooking the harbor, and plan a tour of the surrounding islands: you can circumnavigate them by ferry while someone explains their fascinating history, or moor and visit them. The island of Palmaria, in particular, is known by hikers for its suggestive paths. When Visiting Porto Venere, a visit to the Cinque Terre, not too far away, is a must: Monterosso al Mare, Corniglia, Vernazza, Riomaggiore and Manarola, lying on the famous terraced hills, are the natural continuation of your tour of the Ligurian coast. La Spezia is just a few steps away, in the heart of the gulf, with its Baroque style palaces and the historical center full of bars, shops and museums.

What to eat? Typical of Portovenere are the Mitili, mollusks similar to mussels grown in the Gulf of La Spezia: fried, breaded, marinara style, you can taste them in many variations. Do not forget that we are in Liguria, where the word pesto is sacred, as well as the thousand ways to use it: have you ever tried it in crèpes? The appeal to Mediterranean cuisine is strong and, in addition to fish, legumes are also part of the local culinary tradition: a ‘panissa co e sioule’, a chickpea flour mixed with water and salt, is a simple and nutritious typical dish.

From Portovenere you can also easily reach the Tuscan Riviera of Forte dei Marmi, Viareggio, and if you want you can also reach Pisa. Spring is a great excuse swing by there: no summer ocean crowds, spectacular seafood and breathtaking landscapes to enjoy in peace.

Carolina Attanasio

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