One of the books I always turn to when I need wanderlust is Beautiful Ruins: A Novel by Jess Walter. The multigenerational story takes place in one of the quintessentially vibrant pastel mosaic towns snuggled into the jagged and iconic cliffs of the Cinque Terre region. Albeit, the destination described in the prose (Porto Vergogna) is fictional…it’s said that the author found inspiration from the true terre we know so well via Instagram and Pinterest. For me, that inspiration is found beyond those five towns on our bucket list.
In fact, many say there is a sixth.
One of the more off-the-radar towns in the Cinque Terre region is Portovenere (or, Porto Venere). Situated on the eastern end of the Golfo dei Poeti (the Gulf of Poets, given frequent patrons Dante, Byron and Shelley), Porto Venere and its vibrant architectural facade has long been a precious wanderlust-inducing gem along the Mediterranean coast and makes the perfect pre Cinque Terre stop when passing through neighboring town La Spezia. Especially if your imagination is in need of wonder…
The name of the town originates from its ancient Roman name Portus Veneris – a port that celebrates the goddess Venus, where it was believed she was born from the foam of the sea which is plentiful beneath the town’s iconic cliffs. Like many towns in Italy, it rode the long wave of historical changes and was passed through the powerful hands of the Genoese, Napolean and other European forces, where it became a critical fortified military and commercial port up until its restoration in the nineteenth century.
Now it’s a destination for leisure and inspiring seaside walks through one of Italy’s most beautiful regions. For those itching for a day trip to one of Cinque Terre’s best kept secrets – Porto Venere – I’ve made an itinerary for spending the perfect day in this Ligurian gem:
Visit the Fruit Market & Indulge in Street Food
Every AM you can find a fruit market brimming with the best of seasonal Italian fruit, and when you find yourself in the country during summer, don’t dare leave this or any fruit markets in Italy without ciliegie (cherries) or albicocche (apricots). If the street food vendors are out, take advantage of fresh panini.
Chiesa di San Pietro / Church of Saint Peter
While you won’t find the colossal dome for this church dedicated to Saint Peter (unlike its similarly named Roman counterpart we know so well), the Chiesa Di San Pietro is one of the most well-preserved feats of Gothic architecture to be found in northern Italy. Perched on a rock overlooking the Mediterranean sea and in the site of an ancient temple dedicated to the goddess Venus, there is nothing but wanderlust vibes to be found here.
Take a Boat Tour around the Golfo dei Poeti
From Dante to Marinetti, the long list of Italian and international poets to brand this vibrant haven and coastline sacred inspiration grounds are endless. Take a boat tour to discover Portovenere and its surrounding through their eyes.
The company I recommend you can find here: http://www.navigazionegolfodeipoeti.it/
Visit Byron’s Grotto
As in Lord Byron. I stumbled upon this seductive spot (a stone’s throw away from Chiesa di San Pietro) and was instantly sucked into the magnetic energy. It’s heaven for creativity and I’m not the only one who thinks so…English poet Lord Byron claimed this spot as his for meditational use. But, wait, it gets better. Byran actually swam across the Portovenere to visit his English muse poet Shelley…
So yes, it’s a romantic place.
When it comes to accommodation, I go by a few standards when picking in Italy. First, privately owned or a boutique hotel/B&B within a small company (it helps the Italian tourism industry), five-star hospitality and décor that captures the essence of the Italian lifestyle.
In Portovenere, I love the Grand Hotel Portovenere – the view doesn’t get any better.
For Coffee & Sweet Treats – Dolci Magie, Corzo Cavour 207
For Seafood & Pasta – Palmaria, Via Giuseppe Garibaldi
For Gelato – Bar Lamia, Piazza Marina 4
I hope each of you find this stunning Ligurian town as magical as I did xx