Chronicles of a writer abroad

Pretty Portovenere


The main reason that I wanted to do a separate post on Portovenere (or Porto Venere, as I have also seen it written), is that I wanted to show you lots of pictures like this one.

Isn’t it lovely?

Portovenere was not a key part of our itinerary when we headed to the Cinque Terre. I did have a notion of doing a challenging hike that could either begin or end here, but I planned to merely whisk through the town as a means of getting to or from the trail, which I viewed as the main attraction.

But Stelian and I had a joint predicament that threw us off course. When we got up on Sunday, after having hiked the trails between all of the five villages the day before, we confirmed a hypothesis that had been brewing since the previous afternoon: we had overdone it. Though we are no strangers to hiking, we had hiked a little too much — it was probably the crazy detour between Corniglia and Manarola that did us in. Our calf muscles were so sore from the previous day that the hike to and from the breakfast room (one floor below our hotel room) proved monumental. So, plans were altered — we ended up taking a boat all the way to Portovenere, and spending the afternoon exploring it. It turned out to be a very nice way to spend our anniversary.

When we approached this village (town? I’m not really sure what the most correct translation of comune would be) by boat, it was very impressive — the first things you see are the castle walls towering above you, and next you glimpse the old church:

The Church of Saint Peter, or San Pietro, was built in 1256, in a location that was formerly a temple to Venus (Venere, in Italian) — hence the name Portovenere.

When we docked, we were met by rows of multicoloured houses, as in the Cinque Terre villages. These ones, however, are especially narrow and high. There tend to be shops at ground level, and living quarters in the higher floors.

Behind the houses, you can see the Church of Saint Lawrence (which dates back to 1130)  and above that, the Castello Doria (1161).

We first visited Byron’s grotto — the site from which the great poet is rumored to have swum across a gulf to Lerici in order to visit fellow writer Shelley. Unfortunately, after my experience, I have had to rename this place “the site where Kristen slipped and fell on some rocks and blamed her stupid hair which had blown inconvieniently in front of her eyes, and then refused to take a picture because her hands were muddied in the fall and she was frustrated and not, at that moment, overly impressed with the site, though in retrospect she would be forced to admit that it had been lovely.” Yes, I am full of the maturity of my 29 years.

Moving on (as I did, after literally washing my hands of the grotto site)…we went inside the Church of San Pietro (lovely sea breeze in the sanctuary, and exceptional views from the balcony), and then gingerly climbed through the narrow streets towards the Castle, which, being situated above everything else, gives an astounding view of Portovenere and the Gulf of Poets which surrounds it (this is where I snapped the picture at the top of this post). I am sure that celebrities and billionaires would jostle to get a piece of this real estate, were it ever made available to them.

Here are some pictures of the Castle itself:

For anyone who finds themself in the Cinque Terre, I would contend that Portovenere is certainly worth a side trip. We were happy to have stumbled upon it, somewhat by accident.


2 thoughts on “Pretty Portovenere

  1. Kristen, these are beautiful pictures: I can see why the poets chose that location to settle. It sounds wonderful; I always find these places are even sweeter when one stumbles upon them oneself. Thank you: if I ever get to the area I’ll chase it up!

  2. Your photography and commentary are so lovely … images matched by their proper due in your descriptions. Happy 1st Anniversary!

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