In the western end of the Gulf of Poets, Portovenere, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the natural antechamber of the Cinque Terre. The neighboring island Palmaria increases the scenic beauty of the village, whose main attraction is the Church of San Pietro. The village of Portovenere is accessed from Bastreri Square, crossing the historic gate inserted in the walls of the Doria Castle and situated next to the Capitular Tower of 1161. A typical Ligurian carruggio opens up, with houses with colored façades and slate portals, craft shops and local delicacies. After the carruggio, the cobbled esplanade of Spallanzani Square, where the pre-Roman "Castrum Vetus" once stood, leads you to the unique church of San Pietro.
Church of San Pietro: it is a whole with the rock on which it rises, reaching out into the open sea of the mouths of Portovenere. The religious building dates back to 1198, in Gothic-Genoese style with black and white bands, but rises on the ruins of a pre-existing pagan temple dedicated to the goddess Venus and on those of a Syrian early Christian basilica, whose nuclei are still visible inside. . The interior is bare but elegant in its humble dignity, a simple altar in white marble stands out. On August 17th do not miss the show for the patronal feast of the "Madonna Bianca" (White Madonna): at sunset, thousands of candles light up that illuminate the promontory of San Pietro, the Church and the Byron cave in the night.
Byron Cave: just behind the Church of San Pietro is a rocky inlet, whose beauty, as its name suggests, inspired the verses of the London poet Lord Byron, who stayed in the village in 1822, interrupting his journey to Genoa to enjoy the beauty of the Gulf of Poets. A door inserted in the walls allows you to access and descend into the vast cave, where you can enjoy the view and breathe the salty that the strong wind brings with it. But in the summer here you can quietly indulge in swimming and diving from the rocks, to scuba diving and exploration on a canoe. Above the terraces of the Grotta, you will suddenly meet the statue of Mother Nature, absorbed in contemplation to admire the sea.
Doria Castle: from the statue of Mother Nature you go up, following the cobblestones, to the dominant Doria Castle, mentioned for the first time in a document dated 1240 but whose exact date of construction remains unknown. It is a fortress with a defensive character, extraordinarily panoramic, with high walls, which begin right in the lower village. The building consists of two main blocks: a lower block with the entrance door to the village and walkways and an upper one with the defensive structures of the '500, the Hypostyle Hall and the Captain's House. All around there are bastions and sentry boxes from which it is possible to admire St. Peter's, the Byron cave, the village and the island of Palmaria. From here pass many paths that lead to Muzzerone, Campiglia and the Cinque Terre.
Church of San Lorenzo or Madonna Bianca: it is the main religious building of Portovenere and is located near the Doria Castle. The building was built starting in 1098 at the behest of the Genoese, in Romanesque style, above the ruins of a temple dedicated to Jupiter. Here the White Madonna is venerated because, according to the legend, in 1399 during a plague epidemic, a certain Lucciardo, a peasant, invoked in front of an image depicting the Virgin Mary the end of the fatal illness and, suddenly, the colors of framework revived, shining with new light. Seeing in the strange phenomenon a probable miraculous event, the painting was taken to the church of San Lorenzo, beginning the devotion of the faithful towards the image and towards the White Madonna.
How to reach Portovenere:
Portovenere beaches: in addition to being able to swim at the rocks of the pier, San Pietro and Grotta Byron, Portovenere is equipped with beaches and bathing establishments. The latter are found mainly along the Via Olivo and also provide piers for diving, while in Olivo and Cavo there are free beaches, suitable for children.
Information office and tourist reception: Pro Loco Portovenere, Bastreri Square, 7. Tel. 0187790691.