Often mentioned as the 6th town of the Cinque Terre, Portovenere (Porto Venere) is a fantastic place to not only visit for a day but should be considered as a base when visiting the Ligurian coast.
Portovenere is a beautiful fishing town that makes a great jumping-off point for visiting the nearby towns of the Cinque Terre. It also happens to be a sort of hidden gem for international visitors and makes a fantastic day trip or vacation.
Meader the streets of Portovenere where you’ll find excellent restaurants, cafes and fantastic stores. Dip your toes (or body) into the inviting Ligurian sea, or catch a local ferry across the water to the nearby island of Palmaria island where you’ll find deserted beaches and a stunning national park.
Things to do in Portovenere
Swim in the Grotta di Lord Byron, the famed English poet who fell in love with Italy during his many years exploring the country. The Grotte Byron is the perfect place to take some seriously stunning photos of the jutting headlands or of the Chiesa di San Pietro, or just to lay out in the sun and top up your tan.
Walking along the Porta del Borgo and the streets of Portovenere is something not to be missed. With beautiful stores selling locally produced goods such as pasta and pastries, you can also pick up some beautiful jewelry and clothes as well as souvenirs. I cherish a pair of earrings bought in Portovenere by a local artisan.
The fortress of Doria Castle overlooks the entire town of Portovenere and the nearby islands. A former prison with an unknown date as to when it was actually constructed, the views from Castello Doria are really something else. You can access Doria Castle by following via al Castello.
One of the oldest churches in the region, Chiesa di San Pietro dates back to the 12th century and is a stunning reminder of the past. Built on the edge of the peninsula and marking the beginning of the Cinque Terre, its best seen from the water to appreciate its dramatic beauty.
Visit the islands of Palmaria, Tino & Tinetto. These islands and Portovenere were included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1997 alongside Cinque Terre. The islands are easy to get to by local boat and the largest, Palmaria, has excellent seafood restaurants, hiking trails and incredible swimming spots to explore.
Visiting the Cinque Terre
It’s incredibly easy to visit the Cinque Terre towns of Monterosso, Vernazza, Riomaggiore, Corniglia & Manarola from the small port of Portovenere. Starting from the end of March and running through to the end of November, there are options to jump on board the local tour operator that connects La Spezia and Portovenere with the towns of the Cinque Terre.
Prices for the tickets for a full day of visiting the towns and hopping on and off the boat start at $35/€35 for a 1-day pass. You can purchase the tickets at the port in La Spezia or Portovenere on the day.
It can be quite difficult to squeeze all the towns of the Cinque Terre into a single day, but it is possible. I would recommend spending at least two days visiting the towns and enjoying them to the fullest.
If waiting on ferries isn’t your thing, you can rent a private boat that can offer a variety of tour options to suit your needs. Do note that only the larger boats can actually stop in the villages of the Cinque Terre due to their difficult landings.
Where to stay in Portovenere
Grand Hotel Portovenere // 5 Star Hotel at the edge of the town and with stunning views across the water, this is one of the grandest and most opulent hotels to stay in the Cinque Terre.
Affittacamere La Darsena // A quaint family-run hotel in the heart of Portovenere and a great base for those looking to spend their days exploring.
Relais Santa Caterina // Dreamy B&B with the most fantastic view over Portovenere & the island of Palmaria.
Along Via Olivo, there is a large beach in Portovenere that has everything that you could possibly wish for. Beach beds, water toys and beach bars can be found along the Spiaggia di Arenella and make for a perfect day out at the beach.
Catch the local boat across to the island of Palmaria and you’ll find yourself with sections of the island entirely to yourself. A visit to Palmaria is an absolute must for anyone who likes hiking, dining on locally caught seafood or swimming in the intensely blue waters of the Ligurian Sea.
How to get to Portovenere
The town of Portovenere is located at the top of the Ligurian peninsula and marks the start of the Golfo dei Poeti, and also happens to be a national park with excellent diving and diving to be found in the region.
There are three ways of getting to Portovenere: local bus, boat, or car. Of course, you can walk from La Spezia but it might take some time.
The local 11/P bus is the cheapest option for getting from La Spezia to Portovenere. With several stops along the way, you’ll be impressed by how the large buses are able to navigate the narrow roads and turns that lead to Portovenere. The journey takes around 30 minutes and departs every 30 minutes from La Spezia.
Plus for the cost of €3, it’s the cheapest option of getting from La Spezia to Portovenere. Tickets for the bus can be purchased in the Tabaccheria stores found near the port (the bus leaves from Via Garibaldi), or you can purchase directly with the driver (this can be a more expensive option, as the ticket price doubles).
For those eager to get to Portovenere, during the busier months from April to October you will find several boats that connect La Spezia port with Portovenere. These boats also continue onwards to the Cinque Terre, or if you are short on time you can combine a visit to Portovenere with the towns of the Cinque Terre.
Renting a car is possible, however, do note that during the summer months, there is very little parking available in and around Portovenere. Often the roads that lead in and out of the town are littered with abandoned cars and you may spend most of the day trying to find parking. The roads are incredibly narrow, so just be aware that if you are a nervous driver this might be the best option for you.
During our visit, we chose to travel by local bus and didn’t have to contend with trying to find parking. We stayed in nearby Le Grazie which was a short 10-minute drive down the coast to Portovenere. The buses were very frequent and we never had to wait too long to catch one.
The closest airport to Portovenere is found in either Pisa or Milan. You will need to take a train to La Spezia and then change to either a local bus or taxi. Private transfers take all the stress away from getting from A to B and I always use Welcome Pickups when I want a stress-free journey.