Have you ever seen a postcard from Italy, featuring the sea, small, colorful houses and fishermen at work? You most likely did, right? Well, we went to one of these magical locations, to Portovenere, to be precise, in Liguria, Northwestern Italy, just a few miles away from the famous Cinque Terre area. Colors are probably the most striking feature when you get to this place, together with the smell of the sea, and the sun-kissed skin tone of the locals. We were lucky enough to spend two days here thanks to Costa Estate: we were hosted in Villa Bianca, one of their estates in the area, featuring a garden and a private pool, overlooking the beautiful Golfo dei Poeti (the aptly named Poet’s Gulf, in Italian.) Despite the village’s small size, there is a lot to do, making Portovenere the perfect, appealing place for a suggestive weekend. Portovenere is made up of the village and three small inlets, Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto, which you can all see from up close thanks to the small boats that organize local tours. Have you ever wondered where Portovenere’s name comes from? The name means “Venus’s Port” in Italian, and it refers to a local legend, according to which goddess Venus was born from the waters of this gulf. Botticelli’s famous painting, The Birth of Venus, was also inspired by these beautiful coasts, and actually, the model for that painting was apparently a local lady, Simonetta Vespucci, whom the painter fancied: so, Portovenere is not only about nature, there are so many beautiful stories about it! And since it really has a special spot in our heart, we decided to write a guide for 48h in Portovenere, to help you make the best of your time when you go there.
WHERE TO DINE, WHAT TO EAT
Trattoria Le Tre Torri
Please tell me you also love fish! In this restaurant, fish will come as fresh as it gets, and we are not just saying that — we actually tested it! The restaurant is very minimalist, but what makes it special is that the fish comes to the restaurant’s kitchen right after being fished. We recommend “muscoli alla ligure”, filled mussels, as well as their fritto misto, fried seafood, light and tasty, and baked sea bass. Trust us, it will be a memorable dinner!
Lunch with a view? We got it. This restaurant also serves excellent fish, and has some meat-based dishes on the menu, too. Enjoy a delicious focaccia while watching the waters of the gulf, waiting for your plate of seafood spaghetti. If the weather is good, make sure you sit al fresco… Live the dream!
Did you just finish working on your suntan, or did you spend the day discovering the secrets of Portovenere? Well, then you will need a break, and the best way to do that is to cool down with some gelato. In the dense web of caruggi, the typical alleys of Liguria, you will find this tiny ice cream place that will welcome you with a wonderful, high-quality snack.
WHAT TO SEE, WHAT TO DO
Learn to sail with the Scuola di Mare Santa Teresa
You will be able to enjoy the sea and lots of history in Portovenere, but if you are active and you like to spend your time doing something different, this is for you. This sailing school organizes boat trips with professional skippers, to discover the inlets off the coast of Portovenere, but that is not all. You can also attend one of their many courses, open to people of any age, to learn how to steer any kind of vessel, from kayaks to windsurfs, from stand-up paddleboards; they also offer scuba diving excursions. You can’t miss it, right?
Church of San Pietro
If you like Game of Thrones, you will love this Genoan Gothic church, perched on a rock overlooking the Bocche di Portovenere headlands. San Pietro is the “Christian temple” mentioned by Italian poet Eugenio Montale in a suggestive poem he dedicated to the town: considering the location of the church, you’d better get ready for a breathtaking view on the open waters.
Daytrip around the Golfo dei Poeti
This is one of the most appreciated gulfs worldwide, it happens to have inspired some of the most important poets in literary history, so you really can’t miss an excursion to see what moved these poets, who lived here, or visited. Among the famous authors who lived here, loving the area: Dante Alighieri, Lord Byron, Gabriele D’Annunzio, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, and Eugenio Montale. You also go there, who knows, the view might inspire a sonnet!
Church of San Lorenzo, also known as Madonna Bianca (White Madonna)
This is the most important sanctuary in Portovenere, built in a Romanic style. You can also hike up to the church, which is located on top of a hill overlooking the town. This church is much loved by local brides, and pilgrims visit it on August 17, to celebrate the White Madonna, lighting hundreds of candles in her honor: it looks beautiful from afar, and we recommend watching it from the water, hiring a boat.