Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Arriving at Portovenere by boat
Venere is Venus in Italian and so the name of this exquisite little village is Venus’ port, aptly named as it is indeed romantic and gorgeous. It is in the region of Liguria (north east of Tuscany) and just south on the coast line from the Cinque Terre. A boat leaves very frequently throughout the day from Portovenere to the Cinque Terre, so it is possible to stay overnight here and catch the boat up to the Cinque Terre to explore the fishing villages for the day, but then return to the warmth of Venus for the evening. Portovenere is very picturesque.  The houses are tall and narrow and painted bright colours and  are protected by medieval walls which expand into the wonderfully preserved fort above.  Perched scenographically on the coastal cliff point of the town is the romanesque church of Saint Peter (consecrated 1198).

San Pietro
Another romanesque church, Saint Lawrence, is nestled high up amongst the houses, close to the fort. There are some B&B’s and hotels, as well as restaurants and bars. Directly in front of Portovenere looms Palmaria island. There are two places to stay on the island, a B&B and the Locanda Lorena, a restaurant/hotel, where I stayed for two nights.

Locanda Lorena on Palmaria Island
A walk around the island takes a little more than two hours on a very basic goat track. It is wonderful and rustic with spectacular views. 

Scenic walk,  Palmaria Island
There is one small private beach establishment where it is possible to rent umbrellas and deck chairs for the day. This is the only one for Palmaria and Portovenere so there are many daytrippers to the island, catching the boat over (the same one that then continues to the Cinque Terre) and so it can be quite busy. Otherwise, people lie on the rocks at Portovenere.  
Locanda Lorena has a handful of rooms above their very popular restaurant below (serving predominately fish). For clients of both the hotel and the restaurant there is a free boat shuttle which goes continuously between Portovenere and their jetty on Palmaria island and which, I must admit, I took full advantage of. In the morning, I went across to Portovenere to explore the churches and the fort, and in the evening back over again to have a gin and tonic before returning to the restaurant below my room for a fish feed. Their boat is one of the fabulous wooden old style riviera boats from the 1970’s (made by ‘Riva by Ferretti’), and so I felt very diva-ish with the wind in my hair and the beautiful colours of the sunset as I was skimming across the water for my aperativo. 
At Portovenere there are a few shops selIing the typical Ligurian regional products (pesto, testaroli pasta, olive oil) as well as a very cool little ceramic bottega where I indulged (www.labottegadirena.com).

La Bottega di Rena
Portovenere and Palmaria island, like the Cinque Terre, were designated world heritage sites by UNESCO in 1997.

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