In my very humble opinion Portovenere (or Porto Venere), should be the “6th Terra!” And they should called them “Seiterre” from now on, not merely Five!
Visiting the area and skipping PortoVenere is being dumb!
The town of PortoVenere is located at the southern end of a peninsula, which, breaking away from the jagged coastline of the eastern Ligurian Riviera, forms the western shore of the Gulf of La Spezia, also called the “Gulf of Poets” (as explained in Lerici and Sarzana).
WHY THE NAME PORTOVENERE?
The name of Portovenere is lost in history and its motive is linked to a legend. In ancient times, where the Church of San Pietro now stands, there was a temple dedicated to the goddess Venus Ericina known for her great beauty. It seems that the temple was honored because there was a belief that the goddess was created by the foam of the waves of the Ligurian sea that clashed profusely against the rocks located just below the church.
The historic center of Portovenere is well preserved and the difference with those of the Cinque Terre is noticeable. Every corner is taken care of and the houses are historic but well maintained. Walking in its streets is definitely a pleasure for the eyes!
Obviously, as in every medieval town built on the rock, there are numerous staircases that lead up to the upper part of the village where the castle is located. Good walking shoes are a must.
CHURCH OF SAN PIETRO
Piazzale Spallanzani is where there is also the oldest part of the city: the walls date back to the first centuries AD. The beautiful church of San Pietro also overlooks Piazzale Spallanzani. The striking feature of the church is not only the unusual architecture, but also the location: built on the rock, it also has a small terrace from which you can watch the sea and the end of the Palmaria island.
The original building, on which the church was built, dates back to the 5th century. The interiors and exteriors, are in stone decorated with light and dark horizontal lines that continue also on the bell tower, massive but lightened by the mullioned windows that open on its sides. Entering it is clearly evident the division between the two structures: the rectangular plan of the innermost part, with a semicircular apse, opens round the arch, through two arches, over the more recent Gothic part.
Many decide to wed in this romantic church, and it did happened that Andrea Boccelli—who is very fond of Portovenere and spends long time vacationing here—just popped in a volunteered to sing at the wedding for free. How is that as a wedding gift. Well he sang Ave Maria (not Con Te Partirò presumably 😉).
HOW TO GET TO PORTOVENERE
Getting to Portovenere is quite simple, although it is not served by a railway. Both from the Cinque Terre and from La Spezia it is possible to take a ferry. Travel times vary depending on where you are, but you can consider about half an hour crossing from La Spezia or Monterosso.
I was totally in love with Portovenere!