Italy - Portovénere -

Portovénere 2

LINKS to other pages in the Italy website and the Colin Day Travelling Days series:

Home Page
1 : Barga
2 : Pisa
3 : Lucca
4 : Portovénere
5 : Florence
6 : Siena
7 : Castelnuovo di Garfagnana
8 : Apuan Alps
9 : Guest Book:


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PORTOVÉNERE is a town and commune located on the Ligurian coast of Italy in the province of La Spezia. It comprises the three villages of Fezzano, Le Grazie and Portovénere, and the three islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto. In 1997 Portovénere and the villages of Cinque Terre were designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

The ancient Portus Veneris is believed to date back to at least the middle of the 1st century BCE. It has been said that the name refers to a temple to the goddess Venus which was sited on the promontory where the church of Peter the Apostle (San Pietro) now stands. The name has also been linked to that of the hermit Saint Venerius. In Roman times the city was essentially a fishing community.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Portovénere became the base of the Byzantine fleet in the northern Tyrrhenian Sea, but was destroyed by the Lombards in 643 CE. Later, it was a frequent target of Saracen raids. First indications of the existence of a castle date from 1113, and in 1161 the walls were erected. Portovénere became a fiefdom of a family from Vezzano before passing to Genoa in the early 12th century.

In 1494 it suffered a devastating bombardment from the Aragonese fleet during their war with Genoa: subsequently the old part of the town declined in importance, giving way to the development of the Borgo Nuovo (or new district), which had existed from 1139 and is centred on the church of San Lorenzo  (right)

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The promenade along the harbour, lined with tall colorful houses, seafood restaurants, and bars, is a pedestrian- only zone.

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On the other side of the point is Byron's Cave, a rocky area where Lord Byron used to come to swim. A wall plaque (shown below) records one of his achievements which was to swim across the gulf to visit his friends the Shelleys in Lerici. There are several places among the rocks where it's possible to swim but there are no sandy beaches.

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The San Pietro Church originated as an early Christian building made of black marble dating from the 6th century. In the 13th century it was extended with a Gothic style addition, with bands of black and white stone, and belltower.

Around the church is a Romanesque loggetta with arches framing a view of the coastline (below)

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The visit to Portovénere continues on the next page.
Please click on the 'Next' button (lower right).

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