Positioned just inside the mouth of the Gulf of Poets on Italy’s Ligurian coastline and protected by a rocky promontory, Porto Venere is within easy distance of the more familiar villages of the Cinque Terre but easily as beautiful and far quieter. Porto Venere was founded by the Romans and is said to have taken its name from a temple there dedicated to the goddess Venus.
Strategically positioned and once a Genoese stronghold, the town still resembles a citadel with narrow, painted houses forming a barrier against attack and a large castle towering above. Today, the atmosphere is far more tranquil: fishing boats bob lazily in the confines of the town’s marina, while restaurants spill out across the waterfront. With regular ferries to surrounding villages, it makes a very attractive and tranquil base from which to explore the region.
I love Porto Venere: there’s only one main road, so you can’t get lost. You can walk down to visit some grottoes, or simply enjoy a quiet dinner by the water unhampered by the visitors that the Cinque Terre receives.Italy specialist Lindsay
Things to see and do in Porto Venere
Church of San Pietro
Dramatically set on a rocky promontory jutting out into the sea, the bold black-and-white-striped exterior of the Church of San Pietro is visible from far out in the bay. On first sight it seems more like a fortress than a place of worship, but this simple church has served as a quiet chapel since it was consecrated in the early 12th century.
Built in the Genovese Gothic style, the striped marble was added in the 13th century. Perhaps more interesting are the remains of the site's first incarnation as a 5th-century Roman temple —they can be found inside.
Gulf of Poets
The steep cliffs, turquoise waters and pastel-hued villages that form the backdrop of the Gulf of La Spezia have attracted numerous writers and artists including D.H. Lawrence, author of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and Virginia Woolf. Most famously, it enchanted the Romantic poets Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron with its evocative setting and mysterious caves.
The little bay by the San Pietro Church is home to a collapsed cave known as Byron’s Grotto —the poet was said to sit there and seek inspiration. You can visit the three local islands and their sea caves, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site which includes Porto Venere and the villages of Cinque Terre, on a boat trip around the bay.
Across the Gulf of Poets from Porto Venere, the ancient Etruscan town and Roman port of Lerici is a warren of aristocratic townhouses and grand piazzas. It’s dominated by a 12th-century castle which once controlled entry to the Gulf. Today it houses a paleontology museum and offers sweeping views over the bay.
Frankenstein writer Mary Shelley and her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley lived a couple of miles north of the town, and it was here the poet drowned while returning to Lerici by boat in a storm. The town is fringed with several sandy beaches ideal for whiling away a few hours on a sunny day and easily accessible from Porto Venere by local ferry.
Map of Porto Venere
Places & hotels on the map
Places near Porto Venere
- Cinque Terre 11 kilometers away
- Forte dei Marmi 29 kilometers away
- Portofino and Santa Margherita 58 kilometers away
- Pisa 59 kilometers away
- Genoa 82 kilometers away
- Parma 93 kilometers away
- Modena 110 kilometers away
- San Gimignano 117 kilometers away
- Florence 119 kilometers away
- Bologna 131 kilometers away
- Siena 146 kilometers away
- Barbaresco 159 kilometers away
- Alba 161 kilometers away
- Barolo 164 kilometers away
- Milan 166 kilometers away
- Sirmione 170 kilometers away
- Verona 180 kilometers away
- Gardone Riviera 184 kilometers away
- Lake Garda 185 kilometers away
- Ravenna 194 kilometers away
- Piedmont 199 kilometers away
- Como 205 kilometers away
- Turin 205 kilometers away
- Blevio 207 kilometers away
- Torno 209 kilometers away
- Laglio 211 kilometers away
- Lezzeno 217 kilometers away
- Bellagio 221 kilometers away
- Tremezzo 222 kilometers away
- Lake Como 227 kilometers away
- Stresa 229 kilometers away
- Perugia 232 kilometers away
- Verbania 232 kilometers away
- Lake Maggiore 236 kilometers away
- Orvieto 237 kilometers away
- Umbria 248 kilometers away
- Assisi 250 kilometers away
- Venice 251 kilometers away
- Madonna di Campiglio 255 kilometers away
- Dolomites 306 kilometers away
- Rome 323 kilometers away
- Alta Badia 326 kilometers away
- Costa Smeralda 327 kilometers away
- Sardinia 444 kilometers away
Photos of Porto Venere
Accommodation choices for Porto Venere
We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Porto Venere. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.
Ideas for experiencing Porto Venere
Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Porto Venere, and which use the best local guides.
Hiking in the Cinque Terre
Hiking in the Cinque Terre
Hiking in the Cinque Terre
Meander along narrow paths between citrus and olive groves as you explore the romantic villages of the scenic Cinque Terre. With an expert local guide you'll learn about the history, heritage and culture of this unique place.View details