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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

San Pietro Church, Porto VenereDramatically 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.

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Map of Porto Venere

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