Porto Venere: beaches and other places of interest in this Ligurian location

June 20, 2014

Porto Venere is a small but picturesque fishing village located at the westernmost area of the Gulf of La Spezia in Liguria. It’s a popular holiday resort since the end of the Nineteenth century, much loved by Lord George Gordon Byron. As of today, it is still a tourist destination of high importance in both Liguria and Italy. It was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997, because of its architectural and natural beauty.

The panorama of Porto Venere is dominated by Doria Castle, a majestic fortress built by the Republic of Genoa in 1161 and situated on a rocky outcrop that overlook the town. In the middle of the village stands the Capitulare Tower, situated to the left of the entrance door in Via Capellini; this is the town’s main street, also called the "Carugio".
Piazza Spallanzani is a charming square, where once stood the ancient pre-Roman center of Castrum Vetus. Also worth seeing are the St. Peter's Church, under which lies the cave of Byron (the most famous one in Porto Venere, together with the Grotta Azzurra), and the Church of San Lorenzo in Collina.

In front of Porto Venere are the islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto, which are all part of the Regional Natural Park of Porto Venere. Among the three, Palmaria is the most visited one; it is separated from the mainland by a narrow sea called "Le Bocche”. The small village of Le Grazie houses the archaeological site of Villa Romana del Varignano and the sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Grazie; Fezzano is also a lovely town, with its typical houses leaning against each other in the middle of the alleys and the church of San Giovanni Battista, which was built in 1740.

Porto Venere is of course also famous for its beach tradition, even though the town doesn’t really have a proper beach. Entering the village you can find a small rocky cove where you can sunbathe and swim in front of the mussel plantations of the Gulf. Nearby there are the beach facilities of Arenella and Royal Sporting Club, fully equipped with umbrellas, deck chairs and all kind of comforts. However, many swimmers prefer to stand by the dock, almost next to the St. Peter's Church, or on the nearby staircase going down to the sea. Other beaches are located on the island of Palmaria, easily accessible by boat.

You can reach Porto Venere by car through the A12 Genoa-Livorno and the A15 Parma-La Spezia highways: you shall exit at La Spezia and take the road in the direction of the village, or take bus line 11/P at La Spezia train station. The nearest airports are the ones of Genoa and Pisa.

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