Porto Venere, the "other Portofino" on the Italian Rivera

"Porto Venere is "The other Portofino
"Beautiful seaside hamlet at the "Gulf of Poets

Porto Venere/Italy (2012) There are many spectacular seaside villages at the "Gulf of the Poets" at the Italian Riviera. Some are very famous and worldwide known while others still are considered a sort of second-rate. Porto Venere is one of them, the small but very picturesque town in the Ligurian region lives and profits most of the tourist's interest for the incredible Cinque Terre,
the nearby string of five coastal villages Riomaggiore, Corniglia, Vernazza, Manarola and Monterosso. Rightly, Porto Venere could be the sixth addition to Cinque Terre and judging by its beauty and what it has to offer, it would really deserve being part of it and get a share 
of the fame. But as tempting it may sound, Porto Venere easily makes it on its own. Not being
a part of Cinque Terre and also constantly being mistaken for another gem of the Italian Riviera, Portofino. Porto Venere, "the other Portofino" does not have to shy away from the
comparison with the five Cinque Terre villages nor with Portofino. Since 1997 Porto Venere
has its particularity documented by UNESCO: it is a designated "World Heritage Site".
Where Lord Byron swam the bay – Lots of seafood and "Pesto Genovese"
Even it’s only a small hamlet at the Gulf of La Spezia, also known as the "Gulf of Poets" Porto Venere (also Portovenere) is very special, unique in many ways and has a colorful history. The village's name can be translated as Port of Venus which goes back to the ancient "Portus Veneris" when it was a small Roman port. Many famous poets, writers and artists spent their free time in this Ligurian region or even part of their lives. This is by the way how the Gulf of La Spezia got his nickname "Gulf of Poets". One of them, Lord Byron was known among the locals for swimming from Portovenere to Lerici, where close by, in San Terenzo, his close friend and fellow countryman, Percy Bysshe Shelly, one of the major English Romantic poets, was residing. The in the meanwhile collapsed Grotta Arpaia was renamed to "Byron's Grotto", honoring Byron's courage and strength when swimming through the often turbulent waters. On a side note: Byron's friend Shelley died in that same bay when his sailboat overturned in a storm. Every year the locals of Porto Venere invite to the annual swimming competition to Lerici in August.

Even though there is absolutely no competition with the five Cinque Terre villages, only Porto Venere can be accessed by car. Also, it is impossible on the other hand to reach the village by train. With its incredible sea views, its colorful houses and small alleys, with its castle, the little harbor and the very beautiful Gothic church of St. Peter, Porto Venere know how to leave an imprint. 

And if shopping comes to mind, the street through the historic part of town, from "Piazza Bastreri" leading up to the "Chiesa di San Pietro", has all the shops necessary. Speaking of shopping, if you are passionate about cooking Mediterranean food and love the aromas and flavors from this region, you probably know about "Pesto Genovese". What you might not know is, that pesto originated in Liguria. The stores of Porto Venere are full with this special "green sauce", which indeed makes all the difference when preparing the real "Pasta Pesto Genovese". The vendors of the village are furthermore true master chefs when it comes to preparing food with pesto. So when you buy pesto there, you will also receive a speedy "cooking lesson" in how to prepare the original "Pasta Pesto Genovese". It's free of charge and might lift up your cooking skills.

The restaurants at the harbor are always very busy, but there is always room for a few more. They are famous obviously for their seafood, the smell of grilled fish covers at times the whole bay. By night Porto Venere turns into a magical land of bright shiny colors.


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