Portovenere’s brightly painted buildings, lively harbor, and clifftop castle make it a quintessential Italian Riviera town, perched on the rocky shores of the Gulf of Poets (Golfo dei Poeti). An easy detour from the wildly popular Cinque Terre National Park, this comparatively tranquil seaside town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a rich history, delicious seafood, and stunning backdrop of cliffs, caves, and coves—making it ideal for hiking, mountain biking, or just relaxing.
Portovenere is most often visited on a day trip from La Spezia, San Gimignano, Siena, Milan, or, most commonly, Florence. Most tours combine free time in this oceanside town with stops in the coastal villages of Cinque Terre for hiking, dining, and exploring. It’s also possible to admire the picturesque waterfront aboard a sailing cruise around the Golfo dei Poeti.
Things to Know Before You Go
- If visiting in summer, be sure to pack sunscreen and insect repellent.
- Public transportation to and from Portovenere is limited, so joining a tour is the best option for those without a car.
- White some hotels, ferries, and attractions in Portovenere are wheelchair and stroller accessible, the village’s steep and narrow lanes can be challenging for those with limited mobility.
How to Get There
Located at the southern tip of Cinque Terre National Park along the Italian Riviera, Portovenere is reachable by car (year-round) and ferry boat (mid-April through October only) from nearby villages such as La Spezia, Levanto, and Vernazza. It is set 102 miles (164 kilometers) west of Florence and just nine miles (15 kilometers) from La Spezia.
When to Get There
The most atmospheric, albeit crowded, time to visit Portovenere is during the summer season (May to August). The town is a popular destination any time of year, but be aware that many hotels, restaurants, and attractions close down in low season.
The Legend of the Golfo dei Poeti
La Spezia Bay is better known as the Golfo dei Poeti, or the Gulf of Poets, and its natural beauty has been inspiring poets since Roman times. Poets Persio, George Sand, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Eugenio Montale have all mentioned the bay in their verses, while one of the coastal caves is named after former resident Lord Byron.