Why Porto Venere
- Doria Castle
- Church of San Lorenzo
- Church of San Piero
- Building by the sea
- Palmaria Island
Porto Venere is a small Ligurian town located near La Spezia. This city is famous for its beauties: the old castle, old houses, and churches, picturesque islands with many caves. Together with the Cinque Terre, the territory of Porto Venere has been included among the world heritage sites 🌍.
If you go to the Cinque Terre you must also make a stop in Porto Venere.
This beautiful port city has in fact nothing to envy to Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. Indeed, compared to the Cinque Terre, it is extremely better preserved and offers some more attractions to visit. It is also connected to the Cinque Terre by ferries, making it almost the Sixth Land.
The Porto Venere Regional Natural Park extends for about 400 hectares as an extension of the Gulf of La Spezia and enclosing the promontory of the same name, the islands of Palmaria, Tino, and Tinetto, and the Marine Protection Area.
Its origins are quite ancient, Porto Venere was born as a fishing village in very ancient times. The original city stood in Piazzale Spallanzani, right at the foot of the church of San Pietro ⛪. As early as the 1st century, due to its very exposed position, it began to undergo invasions by the Lombards and then by the Normans and Saracens.
The name of Porto Venere is linked to a legend. In ancient times, where the Church of San Pietro is now located, there was a temple dedicated to the goddess Venus Ericina known for her great beauty 🕍. It seems that the temple was honored because it was believed that the goddess was created by the foam of the waves of the Ligurian sea that collided against the rocks located just below the church.
The door of the village
The entrance to the historic center of Porto Venere, that is its main street Cappellini on which there are many shops and restaurants, was built in 1113, while the nearby tower was built in 1161.
On the main street, via Giovanni Capellini, there are numerous shops that sell typical local objects and typical food. Among the various objects: herring, which become trays and furnishing accessories.
Among the foods, on the other hand, cones of fried food, focaccia and pesto cannot be missing, often joined together as in the Ligurian focaccia with pesto, absolutely not to be missed!
The historic center of Porto Venere is well preserved: every corner is cared for and the houses are historic but well maintained. Walking in its streets is definitely a pleasure for the eyes!
Obviously, as in any village of medieval origin built on the rock, there are numerous stairways that lead up to the upper part of the village where the castle is located.
Church of San Lorenzo
The church, also known as the Sanctuary of the White Madonna, was built between the years 1118 and 1130. Every year, on August 17, the feast of the White Madonna is celebrated, who is the protector of Porto Venere. It is a rather large church that develops mainly in length. The Romanesque style was joined to the Gothic one.
This church is related to one of the gods, Jupiter. In fact, it seems that the position in which the church of San Lorenzo stands was previously occupied by a temple dedicated to this god. The name of the Sanctuary of the White Madonna, on the other hand, dates back to a miraculous event that took place in 1399, when the city of Porto Venere was invaded by the plague. A local, in front of a painting of a very pale-skinned Madonna, begged her to make the disease disappear from the town. Immediately the painting responded to the man by lighting up and making her colors shine. Within a few hours the plague was eradicated from all over the country, so interpreting this fact as a miracle, the painting was transferred to the church of San Lorenzo, giving rise to a phenomenon of pilgrimage visiting the painting.
The beautiful castle located on a rocky hill was built in the 12th-14th centuries, it belonged to the Doria family who played a very important role in the life of the Republic of Genoa. Now it is one of the most important curiosities of Porto Venere. From the castle, you can enjoy a view of the city and the church of San Pietro. The main room is the Hypostyle Hall, equipped with eight intermediate and sixteen perimeter pillars which are currently totally clear. The other indoor part of the Doria castle is the Captain’s House, so-called because of Castellano’s residence. The castle is spread over three floors, totally open. In the intermediate one, there is a small amphitheater used for some suggestive summer shows. All around the amphitheater a park color the stone walls of the castle green. During Napoleon’s supremacy, the castle was temporarily used as a prison.
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Church of San Piero
This is the first thing tourists see when approaching Porto Venere on the ferry. First, it seems that it is a large fortified castle with towers and large ancient walls, but in truth, it is a very beautiful and old church: built on the rock it also has a small terrace from which you can look at the sea and the end of the Palmaria Island.
The church was founded on the ancient remains of the pagan temple dedicated to the goddess Venus Ericina.
The remains of two cylindrical buildings have been preserved between the church of San Pietro and the Doria castle. These are the remains of the warning towers. Over the centuries their use was changed by transforming them into windmills useful for grinding flour. What remains today are none other than the original forms, within which grass is born and grows.
Building by the sea
A chain of old houses is built on the waterfront. At first glance, it seems that there is nothing particular, but these houses are truly special: the different widths of the facades, as well as the uneven heights and the pastel colors that alternate with each other, create an unusual spectacle for any other region of Northern Italy. Behind the houses, there is a rock and it seems that they are fixed on the rock and hung over the sea. The construction of the Palazzata a Mare, also known as tower-houses, was commissioned by the Republic of Genoa which, through this wall of buildings, managed to protect the innermost part of the town of Porto Venere.
Palmaria Island is the large island that you see as soon as you enter Porto Venere and that extends along the entire length of the Palazzata. This island, together with the two smaller ones not far away, is also protected by UNESCO.
Palmaria is separated from Porto Venere by a narrow corridor of water, known by the name of “the mouths“. Its area does not exceed two square kilometers, but it is the largest of all the Ligurian islands. The part facing the Ligurian Sea, on the other hand, is characterized by high cliffs and numerous caves (overall 36 caves), some of which are also quite important for reconstructing the history of this place. In the Grotta dei Colombi, reachable only through some ropes remains of Pleistocene animals and the remains of a cemetery have been found which testify to the presence of life up to five thousand years ago.
Among the natural places in the Porto Venere area, the beautiful sea caves are famous. There are 36 of them on Palmaria Island. The Arpaia cave is located on the mainland, near the church of San Pietro. This cave, also known as the Grotta di Byron, takes its name from the promontory of Arpaia, which is the one that overlooks it and on which the Doria castle is built. The Arpaia Cave is famous for its incredible beauty, which can be visited via ferries that arrive right at the entrance. Inside, along the walls, there are numerous crustaceans and anemones, which extend throughout the depth of the water in the cave, which goes from five to twenty meters. The name of Byron’s Cave refers to the cursed poet of English origins, who had found here an ideal place to stop and reflect and admire nature. From the church square, there is also a descent towards the observation square near the cave.