The village of Vernazza was founded in the year 1000 but flourished in the 13th century under the dominion of the Republic of Genova.
It is said to be the most beautiful part of Cinque Terre, but being surrounded by sea from three sides, it is really susceptible to floods. Actually, the big flood of 2011 destroyed hundreds of houses here.
The place is dominated by Castello Doria constructed to protect it against pirates. Today the situation has changed and the 'pirates' are welcomed, especially during Festa dei Pirati.
Vernazza is a charming village with a harbour best seen from the walking trail leading from Monterosso. After a strenous walk we admired the view hoping for a nice rest in a cosy cafe. However, when we descended, we found out that the place was so crowded that finding a place to sit down was impossible, Vernazza's central square is right on the water. We managed to find a few square metres of free space on a concrete pier. High price of popularity, isn't it?
If ever I go back to Cinque Terre, it'll be off season.
Monterosso is the most western village of Cinque Terre located on the hills where vines and olives are cultivated. It's the only of the five that has a small sandy beach.
The Aurora tower divides the old part of the town (destroyed in the flood of October2011) from the new one that developed along the coast. The old town is dominated by the ruins of a castle and consists of narrow streets with tall houses typical of the region.
In the 16th century Monterosso was defended by 16 towers of which only 3 remained .
What attracts lots of tourists to Monterosso is a beach. There's a small free of charge pebble beach and a bigger sandy one for which you have to pay.
Although Cinque Terre was the main reason of our visit to Liguria, it didn't turn out to be the highlight of it. It doesn't mean of course that I wasn't impressed by the renowned five villages. The unique beauty of the places is undeniable. The ribbon of rock and soil winds between the sea and mountains on the length of 15 km. On it, hugged to the rocks, are five villages.
The time when the region was isolated from the rest of the peninsula is long gone and forgotten. Today it is literally invaded by tourists. Perhaps it's different off-season, so next time I would like to come here in spring or autumn.
I was very sad to hear about the disaster of October 2011. A severe rainstorm caused flooding of parts of Cinque Terre. The streets of Vernazza and Monterosso were covered with mud, rocks and debris. There were some casualties - four people drowned in this tragic event. Many buildings were damaged: plumbing, electric wiring, phone lines as well as some floors and walls had to be replaced. The hotels and restaurants of Vernazza and Monterosso need tourist's money as never before so tourism shouldn't come to a halt.
The Andrea Doria castle is a great example of Genoa military art. It was built by the noble Genoese family called Doria. The best known member of the family was probably Admiral Andrea Doria after whom the castle was named. Several centuries later a famous cruise liner was also named after the Admiral. The ship was the true pride of Italy - it was said to be the largest, fastest and safest Italian ship of those times. Unfortunately, in July 1956 it tragically sank near the coast of Massachusetts.
You get to the castle climbing the steps leading from Via Cappellini or going up the path from San Pietro church. Before you get to the ticket office you can stop for a while on a kind of a natural terrace shaded with trees. It has a couple of benches so it's a splendid place for a rest on a hot summer day.
The castle is a massive pentagonal construction with a bastion and large communication trenches. However, what I loved most about the castle were the stunning views it offered over the sea and the town.
Entrance fee is 2.20 EURO
The castle is available for hiring - wedding ceremonies and other celebrations can be held here.
The church of San Lorenzo was built in 1116 by the Genoeses just after they purchased the town. In 1130 it was consecrated by Pope Innocenzo 2nd. It is in shape of basilica and has three aisles with wide arches. In comparison with San Pietro the interior of San Lorenzo hides some true masterpieces of art. The examples are: a marble altarpiece attributed to Mino da Fiesole, a painting on wood with the crucifix made by an unknown artist and a 16th century polyptych with Saint Martin and other Saints. But the most famous is the painting of Madonna Bianca deeply worshipped by the local people. The legend goes that the image was brought here in 1204 in a hollowed trunk hermetically sealed and then miraculously transformed into its present shape in 1399. Every year on August 17th there's a torchlight procession which commemorates the event.
The main street of Porovenere, called via Cappellini, is entered at its one end through an ancient gate. To the left of the gate you can see the 17th century Genoese measures of capacity.
Via Cappellini is a charming narrow street lined with bars, cosy restaurants and little shops where you can buy souvenirs and local products. One of them is pesto - a native of Liguria. This sauce composed of pine nuts, basil leaves, garlic and olive oil doesn't need any recommendation.
Nice smells coming from restaurants invite visitors to try their specialities, such as mussles and octopus. Having noticed the mussle breeding areas a few steps away, we may be sure of their freshness.
The street winds up towards the San Pietro church. But we choose to climb up the steep steps that will lead us to San Lorenzo church.
Byron's grotto is behind a rocky area next to the San Pietro church. It is said to be a place regularly visited by Byron. As the rumour goes, it is from here that the poet started his six km long swim across the bay to meet in Terzano his fellow - Percy Shelley. Whether it's true or not, the place is highly evocative.
It's a great spot to relax - you can sit on sea-polished rocks and gaze at the blue waters of the bay and San Pietro church. If you don't mind sharp rocks which make getting into water quite hard, it's one of few places in the vicinity that are accessible for a swim. When we were there, some local daredevils were jumping into the sea from one of the rocks rising from the sea - not the safest thing to do when you think of the rocky bottom.
Built in around the 1200's (apparently there is no actual historical date available - it's said to be debatable), this huge castle sits atop the hill, next to the church of San Pietro, and the church of San Lorenzo.
The admission fee is unbelievably cheap - 2,10 Euros for adults and ,50 Euros for children.
You can walk throughout the castle grounds at your leisure, and the day we visited, there was not another soul in sight.
Imogen danced for us on the outside "stage" area, and we sat on the very old steps as her audience. It is such an unbelievably serene place to visit - you feel like you've been taken back in time.
The grounds are also quite large, and it's nice to have a wander through these too. There's a little old church to the right hand side, which although is used by the locals regularly, is well worth the visit.
If you're game enough, take the challenge to walk up along the roof of the castle - there are no hand rails though, so families with little children should definately carry them or keep a close eye on them at all times.
It's incredibly high though - be warned - especially for those of you who are afraid of heights as I am.
There's a travellogue of this Castle with heaps more great photos - please be sure to have a look!
I have also included the official website for the Castle below, which has a great deal of extra information and opening times, etc.
You can go by a boat to the three islands from Portovenere: excursion takes about 40 minuts and contains panoramic view of Byron's bay, Grotta Azzurra and of the islands: Palmaria - Tino and Tinetto.
It costs 8 Euro.
I didn't do that only because my very short budget :-(((. Do not follow me :-)
Check updates following the link below or e-mail to:
The comapny is called: Consorzio Maritimo Turistico "5 Terre - Golfi dei Poeti".
You can visit all 5 Cinque Terre villages by boat starting from Portovenere (or La Spezia).
Choose what you prefer: daily trips, half day excursions or any other schedule.
For more: follow the link below.
Portovenere's views are dominated by the large rocky island known as Isola Palmaria. It is separated from the mainland by a narrow channel called le Bocche. The island is famous for its grottos, ruined monasteries and castles. Today it has been turned into a natural reserve. Ferries drop visitors there from Portovenere for hiking and other outdoor tourist activities.
Two steep staircases through narrow passages link Via Capellini with Calata Doria, the waterfront promenade. They are known as Iº Capitolo and IIº Capitolo (i.e., primo e secondo, first and second). Years ago, they provided the only access into parts of the town.
Portovenere lies at the southern end of the national park of Cinque Terre and is a great base for visiting the park and its villages. From here, the ferry boat, known as traghetto leaves frequently to the numerous villages of le Cinque Terre, which are most easily accessible by sea.
Preserved to this day, the official entrance into the town of Portovenere in medieval times is pierced through the fortified walls. The arched gateway leads to Via Capellini, the town's main street. Above the arch is the inscription: Colonia Ianuenses 1113.
Dominating the whole of Portovenere, the hilltop Castello Doria dates from 1161. It was built by the Genoese over the ruins of a previous castle and used for defensive purposes. Over time, Castello Doria saw further expansions and restorations, particularly in the 15th and 16th centuries. When Napoleon conquered Italy in 1797, he turned Castello Doria into a prison.
Via Lungomare 111, Le Grazie Di Portovenere, Portovenere, Italian Riviera, 19022, Italy
Good for: Solo
A beautiful - very large - triple room here only cost something like 180 Euros per night. It was...more
Via Garibaldi 34 - 40, Portovenere, Italian Riviera, 19025, Italy
Good for: Families