La Spezia: il Golfo dei Poeti (Poet’s Gulf)
It may seem like a legend, a fairy tale from other epochs brought to the world from the voices of travelers.
It makes you think about the impossibility of ever finding again a place that cradled a myth so far away and singular. However, the Mediterranean sea, the sea of our life, has become sweeter and benign so domestic and gathered as a lake is, a small coastal territory that has kept alive a secret for many centuries: it’s here that poetry has found its horizon and its home. Between the pinkish shadows of its hamlets, in the bland movement of its hills, beyond the very deep blue of its sea, this discreet land reveals with your footsteps the miraculous dream of Shelley, Petrarca and Montale, the mystery of the perfect harmony of a unison song between man and his sea, his land.
This is the Gulf of the Poets, the Gulf of La Spezia. A unique microcosm, so close to the usual tourist route, but so far from the common places. Whoever crosses its borders of steep cliffs and high pine groves, knows that he’s beginning a voyage of astonishment and wonder, even after so many centuries, scenery that still penetrates one’s gaze until it mingles with the soul of the one walking it.
The first village you come to, as you travel westwards from La Spezia, is Le Grazie, which lies in an enchanting natural inlet quite close to the important archaeological site of “Villa Romana del Varignano”, which is open to visitors. One place you really must stop at is Portovenere, which is recognized by UNESCO as part of world cultural heritage.
The picturesque Genoese-style village of Portovenere (twelfth century) is full of typical coastal charm. You can admire the Genoese castle and the Church of San Lorenzo (consecrated in 1130 and entirely rebuilt in 1931-35).
At the far end of the promontory of Portovenere stands the ancient Church of San Pietro, which was built in 1277 on existing sixth-century foundations. You can leave Porto Venere by boat to visit the island of Palmaria, a marine reserve lying in the centre of the “whale sanctuary”. You can then visit Tino and the ruins of the Monastery of San Venerio.
The festival of San Venerio, a religious hermit who lived on the island of Tino, in front of Portovenere, is held on 13 September every year. The island itself, a jewel in the Gulf of La Spezia, is occupied by a naval garrison but can be visited on the occasion of religious services in remembrance of the saint. You can visit the remains of the abbey, the small cloister and the reconstructed church. Not far from Tino is the small island of Tinetto, where you will find the ruins of a fifth-century church. The island of Palmaria is a splendid nature reserve.
Portovenere’s host of beaches and coastal rocks make it an ideal place for a holiday with a difference. The network of paths running across the island are ideal for rambling in the greenery. All kinds of water sport can be practiced in the Gulf.
There is no shortage of accommodation in Portovenere and its beaches have many facilities.
The typical dishes of Portovenere (seafood and an infinite variety of fish) are quite rightly famous throughout the western part of the Gulf and are served in nearly all restaurants. The seascape of the Gulf near Portovenere is marked by rows of wooden poles: these are part of the breeding grounds for mussels, which are another fundamental ingredient of La Spezia and Portovenere cuisine.
Where to stay in Portovenere
Hotels, guesthouses, apartments and villas in Portovenere: search and make a reservation here.