How to spend 72 hours in Portovenere and Cinque Terre
If you’ve never heard of Portovenere, you’re not the only one. While hoards of tourists flock to the famous Cinque Terre on the Ligurian Riviera, the picturesque Portovenere remains less crowded and definitely Liguria’s best-kept secret. I spent a long weekend in this stunning seaside town and I have completely fallen in love with it. The town is a splash of colors, the sea is crystal clear and the views are jaw-dropping. Not to mention that the delicious local cuisine comes at a bargain in comparison to other places! Portovenere has it all: history, culture, views, food and beautiful waters perfect for a swim! Plus, the wild Palmaria island is right in front of Portovenere if you want to head to the beach, and boats to Cinque Terre leave every hour. Here’s my itinerary on how to spend 3 days in Portovenere and Cinque Terre, from where to stay, what to see and where to eat.
Getting to Portovenere by Train
Portovenere is located on the Gulf of La Spezia, more commonly known as the Bay of Poets. Reaching this beautiful seaside town isn’t much of a hassle. Luca and I took the Frecciabianca train from Roma Termini to La Spezia Centrale, which took 3.45h.
If you don’t speak Italian and you’re having a hard time understanding train ticket websites like Trenitalia, go to ItaliaRail – partner of Trenitalia – to purchase your train ticket for a 100% English website.
If you’re a large group of people traveling through Italy, you can also get cheaper tickets on ItaliaRail than on Trenitalia and you can book for up to 20 people, instead of just 5 with Trenitalia. You can also purchase flexible train tickets that are easy to change as well as travel insurance.
Getting to Portovenere by bus from La Spezia
Once we reached La Spezia Centrale train station, we walked just 10 minutes to the bus stop and took the P Portovenere bus to Portovenere. You can purchase the tickets for the bus at any Tabacchi (the stores with the T sign) and they cost €2.50. The journey is just a 35-minute bus-ride, and the views are beautiful! Keep in mind that the bus stop is the one of Via Garibaldi, except on Fridays, which is on Via di Monale. Buses leave every 15 minutes.
Getting to Portovenere by boat or taxi
However, we visited Portovenere in May, and there weren’t too many people on the bus. If you don’t want to sit on the bus for too long in the hot summer months, you can always arrange a taxi transfer, which will cost €50. Another option is heading to the port of La Spezia (just a 15-minute walk from the train station) and catching the boat to Portovenere, which takes 30 minutes and costs €8 one-way to Portovenere. The boat leaves around every hour, but schedules change depending on the season.
Take a look at their website for more information: navigazionegolfodeipoeti.it/en
Best home-base to visit the Cinque Terre: where to stay in Portovenere
Most foreigners I talk to tend to only consider visiting the Cinque Terre. Heck, when Luca and I arrived to the La Spezia Centrale train station, there was an enormous line of people waiting at the Cinque Terre Info Point. What people don’t really know is that apart from the Cinque Terre, there is the beautiful town of Portovenere to visit. And trust me, it is truly a gem. It has a charming port, beautiful sites to visit, jaw-dropping views, a stunning colorful town, yummy restaurants and the Palmaria island is right in front of it, which means easy access to beaches and boats. So after visiting some of the towns of Cinque Terre, I can sincerely say that if I were you, I would definitely use Portovenere as a home-base to visit the Cinque Terre. That’s what Luca and I did, we got our accommodation in Portovenere and then took day trips to the Cinque Terre. Portovenere is located right on the tip of the Bay of Poets, and it’s just a short boat ride from the Cinque Terre. The farthest Cinque Terre town – Monterosso – is just 1.20h from Portovenere, while the closest town – Riomaggiore – is just a 30-minute boat-ride from Portovenere.
So where to stay in Portovenere? Luca and I stayed at a charming luxury bed and breakfast in Portovenere called Colonna 24, overlooking the famous caruggio. This accommodation had it all: a great location, a refined modern design, beautiful designer bathrooms, exclusive amenities, yummy breakfast and a stunning staff. They have 6 different rooms for you to choose from and I can’t explain enough how much Rosanna and Paolo were welcoming to us. They were waiting for us at the bus stop with a luggage cart to help us with our bags, they recommended the best restaurants and reserved nice tables for us in advance. They even had amazing itinerary tips for us on what to see! They were truly amazing hosts, and really contributed to a wonderful stay in Portovenere. Plus that complimentary snack and bottle of spumante waiting for us in our room was definitely the perfect way to start our stay! We were just footsteps from the stunning San Pietro Church, the Doria Castle and the San Lorenzo Church, and just a stone’s throw away from the port. If you plan on coming to Portovenere, I can’t recommend this place enough!
P.S. Give them a call or send them an email to get a 10% discount on your room!Via Colonna, 24, Portovenere
+39 0187 791484
Read about my full experience at this wonderful bed and breakfast in Portovenere.
The best things to see and do in Portovenere
Dotted along the Ligurian coastline overlooking the Bay of Poets lies the jaw-dropping Portovenere. Crystalline waters, a small yet bustling port, divine local cuisine and a town that is so colorful it seems like a splash of colors. But the best part about Portovenere are its views. Anyone who is into views cannot leave Portovenere out of their itinerary. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this pearl of the Ligurian coastline has marvellous panoramas that can be admired from its scenic viewpoints. It comes as no surprise that famous poets sought inspiration for their works in Portovenere’s beauty. One of the most famous being the English poet, Lord Byron. Click on the link below to read about what to see and the best things to do in Portovenere, Italy.
The best restaurants in Portovenere
Ligurian cuisine is mostly known for its internationally-renowned sauce: Pesto! For those that don’t know what pesto is, it’s a fresh green sauce made with basil, garlic, parmesan, pine nuts and olive oil. And yes, it’s served with pasta (usually trofie, a short, thin, twisted pasta from Liguria)! Another famous Ligurian food is Focaccia, a flat oven-baked bread that resembles pizza that just leaves you craving for more. But we’re on the seaside here, which means that Portovenere has amazing seafood restaurants! Rosanna had recommended the two restaurants that I’m about to tell you, and she seriously hit the bull’s eye with them! Click on the link below to read my guide on where to eat in Portovenere and Cinque Terre.
Day trip to Cinque Terre: Vernazza and Monterosso
On our second day in Portovenere, we went on a day trip to the stunning Cinque Terre. I loved the boat ride, you get such stunning views of the Ligurian Coast, you wish you’d never have to get off! And you really get a glimpse of mankind’s ingenious and creativity. Our first stop was Vernazza, which was jaw-dropping beautiful and extremely unique. As the boat docked, we went on a stroll on the main piazza and found such a lively atmosphere. Packed restaurants, people taking pictures of the magical scenery, shops selling beautiful artisanal clothes and products, and just that vacation atmosphere radiating from all corners. First we visited the beautiful 14th century Chiesa di S. Margherita di Antiochia, which stands right on the cliff overlooking the port of Vernazza. Go inside, admire the Romanesque architecture, the view and the beautiful octagonal bell tower. Afterwards, we walked along Via Roma, famous for its shops. If you go towards the Vernazza train station from the port, on your right you will find a beautiful rocky beach. You have to go through the rock, unfortunately when I was there it was closed because of danger of landslides. After exploring Vernazza, we headed to lunch in a fantastic place (also recommended by Rosanna) called Ristorante Belforte. We had an unforgettable lunch there, read my guide on where to eat in Portovenere and Cinque Terre. for more info!
Going to the beach in Monterosso
After our delicious lunch at Ristorante Belforte, we took the boat to Monterosso. If you enjoy walking, you can also get to Monterosso from Vernazza by walking a trail. It will take around one hour and a half, and you’ll get beautiful views of Vernazza. We were on a schedule since the last boat from Monterosso left at 5pm, so we just took the boat! As soon as we arrived to this beautiful Cinque Terre town, we hit the beach. And what a beach! You can probably guess that going to the beach in Cinque Terre isn’t very easy. That’s because they’re all cliffside villages and it’s hard to find a strip of sandy beaches. That’s not the case with Monterosso! It has a pretty large beach with crystal clear waters right in the old town of Monterosso. There are both private beaches where you can rent your umbrella and sun-bed, as well as free beaches where you can just lie down with your beach towel and go for a swim. There weren’t many people at the beach, so we just lied down and went for a swim. The water was pretty cold! And from what I’m told, it’s pretty chilly year-round! But wow, it’s simply beautiful! For a day at the beach, definitely head to Monterosso!