Portovenere, whose ancient name was Portus Veneris is believed to date back to at least the middle of the first century BC. It has been said that the name refers to a temple to the goddess Venus which was located on the promontory where the church of Peter the Apostle now stands. In Roman times the city was essentially a fishing community. Today, Portovenere is both a fishing village as well as has a trendy vacation stop for small private sailing boats and yachts.
The Gothic church of St. Peter, consecrated in 1198 was built over a pre-existing fifth century Palaeo-Christian church. The new part, from the thirteenth century, is marked externally by white and black stripes.
Come and wander around the narrow little streets of Portovenere. Discover shops selling local handicraft, find typical Ligurian food products in the various delicatessen to take home with you or give to your friends. If you are looking for clothes, you will find what you are looking for in the small boutiques here. All in all, shopping in these narrow medieval streets is an absolute delight, not to be missed !
Over the Roman gateway to the medieval town, through the main walls built in 1160 AD., there are clear signs of where the archway has been reduced twice in succession. When entering, above the gateway stands the inscription "Colonia Ianu-ensis 1113". To the left, low down, can be seen three marble basins of uncertain origin used to measure respectively fixed quantities of grain and wine.
On the wall overhead Porto Venere’s original emblem, three symmetrical towers on a rocky cliff, still used today as the town symbol.
The English poet Lord Byron who loved this area, and lived here around in the1820’s used to swim across the gulf of La Spezia to visit his friends Mary and Percy Shelley in Lerici. This small grotto is known today as Byron's Cave, and the Gulf of L a Spezia is sometimes referred to as the Gulf of Poets.
Portovenere is across the bay from Lerici, another village worth visiting. Portovenere has three islands just across the strait: Palmaria, the largest island with nice beaches, Tino a restricted military zone, and Tinetto, little more than a rock and also a military zone. The islands were once colonized by Benedictine monks and are now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the Cinque Terre.
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