Portovenere: ancient seaside village near Cinque Terre

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Portovenere is a wonderful seaside village of Roman origin, but which developed in the Middle Ages as a bulwark of the Republic of Genoa against the hated enemy Pisa. The picturesque village of Portovenere is located at the end of the rocky peninsula that closes to the west the Gulf of La Spezia, in front of the peninsula are also the three islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto. Used as a port since Roman times, in the Middle Ages it became an important fortified center of the Republic of Genoa.

The Ligurian coast between Cinque Terre and Portovenere is a landscape of great scenic and cultural value. In 1997 Portovenere and the surrounding area (along the Cinque Terre and the islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto) were included in the UNESCO list of world heritage sites.

Access to the medieval village is through the ancient gate defended by a twelfth-century tower, very characteristic is the succession of colorful houses, long and narrow, that line the Calata Doria. Overlooking the village the Doria Castle, built by the Genoese in the twelfth century and renovated between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In the upper part of Portovenere it is also the medieval church of San Lorenzo, built in the twelfth century in a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic styles.

At the top of the medieval village, overlooking the village is the castle, built on the site of a first Genoese fortifications dating from the twelfth century. Today’s fortified structure is the result of the work put in place by Antonio Spinola in the second half of the sixteenth century. The fortress has a pentagonal shape and is characterized by three large ramparts facing the sea and the town below. The side facing towards the land side is dominated by a circular tower which is all that it remains of the medieval castle. The entrance to the castle was via a drawbridge, now disappeared. The castle is connected to the village below by a wall with square towers.

In Genoese gothic style it is the church of San Pietro which is located on a rocky outcrop overlooking the sea. The church was built in the sixth century and rebuilt in the twelfth century. In front of the church there are beautiful views of the Cinque Terre, from here you can go down to the sea and to Arpaia Grotto or Byron’s Grotto, a place that was the refuge of the English poet George Gordon Byron.