25 January 2013

Getting to Portovenere - A Travel Guide

Old Portovenere overview
Portovenere, Liguria.
Beautiful describes the town of Portovenere - so does stately and evocative and discreet. This jewel of Liguria is located on the western shore of the Gulf of La Spezia (and should not be confused with Portofino further north) - just 6 miles south (by air) from Riomaggiore, the southernmost village of the Cinque Terre.  The poet Lord Byron stayed in Portovenere - there's a grotto named for him. The Nobel Prize winning poet Eugenio Montale came here, and wrote a famous poem titled 'Portovenere' - there's a piazza named for him where you can read it. There are also many romantic people who come to visit Porto Venere, as the Romans and the town government spell the name. This article will help you visit Portovenere, whether you are a poet or a reader. For information on What to Eat and selecting a Portovenere hotel, scroll way down, and you also might like La Spezia Travel Guide - 10 Top Attractions.


Tall Portovenere buildings along waterfront
Waterfront buildings                                Portovenere, Liguria



Read Below 
    Portovenere By Bus
                          By Boat & Boat Taxi
                          By Automobile & Parking

                          By Taxi 
    Hiking To Portovenere & Cinque Terre.
    Where to Stay.
    More Information.

    Sample Boat Schedule




Portovenere By Bus.
Bus from La Spezia to Portovenere
ATC bus line 11/P runs between La Spezia and Portovenere.
It's easy to take the bus from La Spezia to Portovenere. The excellent bus service to and from La Spezia is the 11/P bus line which runs along the shore road (SS530) to Portovenere, leaving about every 15 minutes all day long. From La Spezia, the trip takes about 35 minutes, and it's a codice 3 ticket. One main bus stop is Mercato Nord which is just north of La Spezia's open market on Corso Cavour (La Spezia Map: Train-Bus Transfer).  There are also other outbound bus stops, of course (one's near the soccer stadium) and they are found by means of the blue bus icons on the map referenced above. If you click the bus icon, a box appears with the stop's bus lines and times. You can read more about taking buses and free and pay parking in our article Getting Around: La Spezia. The Mercato Nord bus stop is a pleasant 10 minute walk from La Spezia Centrale train station.


Bus stop for La Spezia to Portovenere bus
La Spezia, Mercato Nord bus stop.
Ticket Sellers. Tickets are sold at most newstands and tobacconists, all post offices, some bars and stores. In La Spezia, the easiest for many will be the Centrale FS train station, where there's a self-service machine. From the Mercato Nord bus stop, there's a newstand at the outdoor market nearby.  In Portovenere, tickets are sold at the Tourist Office (Pro Loco) near the entrance to the old town. There's also a self-service machine on the municipio (city hall) side of Via Garibaldi near the main bus stop - opposite the fruit store. If you buy from the bus driver, the price is doubled. 

From Sarzana, The bus from Sarzana to Portovenere requires a codice 7 ticket, and the bus leaves from Piazza Terzi, which is located not far from the train station. Ask locally for directions. The bus leaves hourly and it takes about 70 minutes. On your return, make sure you get the Sarzana bus from Portovenere, since after reaching La Spezia each bus travels to a different destination.

For more advanced planning use the Trip Planning Function, or consult the ATC schedule in entirety or by route: ATC Bus Line Timetables. Remember that the schedules do not mention every bus stop, and they change around June 14 and September 15, though usually not significantly.

Portovenere By Boat. 
Ferry boat to Portovenere & Cinque TerreIt's easy to reach to Portovenere by boat. The most realistic departure ports are La Spezia, Lerici, and four of the Cinque Terre towns (not Corniglia). While there's one RT daily from Levanto, locals recommend the train to Riomaggiore and then a boat from there.

For the official current ferry schedule, consult the Gulf of La Spezia's Maritime Consortium. (the schedule info appears only near the start of the season). Boat service begins March 29, 2014 and typically ends at the end of October. There are more trips on weekends and holidays, and in July and August. For summer schedules, look at our article Cinque Terre, Lerici, Portovenere Boat / Ferry Schedules. Verify schedules before your trip, if at all possible. Keep in mind that the boats can be canceled for rough weather (which is uncommon in summer).

In La Spezia, the boats leave from the western end of the Passeggiata Morin, which is the promenade along the waterfront, a 15-20 minute walk from the Centrale train station. Nearby there are 40 parking spots available for tour boat customers at 9 Euro a day. They may be reserved in advance at this Italian language page of the Mobpark Website.
In Lerici, the dock is at the castle end of town, on one side of Piazza Garibaldi.
In Portovenere, the dock is where the auto road nears the waterfront at the edge of the old town.

Portovenere By Boat Taxi.
As befits a maritime community, you can arrange for affordable charter boat service for transport to or from Portovenere, as well as for tours, weddings, or facilitating unique hikes. This is an especially useful option if you have a group. The Consorzio Barcaioli is the local cooperative which has a price page (quoted per person with a 4 passenger minimum). Portovenere Taxi Boat is a small local charter and rental boat service.

Sgabei: Lunigiana DOC.
Portovenere By Automobile.
Driving to Portovenere. Driving through La Spezia is easy! The A15 autostrada exit becomes Via Carducci. Proceed straight about 2 km, and turn left, as directed by the blue Portovenere sign, onto Via Italia which is also SS1 (a/k/a the Roman Via Aurelia!). Proceed straight for about 2 km past La Spezia's lovely waterfront with its walkway, the Passeggiata Morin. The road will take a sharp right turn and then you're continuing straight as the road changes name to Viale Amendola. After about 1 km, turn left at a traffic light onto Viale Fieschi which is also SS530 following the blue sign to Portovenere and Cinque Terre. After another kilometer, at a giant intersection, you'll make a dull left turn toward Portovenere continuing on SS530. The road to Cinque Terre will be forking to the right on SS370. From here, the SS530 takes you to Portovenere without any serious decisions. You'll see some military installations; skirt the small seaside frazioni of Marola, Fezzano, and Le Grazie; be treated to some nice views of the Gulf; and after about 12 km and 20 minutes, you'll be there.

Renting A Car in Italy  If you drive in urban areas at home, you can drive in Italy. Be sure to educate yourself on a site like this: Slowtrav Driving Intro. Car rental is not cheap, but don't rent based solely on low price. Many frequent renters swear by AutoEurope: Auto Europe.

Portovenere parking
Pay Parking Machine
Parking in Portovenere Driving in Portovenere is even easier because there are no choices: there's just one one-way loop through town. There's also no decision regarding free parking - there isn't any: you must pay from 8am to midnight from about June 15 to September 14, or to 8 pm in low season. In 2013, it cost 1.50€ per hour generally, 1.75€ hourly near the water, and more in the one underground garage. For a short stay, it's the same rate for the pay parking lots ('Cavo zone') on the outskirts which can be reached by a free shuttle bus on weekends (April to Oct.) and daily in July and August. The parking receipt to display on your dashboard is issued by a machine and the ones we saw accepted coins and bills. Allow 2-3 hours for a simple tour of old Portovenere, 4-5 hours for a leisurely exploration with drinks or for a simple hike around the island of Palmaria. 

The complete parking fee schedule is here: Portovenere Parking Rates. If you're staying for more than 8 hours, investigate the daily rate. For a more an extended time, talk to your hotel, investigate the town's weekly rate, consider leaving the car in one of the free lots in La Spezia,  or consider parking near one of the towns along the shore road (SS530) and taking the bus the rest of the way. See our article Getting Around: La Spezia which has information and links on parking in La Spezia.

Portovenere by Taxi.
For a taxi to Portovenere from La Spezia, there's Radio Taxi La Spezia phone 0187 523 523.  The fare in early 2013 was listed as 35€. There may be small extra charges for luggage and extra passengers. In Italy, taxi drivers do not expect a tip. For a taxi in Portovenere, the pro loco lists Daniele at 346.1573636.

Portovenere peninsula and Palmaria Island and the sea
The Portovenere Promontory from near Campiglia on CAI trail 1, Sentiero del Crinale ( the Ridge Trail). Click to enlarge.
F to R: The peak Il Muzzerone, Byron's Grotto, the rock spur of San Pietro (note steeple), Palmaria Island, Tino Island.

Hiking to Portovenere.
Portovenere is the endpoint (or beginning) of one of Italy's most scenic trails - CAI 1, Portovenere to Levanto, also known as the Sentiero del Crinale (the ridge trail). It's a serious trail that runs through mountainous terrain, but it's not crazy steep or unusually dangerous. If you are starting a hike from Portovenere, the trail begins off the main piazza outside the old town, and climbs alongside the town wall.

Portovenere Cinque Terre trail marker
Trail 1 at Portovenere's town wall.
For hiking to Portovenere, there are several starting points besides Levanto. You can reach Trail 1 from all the Cinque Terre villages via connecting trails. Trail 1 can also be accessed by bus from La Spezia - either by the connecting Trail 4 from Biassa or as it passes through the town of Campiglia. For Biassa, bus 19 leaves almost hourly, and stops at Mercato North, among other stops (see the bus section). For Campiglia, it's bus 20 and it begins at Centrale FS train station and also stops at Mercato North. Note that beginning at Biassa or Campiglia allows a downhill round trip using the bus from Portovenere back to La Spezia!


The best Cinque Terre trail map
The best Cinque Terre trail map we could find. Click to enlarge, right click to save.

For a wanderful,  detailed look at the geography, drill down on this map of Europe: Reit- und Wanderkart. Also, before your hike look at the Parco Nationale delle Cinque Terre website for news and for a schematic trail map which will indicate closed trails. 

The estimated hiking time to Portovenere from Levanto is 12 hours, from Monterosso 11 hours, Vernazza 10 hours, Riomaggiore (the nearest train) is 4 hours, from Biassa 3 1/2 hours, and from Campiglia 2 hours. 

What to Eat
We have done the heavy eating for you. Read about the area specialties,  A Guide to the Local Food of La Spezia

Where To Stay
A word to the wise: location is important in deciding on a Portovenere hotel, so be sure to understand where your choices are located. We have listed places from the old town outward. While some 'Portovenere' hotels are a pleasant 20 minute stroll along the waterfront, others are in the hamlet of Le Grazie (della Baia, Le Grazie & Relais del Golfo, for example) which is a bus or car ride away.

Click on the Portovenere hotel name for more information and booking.

Affittacamera La Darsena Darsena means wharf, and this B&B is indeed right along the water and right in old Portovenere.

This hotel is just outside the ancient wall surrounding the old part of Portovenere - Hotel Genio.

This B&B is just a few minutes outside the old area, along the waterfront. Affittacamera La Lanterna

Hotel Belvedere is well located and maybe the most popular choice.

Not far from the old town and closer to Portovenere's limited beaches is Hotel Paradiso.

About a pleasant 20 minute stroll along the waterfront is Hotel Royal Sporting. This is nearer to beach facilities, and anyway you'll need the walk after what you will eat.


Incredibly, it is also possible to stay and eat at the Rifugio Muzzerone on hiking Trail 1 located high above but within sight of Portovenere (phone 340 8098720, rifugiomuzzerone@libero.it). There are 10 beds and you'd need a sleep sack. Don't even think that you won't need a reservation. We couldn't find a website, but they are on Facebook.

More Info
Palmaria Hiking Information about hiking Palmaria Island just across the channel from Portovenere.

Pro Loco Portovenere The local tourist association maintains a very informative site.

Integrated Route Planner This interactive transport timetable from the Ligurian region will give integrated routes within and between Ligurian provinces using both trains and buses. It only works about a week ahead, but it is a very helpful resource. Also adapted for Mobile Devices.

Trenitalia Link in English.

Ferry Boat Schedules
We have archived a full year's schedules. See our article  Cinque Terre, Lerici, Portovenere Boat / Ferry Schedules
In season, official information is available from the Maritime Consortium.
Boat service is may be suspended in rough weather (rare in summer).

Written by Martha Bates

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