La Spezia

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Portovenere

Portovenere - panorama

Located at the south end of a peninsula stretching from the La Spezia coast is Portovenere, an ancient fishing village with a charming beauty. Its commune of the same name also includes the nearby villages Fezzano and Le Grazie as well as the three islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto.

The first settlements date back from the 1st century, the village’s name supposedly a reference to the goddess Venus. Following the fall of the Roman Empire, Portovenere was taken over by the Byzantine as a dock for their fleet, later destroyed by the Lombards and then targeted by Saracen raiders. During the middle ages, the city rebuilt and expanded, adding fortifications and towers. Unfortunately much of the old town was destroyed during the Genoa war during the later 15th century. The old part of town was abandoned and a new one was built beside it, growing from around the Church of San Pietro; the division between the two sides is still visible today.

Points of interest

Among the sights offered by Portovenere is Santuario della Madonna Bianca, a 2nd century Romanesque church built by the Genovese. In the historic centre is the city gate guarded by a tower, the fortified wall climbing all the way up to Castello Doria above the city. Castello Doria is the largest and most impressive castle in the commune, built some time in the 2nd century by the Genovese to protect the area from attacks.

Corniglia

Corniglia - Cinque terre - view

Unlike the other towns in the Cinque Terre, Corniglia is not on the coast but rather on top of a cliff overlooking the sea, its position granting it a stunning view of the area. Around are vineyards and natural terraces that provide the town with wine and grain. To reach Corniglia, visitors can take a bus from the train station or brave the Lardarina, a brick staircase with nearly 400 steps.

Things to see

The first settlements of Corniglia date back to the Roman Age, the village expanding during the Middle Ages until it became what we see today. Narrow streets are lined with colorful houses, and remnants of Genovese fortifications that once protected the town from pirate raids can still be seen, most notably the tower near Piazza Fosso. Some other particular sights in Corniglia include the Church of San Pietro, built in the 14th century in the Gothic style but its interior decorated in the Baroque style. From the terrace of Santa Maria, it is possible to view the Marina di Corniglia, a little naturally occurring gulf filled with turquoise waters.

Monterosso al Mare

Monterosso - Cinque Terre - panorama

Monterosso is the largest of the five Cinque Terre towns; it was erected right in the center of a gulf of the La Spezia coastline. It is the only village in the Cinque Terre to have a large sand beach, which locals and tourists alike take full advantage of during the summer months.

The towns is famous for its beautiful lemon and olive trees and its white wines!

It is divided into two sections: the old town and the new town. The old town is the original settlement, dating as far back as the 1st century. This part boasts ancient architecture such as the Torre Aurora, a Genovese castle that protected the coast from pirate raids, and the Church of San Giovanni Battista, built in the 13th century in the Gothic style and particular for its black and white striped façade. The two parts are divided by a small tunnel.

Famous is also the Convent of Monterosso that it is possible to admire from many different points of the Cinque Terre area.

Things to see

In 1910, an impressive statue of Neptune was constructed on the western end of the beach out of cement and iron. This statue used to hold up a shell-shaped terrace but much of it was lost during bombings in World War II.

For centuries it was possible to reach Monterosso only by sea or mule paths. The situation changed in 1870 when the newly born Italian government decided to built a railroad line. Today the mule paths are perfect for hiking: the views that they offer are breathtaking!