The ‘Cinque Terre’, that dramatic piece of Ligurian coastline which incorporates the little towns of Riomaggiore, Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia and Manarola, almost desperately clinging onto the rugged coastline to avoid being swallowed by the sea, are easily accessible from Bagni di Lucca and are rightly very popular (sometimes I think too popular) with walkers traversing the footpath connecting the five places.
Porto Venere is actually a sixth town on the list, so the ‘Cinque Terre’ should more correctly be called the ‘Sei Terre’. However, since Porto Venere doesn’t have a railway station and is reachable by bus from La Spezia it’s often left out. This is a great pity for Porto Venere is one of the most beautiful places on earth and it was only this week that I first visited it after ten years of making Italy my principal residence. How strange!
I arrived at Porto Venere after taking a train from Bagni di Lucca and changing at Aulla for La Spezia, which is worth a day to itself: see my posts on La Spezia at
I then took the 11P bus to Porto Venere from Viale Garibaldi which is just ten minutes from the station. Parking must be a headache in Porto Venere and the road to it is twisty and often narrow. The greatest hazard, however, is not the road itself but what you can see from it: the views are so spectacular that you could be easily distracted and plunge to your doom over the often steep sides!
The whole public transport journey from Bagni di Lucca to Porto Venere takes a little over two hours if you study your connections well. My return journey took me via Viareggio and Lucca involving a couple of changes but I was glad I didn’t use my own transport.
From ancient Ligurian beginnings Porto Venere became part of the great Genoese maritime republic and shares many of the republic’s characteristics:
Massive fortifications crowned by the Doria fortress:
Narrow alleys called ‘caruggi’:
Beautiful Romanesque zebra-striped church architecture:
San Lorenzo with its miraculous image of the Madonna:
And the most delectable seascapes including the island of Palmaria, separated by the stretch of water known as ‘le bocche’:
Not leaving aside Byron’s favourite haunt, the cove where he would forget his club foot which made him limp embarassingly and swim his disability away in the lovely waters of the bay of poets:
There is something quite magical about visiting normally tourist-infested haunts in mid-winter when there only a few hardy souls about. There may not be many bars, restaurants and souvenir shops open but the freedom from crowds is surely something to be enjoyed.
It’s great that we have these wonderful places, so different from our mountain haunts in their seascapes, at such a close distance from the Val di Lima. What other country, I wonder, has so much variety packed in so small area of territory?
PS Fellow blogger Debra Kolkka has written extensively on Porto Venere. For example, see her post at https://bagnidilucca.wordpress.com/2010/11/09/portovenere/
There’s also a pretty good web site for Porto Venere at https://portovenere.a-turist.com/index