Visit the Italian Riviera: How to Plan a Day Trip to Portovenere from Cinque Terre

Portovenere (or Porto Venere) is often overshadowed by its neighboring towns along the Ligurian coast of Italy, but is an amazing destination in its own right (and a whole lot less crowded than Cinque Terre). Portovenere is located in what is known as the “Gulf of Poets” because many famous poets, writers and artists sought inspiration from this beautiful part of the world and spent their days in the villages and islands within the gulf. Portovenere houses the stunning Castle Doria, Byron’s Grotto, The Church of San Pietro and a number of fun little swimming spots, and along with Portofino, is a fantastic day trip destination for anyone visiting Cinque Terre and the region of Liguria.

Planning a trip to Italy? Click here for 14 things you should know before you go to Italy!

Here’s what you need to know to help plan a trip to Portovenere from Cinque Terre!

Tips you should know before you visit Portovenere

How do I get there?

Note: Although this article will focus on how to get there from Cinque Terre, Portovenere can actually also be easily reached from Levanto, Pisa and Florence via La Spezia.

Portovenere does not have its own train station, so if you are taking a train the closest station is in La Spezia Centrale. Click here for the train schedules and input “La Spezia Centrale” as the name of the destination station.

  • From Cinque Terre/Levanto by train: There are number of direct trains from each of the 5 towns to La Spezia. The direct trains take anywhere from 10 minutes (from Riomaggiore) to an hour (from Levanto). Once you arrive at La Spezia, head to one of these bus stops to take bus 11 to Portovenere: the drive will take approximately 40 minutes. These buses can get really packed during the summer so plan accordingly! More details from the bus operator here.
  • From Cinque Terre/Levanto by ferry: The ferry may be one of the most direct ways to get there, but the boats do not appear to stop in Corniglia. The ferry timetable is available here.
  • From Cinque Terre by foot: Are you insane? Yes? Ok – well you can hike from Riomaggiore to Portovenere in 5-6 hours. Take this route followed by this route. Make sure you check the National Park website to make sure the hiking trails are open.
  • From Cinque Terre by car: Don’t do it. The road to Portovenere is extremely narrow and winding and there just isn’t enough parking available in Portovenere and it can be stressful trying to find a space.
  • From Cinque Terre by scooter: Because of the long and winding road down to Portovenere, I would only recommend this for people who have lots of experience in driving a scooter/motorcycle. Otherwise, I would recommend that you catch the bus from La Spezia or hop on a ferry from Cinque Terre. If your heart is set on getting there by scooter, we hired our scooter from Paddock Scooter in Levanto.

How long should I stay? Portovenere is not a large town, so half a day is more than enough. If you leave in the morning by 9 am you can make it back to Cinque Terre for dinner.

Are there ATMs? Bring cash. Most places don’t accept card or have a spending minimum and there aren’t many ATMs.

Is it easy to use my phone to navigate? Cell signal is decent along the coast, make sure you have a local SIM card so you can use Google Maps, or make sure you download maps before you leave the house.

Visiting Cinque Terre? Check out my practical guide to visiting Cinque Terre here!

The best things to see and do in Portovenere

Portovenere is not a large town, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in character. If you are visiting Portovenere for a day trip, here are the top 3 things that you shouldn’t miss:

1. Walk around and check out the harbour

The first thing you’ll see as you enter Portovenere is a row of brightly colored houses lining the harbour; these houses are not just beautiful, but functional too as they used to be a part of the town’s medieval defense system!

Take a stroll along the harbour and at the end of the pathway you will find your first stop, the Church of Saint Peter.

2. Check out Chiesa di San Pietro

Perched on a rock overlooking the sea, the Church or Saint Peter offers incredible panoramic views across the Gulf of Poets. Climb up to the roof and admire the glistening sea – this is a great sunset spot if you’re around for dusk!

3. Stop by Byron’s Grotto

Byron’s Grotto is a small rocky swimming spot at the base of stairs leading up to Chiesa di San Pietro. This grotto is where the British poet Byron used to swim to visit his friend in another comune, Lerici. Portovenere is also the starting point for the Byron’s Cup swimming race which sees a few hundred swimmers tackle the 7.5 KM stretch to San Terenzo in Lerici.

If you are keen for some sunbathing and a dip in the water, grab a spot on the rocks and soak up the sunshine.

4. Head up to Castello Doria

Look for the bronze “Mother Earth” statue next to the entrance and follow the path all the way up to reach the Doria Castle. The castle is an imposing structure overlooking the entire town and was an important military fortification built to protect the village. There is an entrance fee of €5 to roam the grounds but it is well worth the small cost; the castle is open from 10:30 am to 6:30 pm (hours subject to change).

5. Wander around the narrow streets and grab lunch

Portovenere street 1
Portovenere street 2
Portovenere street 3

Once you are done with exploring the Doria Castle, navigate the pathways that lead you back into the heart of Portovenere. Here you will find little streets lined with coffee shops and restaurants. We stopped by a cute little seafood restaurant with a beautiful water fountain and courtyard: La Medusa.

Where to stay in Cinque Terre

During our first 2 nights in Cinque Terre, we stayed in Riomaggiore at La Dolce Vita, conveniently located right on the main street. The room was spacious, comfortable and had a little balcony overlooking the heart of town. The only thing is that they do not offer breakfast, but it was easy enough to wander downstairs and pick up freshly baked pastries. Click here to book your stay at La Dolce Vita or click here for even more hotel options in Cinque Terre!

Looking for other day trip ideas from Cinque Terre? Check out my guide to visiting Portofino here!

However, if you are visiting Cinque Terre, here is my biggest tip: you don’t actually have to stay within Cinque Terre! In fact, hotels in the five towns are significantly more expensive. We opted to move from Riomaggiore to Levanto, which is one town over from Monterosso and used that as a peaceful base for exploring the coast (plus, it has a beautiful beach and awesome restaurants!). The Cinque Terre towns can get extremely crowded so it’s nice to be able get away from it all in the evening.

If you’re looking to do the same thing, look no further than Villa Caterina in Levanto, a wonderful family-owned property with beautiful gardens and rooms. It is a short walk away from the train station or you can rent a scooter to zoom your way around the coast. Click here to book your stay at Villa Caterina in Levanto!


Have you visited Portovenere? What are your tips to travelers visiting the area?

Looking for more travel tips on visiting Italy? Head on over here!

This article contains affiliate links. If you choose to book using these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting my website by using these links, I only recommend products or services that I have personally used & hotels I enjoyed visiting. How to Plan a Day Trip to Portovenere from Cinque Terre. Portovenere is located in what is known as the Gulf of Poets in Italy because many famous poets, writers and artists sought inspiration from this beautiful part of the world. Portovenere is a fantastic day trip destination for anyone visiting Cinque Terre and the region of Liguria. Read on for my guide to this beautiful port town in Italy! How to Plan a Day Trip to Portovenere from Cinque Terre. Portovenere is located in what is known as the Gulf of Poets in Italy because many famous poets, writers and artists sought inspiration from this beautiful part of the world. Portovenere is a fantastic day trip destination for anyone visiting Cinque Terre and the region of Liguria. Read on for my guide to this beautiful port town in Italy!

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51 Discussion to this post

  1. Natalia says:

    This is a fantastic post, it’s nice to actually have proper information. Thanks!

  2. Una-Minh says:

    I totally see why Portovenere would appeal to so many poets! Remote and a bit tricky to get to, you can imagine being totally at peace and not having to worry too much about the outside world there 🙂

    • Flo says:

      It feels like you’ve stepped back in time, and it’s easy to see why the great poets loved to spend their time there 🙂

  3. Danik says:

    I havent been to this part of Italy but its high up on our list. This looks totally amazing and Portovenere looks amazing. Loving the way you captured the photos.

  4. ada says:

    Portovenere looks so lovely! Ever since I saw photo of those colourful houses I always wanted to go. I love Italy, the county has something what wants me always to go back and explore more and more… And the food ahh I could just go there, sit near the water and eat all day 🙂

  5. Amrita Sen says:

    Informative post. I was just reading Eat Pray Love and then I saw this post. I am simply longing to visit Italy now.. 😉

    • Flo says:

      Italy is hands down one of my favorite countries in the world. I can’t seem to stay away! I hope you get to visit soon 🙂

  6. The ways to travel are sure to be experienced. It seems to have helped to opt for different routes and have change in the routine. A day trip to a different place, surely caught my eyes for a moment. The pictures are terrific and bring alive the beautiful landscape experienced during the road trip .

  7. Was hooked when you said the bay was called The Gulf of Poets! Such a charming little town, love your photos! 🙂 And I like the fact that you can go along the cost by train, that’s always enjoyable. 🙂

  8. John says:

    I can certainly see how this place inspired poets. It is gorgeous. I would love to hang out in Byron’s Grotto!

  9. Iza Abao says:

    Portovenere is very beautiful. I love the photos of the sea. The water is so blue. The mountain views are incredible. I like the color of the houses. It makes the place more vibrant. I hope that I can visit this place someday.

  10. Georgia says:

    So beautiful, I’m so jealous! Your blog posts look amazing, keep up the great work. X x

  11. great post! I have seen so much of Italy but have never been here!! Definitely saving this for when I finally go!

    tessa juliette

  12. Emily says:

    LOVE this guide, thanks so much for sharing! Am definitely bookmarking this for later and have tweeted and pinned it for future ref! Emily x

  13. Megan says:

    Oh my goodness! These pictures are absolutely amazing!!! Italy is my number one place I need to go on my list!!!!

  14. Isobel Lee says:

    Great article! This is a beautiful part of the world but not always easy to navigate. Love how you break down the travel into simple steps!

  15. Karen says:

    What a beautiful town! I had no idea you could so easily go between the two. Cinque Terre is still on my bucket list!

    • Flo says:

      I enjoyed Cinque Terre, but really loved exploring the other towns along the Ligurian coast. Portofino, Portovenere, Bonassola and Levanto were all incredible!

  16. Caroline says:

    I am obsessed with Byron – I studied him at uni and have been besotted ever since! I’d love to go and see his old haunts but on top of that, it all looks so beautiful. Really do need to go!

  17. Meg says:

    Wonderfully detailed and useful information, thank you! I’ve been throughout Italy on different trips, but never to the Cinque Terre area. I would love to go back and use this. <3

    • Flo says:

      Thank you so much for checking this out, Meg! It’s a beautiful part of the world, but I loved being able to get away from the 5 towns each evening to retreat to Levanto. The crowds are insane! 🙂

  18. Oh Italy, it’s just so damn beautiful! Love that you stayed in Riomaggiore, that was my favourite village of the Cinque Terre!

  19. Great post, it is so informative and your photos? Stunning!

  20. Diana says:

    Great tips. It looks absolutely beautiful

  21. We made it to Rome and the Amalfi Coast when we were living in the UK, but never Cinque Terre and I really regret it! I can’t wait to make it back some day and visit. Italy just has this special charm that I can’t get enough of.

    Portovenere looks exactly like the kind of town I’d love to spend the day in! And (maybe I’m insane) but I actually wouldn’t hate walking there. Ha! We take really long hikes often when we travel and I love it! But in the heat of the summer, maybe not. 🙂 Love that you recommend staying outside of Cinque Terre – that’s what we would have done if we visited, too!

  22. This place looks gorgeous!! I hadn’t even heard of it. Pinning it for next time I’m in the area!

    • Flo says:

      We wanted to explore the towns beyond Cinque Terre which is how we ended up heading to Portovenere! I hope you get to visit this the next time you’re back!

  23. We were in Italy for 2 months and did not make our way there unfortunately. We will have to add that to our list because it looks great. Lots of bright colors and interesting things to do. Thank you for sharing the information about the castle and the church as that will be really interesting to see.

  24. Chiara says:

    This is a great post! I’ve been there almost every summer since I live close buy, but I realized that I’ve never seen it all 🙂 Great job! Coming back for more

  25. Gulf of Poets…sounds so romantic Flo, looks it too! Hehe I tend to get just a little envious reading your posts, I’m so desperate to go to Europe!!! ? This was a great read with so many great tips!

    • Flo says:

      You have to make it over, Priti! It is such an amazing continent and Italy is hands down one of my all-time favourite countries!

  26. Lovely and very useful post about Portovenere Flo 🙂 we will be featuring one paragraph and recommending it on our blog! Hope to see you soon in the Gulf of Poets

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