Daily Destination: Portovenere, Italy

Drew Limsky
CompassAugust 16, 2013

The much-photographed Portovenere, with its row of narrow pastel houses facing the harbor, is informally known as the sixth Cinque Terre village (kind of an oxymoron, but we’ll let it pass). It’s as picturesque as the five lands, but it has a different geographical character — it’s not built up around a mainland protected cove like Vernazza or Manarola but instead hugs an exposed peninsula. This position lends the spot an extremely dramatic feel; no wonder the Romantic poet Byron loved the place.

With the 12th century Church of St. Peter looming over the port (as do the walls of the Doria Castle), Portovenere announces its religious pedigree, and it is fitting that each August 17 witnesses the Miracle of the White Madonna. This celebration, an homage to the patron saint of Portovenere, is marked by a procession of locals bearing Roman torches, with candles lighting up the waterfront.

Portovenere also boasts the natural beauty of coves, cliffs and grottos, including, on the backside of the town, Byron’s Grotto. While this coastline is perhaps best appreciated by boat (frequent excursions are available), hikers will want to head out to the ancient footpaths on the islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto.