After a couple of days exploring the Cinque Terre by train it was time to go a little further afield and with fine sunny weather and calm seas a trip to Porto Venere by boat seemed to be in order. So, I headed down to the harbour in Riomaggiore and booked my ticket for the next boat, which gave me time to sit and sip a cappuccino by the sea before heading along to the boat dock.
A cheaper travel option for Porto Venere would have been to catch the train to La Spezia and catch a bus, but the sea trip was more relaxing and the approach round the rocky headland topped by St Peter’s church is certainly the most spectacular way to arrive at the town for the first time. The brightly coloured row of seafront houses shone in the sun and were reflected in the water as the boat slowed down and entered the harbour. It all looked so inviting that I was tempted to head off and explore the town straight away, but the boat ticket from Riomaggiore included the ‘Three Islands’ trip around the archipelago of Isola Parmaria, Isola del Tino and the tiny Isola del Tinetto featuring colourful rocky shorelines peppered with caves, abandoned fortifications and lighthouses, and as the boat for that was waiting on the next dock it seemed sensible to do that first.
Back at Porto Venere it was time to explore the town, heading along the seafront first for a closer look at the impressive Church of St Peter on the rocky headland. The interior of the church is light and airy and well worth a look, but the setting of the building also affords fine views in all directions, back along the promenade towards the town, across the channel to Palmaria Island, out into the Ligurian Sea and through windows along the coast above the Grotta di Byron, so called as the cove was an inspiration to Lord Byron when he was staying here.
Back in town, a stroll along the shady Via Capellini through the old town was somewhat cooler than down by the water, with a handy drinking fountain in a little square about half way along and lots of inviting shops selling the Ligurian speciality foccacia, ideal to take for a light lunch down on the seafront.
I found a spot on a bench looking across to Palmaria – but only just, as the whole rocky breakwater was packed with sunbathers right from the harbour up to the church. It was a lovely day, but this did seem rather busy, and after my lunch I discovered why – the shipping channel between Porto Venere and Palmaria was being closed for the afternoon to create (for the second time of the summer) a huge Piscina Naturale (Natural Swimming Pool) and at 3pm, after a ceremonial countdown, a whistle was blown and hordes of swimmers piled into the water and started to swim across to Palmaria Island – or just splash around in various water games provided!
After watching the event for a while, it was time to wander back down to the harbour for the last boat back to Riomaggiore. This arrived back in time for a bite to eat before catching the train for the two minute ride along to Manarola for another glorious dusk shoot and to complete my set of Cinque Terre villages.
For information on boats between the Cinque Terre and Porto Venere see CinqueTerre.eu.com
For more images see my Porto Venere set on flickr.