A Weekend in Portovenere

May 13-14, 2017

How we got here: To be honest, I had never considered going to Portovenere because I somehow associated it with Portofino, which I find to be pretty, but entirely too snobby for my taste and too difficult to reach. I did do the 3-hour hike there once from Recco – a trip my knees shall never forget.

Portovenere ended up being a “pearl” of a place, as Italians like to say. It’s quaint, beautiful and has a good number of things to do. Certain places have that inherent charm that makes you want to return, even though you’ve seen all the sights.

Trip Details

  • When we went: Mid-May and I do believe part of the charm was how few people there were around. I haven’t been in August, though I hear it can get quite crowded.
  • How we got there: We went by car from Milan and it took us about 2 1/2 hours.
  • Where we stayed: Residence Le Terrazze – we paid about €90 for a double (I think this was a discounted rate from booking.com) and it was about a 10 minute walk from the port, though it has its own restaurant and beach area with pool, so it is great for families. Personally, I’d like to stay in a hotel right on the port next time.
  • Where we ate:
    • On our first day there, we ate at Bajeico – La Bottega del Pesto and ate trofie al pesto con patate e fagiolini (trofie, a Ligurian pasta, with pesto sauce, potatoes and string beans) out of a plastic cup (€7 each). It was a fast, delicious meal and gave us more time to walk around without having to spend a couple of hours at a restaurant. The only thing is, we were still digesting it at dinner.
    • At dinner, that evening, we really wanted to try a trattoria called Portivene, which is a tiny little restaurant one level up from the port, and currently ranked first among restaurants in Portovenere, but it was (naturally) all booked. So we randomly chose from the slew of tourist traps along the port and ended up at Elettra, which was acceptable and I’m sure quite charming when sitting outside during the Summer months, but I do not recommend it as the food was nothing special.
    • The next day, after our unexpectedly grueling hike around the island of Palmaria (more below), we decided to lunch at Gabbiano. We each had different seafood pasta dishes, which were delicious, as well as homemade focaccia and a refreshing sparkling house white wine (we paid about €40 in two). The waitstaff were amazingly cordial (somewhat rare find in Liguria), especially Roberto (the owner?), who also confirmed that Portivene is a good restaurant.
  • What we did:
    • Walked around the port, explored all of the little alleyways (the town is built vertically as the first facade of colorful buildings you see was actually meant to be a protective rampart. You’ll find lots of little homes and shops as you ascend the (many) rocky steps towards the Doria castle, which offers great views of the port and city.
    • Palmaria Island: took a little ferry to the island right across from the port. You can get tickets from the “Cooperativa Barcaioli Portovenere” stand that sells return tickets for €5 (see photo). You can do various hikes around the island (click here for a guide) though if you decide to take the non-asphalt paths, I’d recommend hiking shoes.
    • Just a little warning about the beaches – they aren’t sandy, they’re covered with small rocks and pebbles, which Americans aren’t really used to, but there are places (like Gabbiano) that rent out beach chairs and umbrellas.

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