When thinking about visiting Italy, you probably think of the big cities: Florence, Venice, Rome, Milan, and Naples. The big cities are great and a must-visit while you're there. However, the tiny towns dotting the landscape are also a must-see. There are so many and they are all very quaint and authentic. Some are in rolling hills of Tuscany, while others dot the coastline, like Cinque Terre and Porto Venere. So how do you determine where to spend your time?
With so many beautiful places to see in Italy, you'll be happy anywhere. But as you're planning your trip, it can't hurt to have a few amazing destinations marked on your map. Porto Venere, south of Cinque Terre, is the cutest unknown town in Italy. Nestled at the southern tip of the Italian Riviera, Porto Venere translates to Port of Venus. Legend has it Venussaw the town's beauty, compared it to her own, and named the town after herself. It's not super easy to get to, unlike many other destinations in Italy. Once you make it to the La Spezia train station, hire a driver to take you through the hills to Porto Venere.
Since Porto Venere is out of the way and not really accessible even by the local Italian trains, it's important to know why you should go so far out of your way to spend a few hours in this quaint town on Italy's west coast.
Porto Venere is Not a Tourist Trap
At least not at the time of publishing this post… Porto Venere is a sleepy town in nestled between the mountains and the water. It's a quiet town and what little hustle and bustle there is comes from locals going about their daily lives. Folks here are friendly and smile at you when they pass. Even the local pets are friendly. Cats come to sit by you on the waterfront benches and dogs give an enthusiastic sniff while you stroll past. This town feels like the Italy you've always dreamed of.
Authentic Shops and Food
While absorbing the sights, smells, and sounds, family owned shops draw you in with traditional family crafts and recipes. You'll find handmade pottery, infused olive oils, handcrafted soap, an ancient bakery still making bread in wood fired ovens, and expertly crafted Italian marble jewelry made from local marble. Oh yeah, you'll pass the marble quarry on the drive in to town. With so many family owned storefronts, it's a challenge to make it from one end of town to the other!
Postcard Perfect Pictures
Porto Venere offers vistas unlike other mountain towns in Italy. Because it's tucked into a bay, the shore doesn't take the same beating from the sea that other Riviera towns do. This makes a great berth for small sail boats and fishing vessels. Couple that image with the colorful buildings along the waterfront and you'll finally have a picture for your holiday email.
Whether you're simply getting your eighth morning espresso (yes, I like espresso!) or dunking Nonna's bread into lemon-infused olive oil, Porto Venere embraces you like a hug. Venus did herself justice in naming this town and you'll be glad you went out of your way to visit. The authentic shops, food, and panoramas will definitely make your time here worthwhile.