The LGBTQ cruise travel readers of our blog know that Mark and I have a passion for Italy. Mark’s Italian language studies and Dale’s background singing opera combine to compel us to visit Italy again and again. In this post, we’re focusing on the cruise port of Portovenere and its easy access to Cinque Terre, on the northwest coast of Italy. This is the portion of the country that features some tiny, captivating islands and seaside villages. We’ve visited the Cinque Terre twice and can’t wait to enjoy it again.
Italy’s Cinque Terre
If you haven’t visited the Cinque Terre (“Five Lands,”) a cruise is a great opportunity. You’ll be amazed at the tiny villages perched on the side of steep hills, defying gravity. The towns are, from North to South: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. These quaint, unquestionably beautiful Cinque Terre villages will make you lament the fact that you don’t live there. Take a walk around the stunning, hilly terrain and you’ll stop every few feet for a magnificent view. Getting lost in the warren of steps and walkways is part of the fun and each corner provides a perfect Instagram moment. This region is a wonderful respite from what can be hectic visits to the larger cities in Italy.
Your ship may have a “Cinque Terre on your own” excursion, which would provide only transportation to and from the area. For a more authentic experience, take a 30-minute bus ride from Portovenere to La Spezia where you’d board the train for the first of the villages to the south, Riomaggiore.
There are ferries that sail from Portovenere to the Cinque Terre which takes about 1.5 hours. Get a wonderful view of the coastline right from the sea. We’d suggest getting off the ferry in Riomaggiore. Then, you can choose either hike or take the train to the rest of the villages.
However you get there, we suggest doing the Cinque Terre on foot and on your own. Take the time to stop often for the views, tremendous local seafood, and of course local wine!
In Vernazza, one of our faves, sip a Campari and soda, listen to the church bells and gaze at its snug little harbor with blue fishing boats basking in the sun upside down on the shore.
The village of Riomaggiore is built into a steep canyon. The narrow main street winds up the gorge built up on both sides with restaurants, hotels, and B&Bs. You’ll discover that each building is more picturesque than the last.
Visit all five villages, or just a few. Hike between them or use the frequent train service. Hiking in the Cinque Terre varies in distance and the type of terrain, depending on what you’re looking for. The 7.5 mile Blue Path trail leads from one end of the entire area to the other. For something less challenging walk the Via dell’amore (the way of love) from Riomaggiore to Manarola (or the reverse) at only .06 miles.
On our visits, we’ve opted for the convenient train service serving all of the villages. It is frequent, inexpensive, and gave us more time for our favorite Italian pastime: Large-scale consumption of locally produced, delicious red wine.
The City of Portovenere
Portovenere (or Porto Venere) is a cruise port for the Cinque Terre and is a Unesco World Heritage site as is the Cinque Terre. Most ships dock either in Portovenere or La Spezia. La Spezia isn’t particularly distinguished or interesting to us, but it’s often thought of as the gateway to the Cinque Terra. Portovenere is more interesting and historic.
For something a bit quieter with fewer visitors than the Cinque Terre, you may wish to relax in Portovenere itself. Stroll the cobblestones of this lovely town and walk through the Porto del Borgo (city gate) into the medieval center. The Via Capellini is wonderful, with shops that can amaze and delight you. But as usual, get just a bit off the beaten track and the town is yours.
Hike up the hill a bit further where you will find a photo op of the Bay of Poets on which the village is located. Everywhere in this region, you’ll be tempted to spend too much time on your camera, GoPro or phone feverishly snapping pictures. Don’t worry, you’ll be surrounded by beauty at every turn. Enjoy the moment!
Join us in Italy
You now have a special opportunity to see Portovenere, the Cinque Terre and several other highlights of the region. Join our MeetMeOnBoard group as we sail aboard Azamara Journey to magical Italy on a 7-night Pride Month cruise leaving Rome (Civitavecchia) June 4, 2020, disembarking in Monte Carlo. Click here for more information on the cruise.