• Photo: topora / Shutterstock

Portovenere

The colorful facades and pedestrians-only calata (promenade) make Portovenere the quintessential Ligurian seaside village; it's often referred to as the sixth town of the Cinque Terre, but it has half the crowds. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, its harbor is lined with tall, thin terratetto houses that date from as far back as the 11th century and are connected in a wall-like formation to protect against attacks by the Pisans and local pirates. Its tiny carruggi (alley-like passageways) lead to an array of charming shops, homes, and gardens, and eventually to the village’s impressive Castle Doria, high on the olive tree–covered hill. To the west, standing guard over the Mediterranean, is the picturesque medieval Chiesa di San Pietro, once the site of a temple to Venus (Venere in Italian), from which Portovenere gets its name. Nearby, in a rocky area leading to the sea, is Byron's Cave, a favorite spot that the poet loved to swim out into the sea from.

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