I Found Two Pieces of Heaven In Liguria, Part 2: Adventure and Peace In Portovenere

August 15, 2016

It was emotionally difficult to leave Tellaro. I could have spent a weeks there. However, logistically it was a breeze to travel to Portovenere.

After a warm farewell to my host, I bought a bus ticket to Lerici, another lovely town near Tellaro. There I walked along the pier to the Ferry for Portovenere. It was sunny and warm with a good breeze. Even though I could have explored Lerici, I only took a few photos of the castle and pier before boarding my transportation.

As I joined a few locals at the prow of the ferry, the wind kept me cool. It was so exciting to approach this gorgeous peninsula jutting into the Bay of Poets, so named because of the Poets who chose to live in Tellaro, Lerici and Portovenere.

It is said that Lord Byron once swam from Portovenere to Lerici to visit his friend Percy Shelley who, with his wife, lived in Tellaro. Byron is honored in Portovenere, especially at his grotto, where he loved to think and swim.

From the first moment I set foot on Portovenere I knew this was another sacred place for me. First of all, there were few Americans. The tourists were mostly Italian with a mix of Europeans. The water and salt in the air, the breezes coming from the water, all of it helps me relax. Does it affect you that way?

Portovenere is very different from Tellaro yet just as captivating. Here you begin your sojorn at sea level. Much of the main part of town is right on the water. The buildings are beautiful, colorful. And I can feel the vibration of the Granite and other stones everywhere here. I want to climb them—I have no skill for real climbing but love to walk on them.

Restaurants along the water are fantastic. Locals live above them and all around the circular piazza outside of the walls of old town. And within those walls you find even more color and character.

When you walk through those fortified walls into the darker interior streets of Old Town, you feel as though you are stepping through a time portal. Of course you see a few cars or a Vespa or two. Of course it has tourist shops. Yet, the narrow strada, the fountain in a tiny square, and the smiles of the people in the shops add to the air of medieval life.  People live above the shops. Their laundry dries in the shadow of the building across the street. Locals and travelers take time to sit on a stoop and pet a dog or chat in Italian. Children play tag and run up and away.  The perfume of the flower shop fills the street until you pass a trattoria baking pizza or serving pasta with green, pesto sauce. It is a sensory treat to walk that street.

Finally, I moved on to look for Byron’s Grotto. I passed a path to the top of the area, walked down along the water and once again upward along an ancient stone wall. After finding his plaque, I stepped through what felt like a passage into pure joy.

Stones, water and sunshine. Just a few swimmers and fishermen were enjoying this gorgeous spot.

I walked down to the huge flat boulder and just sat in the sun for a while. I could imagine Byron here with us, basking in the sun, enjoying his life, and planning his next literary masterpiece.

It would have been easy to stay right there inside the grotto. I chose to leave because time here on Portovenere was limited this visit. And more stone and stairs were calling my name.

It was a hot day in Portovenere. But with that sunshine and salt, sea air I was feeling great. I hadn’t been inside a church in a week.  So upward to La Chiesa di San Pietro, The Church of Saint Peter, I climbed. Originally the church was built in the Romanesque style and was believed to have been constructed in the 4th or 5th Century. Later the original was encompassed in the Gothic style with the striped marble and belfry. The doors showed incredible workmanship.

Once inside it felt like a place of worship should feel. And the beautiful gothic arches, the cross between the arched windows, the ancient statue of St. Peter, all of it calms the soul.

After a few moments of reflection, I stepped outside. The views from this point were incredible.

After climbing a bit more I felt like I watched the boats in the Bay of Poets as they danced the Tarentella around one another.

I wondered what it would be like to live here year round. Or at least for a month? There was so much more to experience in Portovenere.

I could explore like a child here. And have a swim whenever I want to cool off from the exercise.  I could carry my laptop to Byron’s grotto and write, maybe even some poetry. The combination of antiquities, natural beauty, stone everywhere, wonderful water and Italians makes this the other side of heaven for me. Here I am at peace and the surroundings urge me to explore. I wish more people lived here year round. If they did, I could spend my year in Italy right here, away from huge numbers of people, surrounded by life, good wine and pesto.

Ciao for now Portovenere. Torno io. I am returning next year. Who would like to accompany me?

Ciao for now!

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