PORTOVENERE USED TO BE CALLED PORT OF VENUS

June 7, 2015

We hit some pretty rough water a couple of days before the end of our Mediterranean voyage and I was happy to get off the ship and stand on solid ground again when we pulled into Portovenere. This was our first port of call in Italy and this region has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.

Portovenere used to be a fishing village. The port is too small for the giant cruise boats to negotiate its little harbor. But luckily our 300 passenger boat slipped right into the protected cove and anchored without a problem.HARBORNot only was the sea agitated that day, but the sky was a mess of quickly rolling dark clouds giving an ominous dramatic background to the colorful buildings stretched out along the harbor.

The back walls of these buildings standing at the harbors edge are built into a hillside.WATER VIEWThis is a town located at the edge of rugged cliffs of the Mediterranean on the Ligurian Coast of Italy. On one edge of the shoreline is the calm and safe harbor, while the other side of the town is edged with rocky coves and jagged cliffs where turbulent water slaps relentlessly at the craggy precipices.CHURCH #1Once we stood on terra firma, the first place we visited was the Church of San Pietro. It’s one of the best examples of Gothic-Genoese architecture in the area and was built in 1256. According to legend the church was erected on a site that once was the location of the Temple of Venus. A WEDDING?We didn’t know what to expect when we entered this small church that was perched on the edge of a cliff that overlooked the Mediterranean. And when we stepped in we encountered a wedding. The bride, mature, the groom, crowned with a thick head of gray hair, and flanked by a young family. The couple listened intently to the priest officating.  Evidently weddings, and not just tourism is a big business in this area. San Pietro advertises on the internet that it is available for religious weddings Mondays through Saturdays and the site provides information about catering, as well as, where to park, with an offer of shuttle bus services for the guests. It is also suggested that a couple should book early due to the high demand for the Church.  VIEW FROM A WINDOW IN A ROCK WALLA high rock wall with arched openings runs along the steps that lead from the church up the castle at the top of the hill.STATUELord Byron lived in this area for a while, as did the poet Shelly. In 1822 Byron, born with a clubfoot, swam in these rough waters to visit with Shelly who lived on an island several miles from the mainland. Swimming gave Byron a sense of freedom that he could not experience while walking, and over the years he met many swimming challenges in Portugal, England and in France.

A bronze statue, “Mother Earth” sits vigilantly looking out onto what is called Byron cove. It’s hard to imagine swimming in these rough waters and a record is kept of everyone who has accomplished this feat.BACK STREETThe back streets of the village is a labyrinth of narrow walkways, dark stairwells that burrow under and through buildings. Some structures are built into the hills and a number of paths dead end at lush family gardens.

CATSThe cats are friendly and though probably quite used to the tourists, they don’t sit still long enough to get an adequate group photo.CHRUCH #2Walking up the rock lined hill and looking back at San Pietro it is easy to believe that this would be a perfect place where pagans could have worshiped Venus. And, yes, a wedding would be lovely here, too.RESTAURANTAh, but it was time to eat. The storm that we’d encountered at sea had moved ashore and we quickly looked for a place to have lunch and get out of the rain. We looked at a couple of places but they seemed a little too touristy for us tourists. We decided on a warm and inviting place that we hoped would live up to its homey ambiance.OCTOPUS SALADWe ordered a half carafe of house white wine and an octopus salad to start. The fish turned out to be as delicious and fresh tasting as if it had just crawled up out of the ocean and slipped onto our plates. The slight drizzle of local olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice gave the appetizer a perfect amount of contrast in flavor. The wine, rich and refreshing, had the scent of what I imagined was a beverage just poured from an old barrel stored in the basement. PASTAThen we ordered one of the most unusual pastas that I have ever had. I kick myself that I did not write down the name of this deliciously unique pasta. The waitress said, in her broken english, that it was a traditional pasta dish made of egg and locally ground wheat. It is rolled out onto a baking sheet and roasted in the oven to give it a toasted crust and then it is cut into squares and boiled. The result is a spongy, chewy pasta that holds up very well to the luscious piquant pesto sauce that was poured over the top. Sprinkled with a local sharp cheese the dish could not have been any more perfect and unique.CAKEDessert? Yes, please. We ordered a Genoa cake. The waitress said her mother, the very large woman we glimpsed from time to time scuttling about in the kitchen, made these cakes daily. We shared a large slice of this yeasty delight. The rich butter flavor, dotted through with sweet raisins worked wonderfully with our thick shot of espresso. b&w umbrellaWe left the restaurant totally satisfied and much to our disappointment the weather had not gotten any calmer. We opened the umbrella and headed for the shuttle that would take us back to the boat. It would be another evening on rough water, but that’s traveling, you never know what you will encounter around the next turn.

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12 Responses to PORTOVENERE USED TO BE CALLED PORT OF VENUS

  1. Jeri Fink on June 7, 2015 at 11:00 am

    Between your words and photos I could feel the cool, damp air and taste those yummy dishes. After I finished reading, I ran straight to my refrigerator . . .

    • Pushing Time on June 7, 2015 at 11:45 am

      Hi Jeri. So glad you enjoyed this virtual voyage and trip to Portovenere, Italy. Always fun to take a friend along with me!!

  2. thelma straw on June 7, 2015 at 11:49 am

    This was a delightful trip you shared with us. Your camera is so sensitive I can often smell the smells and feel I am right there. Thelma Straw in manhattan

    • Pushing Time on June 7, 2015 at 11:53 am

      Hi Thelma! I am thrilled that you enjoyed this virtual trip that sounds like you might have smell-vision in your computer!! Thanks for the great comment. I hope all is well with you, with an emphasis on well!!

      • thelma straw on June 7, 2015 at 4:31 pm

        oh, of course …. my computer not only has smell-vision – but taste- and- hear- capacities! tjs

        • Pushing Time on June 7, 2015 at 5:32 pm

          Well, Thelma, you have a very valuable computer. I know it is a great companion when it comes to story telling, too!! So, why not the full gamete of the senses!

  3. Sharon on June 7, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    I love traveling with you! Both entertaining and interesting. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

    • Pushing Time on June 7, 2015 at 5:29 pm

      Hello there Sharon!! I love that you enjoy coming along with me. And thank you for your very lovely comment!!

  4. Susan on June 7, 2015 at 5:56 pm

    What a neat place to visit. Thanks for taking us along. That was some yummy looking food. Glad you chose an untourist restaurant.

    • Pushing Time on June 7, 2015 at 7:40 pm

      Hi Susan! Yes, it was a very neat place to visit! You would have loved the walk in the village with all the different window treatments and seemingly secret walkways. We’re glad we went to the neighborhood restaurant, too.

  5. Eric on June 11, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    Fabulous place – must get there
    but the lunch you describe in such detail is simply wonderful – well done
    I will ask an Italian friend if he has any idea of the name of that marvellous pasta
    thanks for sharing your food and vacation

    • Pushing Time on June 11, 2015 at 8:28 pm

      Hi Eric! That would be great if you could find out what that pasta is called. And, oh, you and Terry would love this place. It was quite a thrilling experience to think we were walking on the ground where pagan used to worship Venus. It was a fun place even with the nasty, cold weather. Thanks for your great comment.

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