May 14, 2017
We docked in La Spezia, another large Italian port. La Spezia was a critical naval base for Italy since the 1860s, so it was one of the most heavily bombed Italian cities in WW2. Even though the city is old, there is a lot of modern construction.
We started our excursion for the day with a quick bus ride to Porto Venere, an old Medieval town unreachable by train, only by motorcar or boat. I thought that this was simply to be our launching point to experience Cinque Terre, but Porto Venere turned out to be a gorgeous city, and we had about 30 min of guided touring and 90 min to explore on our own.
While settled since 1st century BC, Porto Venere became a Genoese colony in 1113. We were shown marble troughs which were used for measuring wine and oil for purposes of taxation. There is a fortress to guard the town from land attacks and a wall of tall, colorful houses to guard against sea attacks. The houses were built on the rocky shore, but in modern times some of the bay has been filled to create a promenade in front of the houses. Gorgeous views are to be had from all over the city. There is a local black marble that was used for building, but now is limited to mostly craftwork sold in shops. You can see the marble in churches as columns that alternate between white and black. The surrounding mountains slope directly into the sea forming grottoes. One grotto can be reached by steps and is famous for inspiring Lord Byron while he lived in Italy. After a bit of exploring, we boarded a small touring boat to view Cinque Terre.
May 14, 2017