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Italian Experience
April, 2012
Posted by 
Elisabetta Bertazzoni

Porto Venere, a tribute to Byron

The beautiful small town of Porto Venere is situated in a panoramic position on the western shore of the Gulf of La Spezia - better known as the Gulf of Poets - facing the three small and lovely islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto, a few kilometres away from Cinque Terre.
Renowned for its crystal clear waters and the splendid old village, perched on a cliff, its origins date back to the sixth century BC, when the area was already inhabited by the Ligurians . Portovenere owes its name to the presence of a temple dedicated to the goddess of fertility, love and beauty, Venus Ericina, located in the very same place where the magnificent church of St. Peter now stands, in its Gothic-Genovese style, made of black-and-white striped marble.
A famous sea-side resort for centuries and easily accessed by car La Spezia, connected to Cinque Terre with a sailing service, Porto Venere counts, among its most famous visitors, Lord George Gordon Byron, who spent a long time there in 1822. It is said that he once swam across the Gulf to Lerici, to visit his friend and poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who died shortly afterwards in a storm off the coast of Viareggio. Beneath the Church of St Peter, it is still possible to visit Byron’s Grotto, where the poet uesd to go to get inspiration for his compositions.

“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal”.

George Gordon Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, canto IV – stanza CLXXVIII