Whether by car, bicycle or boat, you immediately reach the charming village of Le Grazie perched on a peaceful inlet. In this ancient hamlet, the local population has been engaged for centuries in the traditional arts of boat building and fishing. You can learn about this heritage and observe the locals at work in the harbor.
A stroll in the historic center will lead you to the 15th-century Church of Nostra Signora delle Grazie, the patron of the village. Inside it, admire the carved wooden choir by Frà Paolo da Recco and a painting of the Madonna similar to one painted by Andrea da Asti.
Moving towards the area of Varignano Vecchio, you will find the remains of a Roman Villa dating back to the first half of the 1st century BC: visit the archaeological site to get an idea of what this area could have looked like back in the days!
Let’s stop for a fresh seafood lunch on the seafront before proceeding to our next stop… buon appetito!
Back on the road, only 5 minutes away by car is the lovely town of Fezzano. Located at the foot of Mount Castellana, it features ancient houses that are set very close together and overlook the sea, and is reminiscent of Portovenere.
Adventure yourself in the narrow caruggi and reach the central Church of San Giovanni Battista, built in 1740 by the local population. Within its walls it treasures an organ from the 18th-century created by Luigi Ciurlo, the famous organ builder from Genoa; and also five paintings by Giuseppe Tori and a wooden statue Anton Maria Maragliano.
Fezzano was home to Villa Cattaneo, property of the noble Genoese family that moved to the sea village in the mid-1400s. You will only be able to see some remains of it, although there have been some recent restoration works. However, the history behind this villa will hit the soft spot of any romantic visitor. In fact, the beautiful Simonetta Cattaneo lived here: her beauty was noted by Lorenzo the Magnificent, celebrated by the poet Poliziano”, and even inspired Botticelli in the depiction of the goddess in “The Birth of Venus“.
The day visit on the western bank of the Gulf of Poets ends with a panoramic aperitivo. Take your time to observe the calm lifestyle of the friendly locals. To prove that they are a happy and welcoming townsfolk, they have filmed this video here… Enjoy!
Grand Hotel Portovenere is located on the most panoramic point of Portovenere, directly overlooking the sea and Palmaria Island. In the XVI century, the structure was home to a Franciscan monastery or ‘convento’ and was transformed into a hotel in 1970. After careful renovations with special attention to maintaining the original architectural features, revisiting them in a modern way to provide guests with maximum comfort, Grand Hotel Portovenere has reopened its doors in 2014 with its new design and understated elegance.
(Main image above depicts Fezzano, by Alexmar983)