Saying Goodbye to Cinque Terre as we headed off on our ferry, trying to dodge the dirty looks the other passengers gave our luggage, was hard. The ferry in Manarola docks at a tiny port, the only way to get there is by climbing down some narrow (crowded!) stairs and then walking through an almost hidden passage to the other side, where you suddenly see a long line of tourists waiting for the ferry and know you are in the right place. I feel like it says something about our determination that we carried our two bags and slightly overfull backpacks on to the ferry, especially because the plank to enter the ferry is even narrower than the almost secret passageway (I actually don’t think you are meant to carry luggage on the ferry, but no one stopped us, so we did it anyway). So yes, I do mean that saying Goodbye saddened our hearts, but it was also literally quite difficult. However, we didn’t have much time to feel sad because the ferry ride was amazing! The salty sea breeze, the blue waters rippling and the cliffs in the distance…such sights that would mend any broken heart, albeit maybe temporarily.
After a little while, as my husband Andrew was in the middle of a lovely nap, we pulled close to Portovenere, to the most breathtaking view yet – of an old ruined castle on a cliff! This was the one time Andrew didn’t mind me waking him up. We later found out that the castle is called Castello Doria and that it was built in the 1100s, which made us feel a bit insignificant in comparison.
When we docked into Portovenere, we saw with a relief that our hotel, aptly named the Grand Hotel Portovenere, was overlooking the port! No more luggage navigating!
The Grand Hotel Portovenere was maybe my favorite hotel on our honeymoon. And this is in part because they were super sweet to us! First they upgraded our room to a sea view, and then they brought us Prosecco and fruits to help celebrate our honeymoon! It just felt so warm, welcoming and also luxurious! It made sense that Portovenere at one point was an escape for Europe’s rich nobility.
The ferry ride had really made me want to jump into the water straightaway, so we quickly went off to the nearest beach. The first surprise for us, coming from San Diego, was that the “beach” was made up of pebbles and rocks. The second surprise, but one that we should have expected, coming from San Diego, was that the water was cold. Our swimming mission thus aborted, we settled for some delicious gelato instead. For dinner, we really wanted to try Portivene Un Mare di Sapori, but we did not make a “booking” (the Italian English word for lunch/dinner reservations) and so unfortunately did not get to experience it. I hope whoever reads my blog, can learn from this and make a booking before they go.
The next day, we visited the real reason I put Portovenere on our honeymoon itinerary – Byron’s grotto. Lord Byron, the English poet, spent many a happy or unhappy time in Portovenere, and this grotto is said to be the inspiration for some of his poetry. He also swam from here to San Terezo which is a very long swim, thus honored the grotto with his name. Byron’s grotto is very close to the castle, so we explored all of this in the morning, then headed to our lunch in Palmira. Such gorgeous views!
We thought about lunch in Palmira because of this NYT article that my uncle forwarded me just when we reached Cinque Terre. The ride to the restaurant in a Venetian water taxi attracted us the most (we didn’t make it to Venice on the honeymoon, so this was a little consolation prize) and the island seemed cool too! So we made reservations at Locanda Lorena, and the water taxi picked us up at noon. Andrew had fresh mussels, caught about 50 feet away, and I had a roasted fish that was so delicious! I do recommend this place, even though you might see mixed reviews about it. The chef was also so sweet and smiling. We shared the water taxi back to Portovenere with a group of Welsh travelers who had come to Italy to learn Italian, their host has a holiday home up the coast. What a fun way to spend your old age! They immediately asked us if we were on our honeymoon, and then told us how long each of them has been married (all more than 30 years). They assured us that marriage is amazing, which so far it really seems to be!
And all too soon, it was time to say goodbye to Portovenere, and then for real to the Cinque Terre (Portovenere is also a UNESCO world heritage site, and so close to Cinque Terre). We had to set off on our next adventure, back to Tuscany, and this time the small town of Lucca. If you think luggage on the ferry is a bad idea, wait till you hear how we travelled with our luggage on a public bus to La Spezia!