There were two regions of Italy I wanted to explore deeper this summer — Umbria and the Ligurian Coast. Both were regions I had spent little time in, and both are often overshadowed by their more famous neighbors, Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast. After this summer’s explorations, however, I would argue that these less-visited regions might actually be more enjoyable thanks to their lack of popularity. You can read more about why you should seriously consider visiting Umbria here.

While the Cinque Terre is certainly well-known and popular, there is so much more to the Ligurian Coast, or Italian Riviera as it is called, than these five famous towns. Case in point, the adorable fishing port of Portovenere.

Becky and I escaped the sweltering heat of Florence a couple weekends ago and headed for Portovenere for the day. The southern portion of the Ligurian Coast is close enough to Florence that you can easily take a day trip to the Cinque Terre or to one of the other sleepy fishing villages that dot the coast line. We selected Portovenere thanks to a recommendation from a friend in Florence.

You can reach the Ligurian Coast by train, car, or bus. Getting there by train only takes a couple hours and usually requires switching trains in Pisa. Renting a car is a great option as well, especially if you want to explore the region for more than a day.

Like most of the villages in the region, Portovenere has ancient origins. After the fall of Rome, the region was dominated by the Byzantine Empire and was subjected to frequent raids by the Saracens and Normans. These Medieval raids explain why so many villages in Liguria were built on high cliffs and seemingly hostile terrain. Eventually the region became a fiefdom of a local noble family and was later conquered by the seafaring empire of Genoa.

Portovenere was the perfect Saturday escape. It has just enough history, clear turquoise sea, and traditional cuisine to keep you happy and relaxed for a day or two. We explored the colorful port, climbed the ruins of the medieval castle, swam in Lord Byron’s Grotto, and stuffed our faces full of pesto! It was pretty much a perfect day and a much needed escape from the sweltering and crowded streets of Florence.

I will be sharing more of the Ligurian Coast next week!

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