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Porto Venere

Perched on the dreamy Golfo dei Poeti's western promontory, the historic fishing port's sinuous seven- and eight-storey harbourfront houses form an almost impregnable citadel around the muscular Castello Doria.

The Romans built Portus Veneris as a base en route from Gaul to Spain, and in later years the Byzantines, Lombards, Genovese and Napoleon all passed through here and made the most of its spectacular natural defences. Its appeal, however, is not just strategic: its beauty drew the poet Byron, who famously swam from the now collapsed Grotta Arpaia's rocky cove to San Terenzo to visit fellow poet Percy Shelley (it was to be renamed Grotta di Byron for him). The town remains a romantic, scenic place for a day trip, or a relaxing base for exploring the coast. Serene by comparison to its Cinque Terre neighbours, weekends and summer evenings do bring Ligurians from far and wide for the passeggiata (evening stroll).

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