Palmaria Island and the Archipelago
Those who happen to be spending several days in Portovenere can’t miss Palmaria Island and its many wonders. Located just a handful of meters from the town, this island is a must-see for all who love unspoiled nature, breathtaking landscapes, and the intense scents of the typical Mediterranean scrub. Palmaria is the largest and most visited island in the La Spezia Archipelago. Part of the Portovenere Regional Nature Park, it offers a variety of noteworthy historical and natural sites. How to get to the island? Simple: the Cooperativa Barcaioli, located right in front of our restaurant, provides transportation to and from Palmaria Island. Read on for places to see on Palmaria Island, information on its beaches, and advice on how to get there.
Sights to see on Palmaria Island
Palmaria Island boasts several records when it comes to biodiversity. First and foremost, its stunning flora, which includes a variety of about 500 species, and the plants and shrubs typical of Mediterranean scrub, that one can admire in their most ‘primitive’ state. There are holm oak woods overlooking the sea, pine trees, oaks, and strawberry trees (Arbutus unedo) as well as marine plants such as sea fennel. Along with the charm of nature, Palmaria Island offers the chance to admire the Ligurian Sea from a unique perspective. The paths and hiking trails on the island are studded with spots where one can stop to appreciate the view and take photos. Curious about the trails and viewpoints on Palmaria Island? See them in detail here.
If you’re planning to visit the island and wondering what you should see, read on.
What to see on Palmaria Island
Located in a strategic position some 180 meters above sea level, the Forte Cavour is a military building built for defensive purposes during the period of Napoleonic domination of the island. At the time, it played an important strategic role in the defense of the Gulf of La Spezia. Today Forte Cavour bears witness to the continuous evolution of military architecture, starting from the Napoleonic era up until World War II. The path that leads to the fort is known as the Trail of the Condemned. Inside viewing is not allowed: albeit decommissioned, it still is a military building.
Torre Scola and Torre Corazzata Umberto ITorre Scola, a former military building that dates back to the 17th century, is a small pearl of Palmaria. Rising on a rock, a tiny islet in the middle of the gulf just beyond the northeastern tip of the island, it is a small, incredibly fascinating, tower set in the middle of the sea. The Torre Corazzata Umberto I is located on the eastern part of Palmaria Island, on Punta della Scuola, just opposite the Scola Tower. Recently restored, it is now open to the public.
Abandoned quarries: the Portoro quarry
Palmaria Island, and Portovenere and its surroundings, were very important sites for the extraction of a particular type of marble, Portoro, and there were numerous quarries, both on the mainland and on the island, although extraction was harder on Palmaria. The last Portoro quarry was closed in the 1980s; it is located on the southern tip of the island. In this area, just opposite the island of Tino, one can still see the workers’ homes and the small piers used to ship the marble blocks.
The western cragsThe western shores of the island feature impressive crags, geological wonders that contribute to creating the spectacular local landscape. These are truly fascinating phenomena: towering walls of rock, eroded by the waves, that plunge into the sea, forging sheer, sharp, and dizzyingly high contours. Adventurous tourists will be glad to know that the path that runs along the island offers several spots where you can actually get close to the edge of the cliff, and enjoy amazing views of the coast below. There are also a number of natural caves. The most famous ones are Grotta Azzurra and Grotta dei Colombi.
Punta Carlo Alberto
Punta Carlo Alberto is Palmaria Island’s most scenic viewpoint. You can get here easily, with a short walk, from both Punta Secco and Terrizzo. It’s a striking spot because, from here, Palmaria and Portovenere are very close to one another. Hence, the view is breathtaking: the church of San Pietro and Muzzerone’s rocks are right in front of you! It’s a cant-miss photo spot, and we recommend you come here late in the day, possibly at sunset.
Paths and hiking trails on Palmaria Island
One can walk around the whole island thanks to the network of paths and trails that crisscross it. Read on for tips on hikes to take on Palmaria Island, information on the trails and walking time from one point to another, insider’s advice on where to stop to take exceptional photos, where to eat on Palmaria Island, and a map of the hiking trails and paths. Every part of the island is easily accessible via a convenient loop trail that, among other things, allows you to visit the Umberto I Fortress, Torre Scola, and the small beaches of Cala della Fornace. You can find detailed information about the Palmaria trail routes on the page dedicated to the hiking trails in the Portovenere Regional Nature Park.
Where to eat
There are two restaurants on the island: Locanda Lorena and Il Gabbiano. Needless to say, both tend to fill up quickly, given the number of tourists. If you like, you can have lunch at Il Timone, which is conveniently located right in front of the Cooperativa Barcaioli, before or after your visit to the island.
How to get to the island
You can get to Palmaria Island by ferry boat or taxi boat both from Portovenere and from La Spezia. You can find details on costs, companies, and piers here below.
Ferries from Portovenere to Palmaria Island
Boats from Portovenere to Palmaria operate year-round. In summer, when demand is higher, the schedule is particularly convenient. The service is handled by the Cooperativa Barcaioli di Portovenere, and in summer – i.e. from June 15 to August 31 – operates daily from 9 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. Ferries depart every 30 minutes from the Doria Pier, located near the main square. There are three docks on Palmaria Island: Punta Secco, Terrizzo, and Pozzale; the latter is located on the southern tip of the island.
Ferries from La Spezia to Palmaria
The ferry boat service from La Spezia and Lerici is handled by the Navigazione Golfo dei Poeti and provides transportation to Palmaria Island via the following routes:
- La Spezia-Terrizzo
- La Spezia-Pozzale (summer only)
Beaches on Palmaria Island
Palmaria’s beaches are definitely the most beautiful in the Gulf. We suggest you tour the island clockwise, starting from the main pier, Terrizzo. Read on for details on the beaches: we’ve put all the information you need together so that you can find the one that suits your needs!
Free access beach Punta SeccoPunta Secco is located on the northernmost side of the island, near Terrizzo, and includes a free access area as well as a beach club. A part of it is hemmed in by maritime pines, and the sea is very clean. It’s in a strategic position, sheltered from the wind, and offers wonderful views of Portovenere. It’s a shingle beach, i.e. made of pebbles, so we recommend you wear rubber shoes!
Il Gabbiano beach club
Il Gabbiano is a beach club that provides a variety of services, from sun umbrella rental to restrooms with hot showers and a snack bar. Unfortunately, it is very popular, so in peak season it can be hard to get a sunbed and sun umbrella. The snack bar, one of only two lunch spots on the island, is also generally crowded. We recommend buying a nice picnic lunch in Portovenere and bringing it with you to Palmaria! Check out our menu, and be inspired by our Ligurian dishes and focaccia. It’s a pebbly beach, wearing rubber shoes may be a good idea!
A stretch of free access coastline located close to Punta Secco. It’s an access point to the sea, rather than a real beach, but you can settle down on the rocks and dive in enjoying the magnificent view of the Church of Portovenere.
Located south of Torre Umberto I. It’s a fairly wide pebbly beach where you can sunbathe, relax, and swim in the wonderful waters of the Ligurian Sea.Located south of Torre Umberto I. It’s a fairly wide pebbly beach where you can sunbathe, relax, and swim in the wonderful waters of the Ligurian Sea.
Maiella beach (also known as Cala Fornace)Heading southeast, you’ll reach the area called Batteria della Fornace, and another free access beach: the Spiaggia della Maiella, i.e. Maiella beach. Google Maps doesn’t list it, so it could be hard to locate, but you can use the Palmaria Island map above!
Spiaggia dei Gabbiani (i.e. Seagull beach)The Spiaggia dei Gabbiani is located on the eastern side of the island. It owes its name to the many seagulls who come here to nest on the cliffs above the water and is very beautiful. Getting here is fairly simple, thanks to the loop path that, as mentioned above, runs along the entire island. We suggest you wear hiking shoes because the trail is somewhat challenging, especially at the end. Which, I’m sure you’ll agree, makes the beach all the more fascinating!
A pristine, wild, free access rocky beach located on the southernmost tip of the island. You can reach it on foot, following the island’s loop trail. The island’s western coast of the island features spectacularly high cliffs that plunge into the sea – the crags – as well as several grottos. Among these are the Blue Grotto and the volcanic Grotto di Cala Grande.
Beaches accessible exclusively by boat
You can get to all the beaches listed above by walking along Palmaria Island’s loop trail. There are other beaches, however, that are accessible only by boat. These are all located on the western side of the island, where the coastline is characterized by crags.
Cala Grande and Cala Piccola
Two bays located near the Grotta Vulcanica, both extremely evocative and perfect to reconnect with nature and relax.
A magical spot that owes its name to the amazing light effects created, inside, when the sun is setting.
|Beaches/Places to swim||Free access / Beach club||Exposure|
|Punta Secco||free access||North|
|Il Gabbiano||beach club||North|
|Carlo Alberto||free access||Northeast|
|Carceri beach||free access||East|
|Maiella beach||free access||East|
|Spiaggia dei Gabbiani||free access||Southeast|
|Pozzale beach||free access||South|
|Cala Grande and Cala Piccola||free access||Southwest|
|Blue Grotto||free access||West|