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Trekking the Italian Riviera

The wild island of Palmaria, a special place in Liguria
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At the mouth of the Gulf of La Spezia, the island of Palmaria rises imperiously, in a panoramic position in front of Portovenere. The paths of Palmaria, and in particular the island tour, allow you to admire its wild vegetation, the ruins of military fortifications, the impressive cliffs and the limpid Ligurian Sea.

Palmaria and Portovenere
Portovenere seen from the island of Palmaria
First of all, to get to Palmaria you need to take a boat (or your own kayak/SUP/yacht). From Portovenere there is a run every half hour (the distance is a few hundred meters, and the cost is 5 euros return), but in summer it is also possible to leave from the port of La Spezia (in winter, you need to inquire about timetables beforehand, because they are reduced). Generally, you will arrive in Terrizzo, right in front of Portovenere, where there is also a beach club. From Terrizzo, passing Punta Secco, you can start following the Palmaria around the island path (in the counterclockwise direction) walking along the coast, towards west. On the rocky shore here, you can swim in the crystal clear water of the Ligurian Sea.
Path of the Palmaria island tour
The beginning of the path for the Palmaria tour
Once arrived in front of the Church of San Pietro di Portovenere, the path begins to climb. This is the most difficult part of the itinerary, nothing too complicated, but not to be faced wearing flip flops! The vegetation is wild and the path is not particularly well preserved. Looking back as you go up, however, the panoramas repay the fatigue.
Portovenere seen from Palmaria Portovenere seen from Palmaria
Going up towards the summit of Palmaria, you leave behind beautiful views of Portovenere
In this part of the itinerary you walk on the side of the Palmaria exposed to the open sea, a high coast with imposing cliffs, following the directions for Vetta (the hilltop) and then for the beach of Pozzale.

Every now and then, panoramic points allow you to admire the grandeur of these rocky walls, around which the seagulls fly and on which goats venture.
Path of the Palmaria island tour
The cliffs of Palmaria
Despite the splendid places and the presence of some bathing establishments, particularly in the stretch of coast towards Portovenere, Palmaria has a wild and neglected appearance. This is also due to its military past: characteristic ruins of buildings are scattered around the island, now submerged from vegetation, and few structures are still operational, including that of the Traffic Light Battery, at the highest point that is encountered along the way. Anti-aesthetic light poles follow the path and sometimes ruin the view in this first part of the itinerary.
Cala Grande e Caletta, Palmaria
Descending from the Sempahore Battery, you can admire Cala Grande and Caletta, two inlets in the cliffs
When from the Semaphore Battery you begin to descend, you can admire the cliffs around Cala Grande and Caletta and, in the background, the island of Tino. Above the Caletta, you can see the ruins of old buildings and artificial holes in the rock, which can be reached by briefly diverting from the route. The inlet of the Caletta, as well as impressive, is inhabited by a thousand seagulls, of which we have also seen eggs.
Caletta, island Palmaria
The cliffs of the Caletta and, in the background, the path that descends from the Semaphore Battery
The trail arrives at the Pozzale beach, where you can take a refreshing dip. Here, too, there are old abandoned buildings, which give an idea of transandiness but which are also picturesque. You can also walk up to the tip of the Island, to arrive right in front of the islet of Tino.
Pozzale, island Palmaria
The small rocks of the beach of Pozzale
Above the Pozzale, there are rock cliffs and between them it opens up an inexplicable and gigantic square hole in the rock, another strangeness of the amazing Palmaria.

Passing on a steep stretch and with the vague risk of being hit by a stone or by seagull poop, we immediately went to see it. The artificial cave passes the mountain from side to side and and allows you to admire beautiful views (and inside there is also a chasm that reaches straight to the sea).
Path of Palmaria island tour
A square hole in the mountain!
After leaving the Pozzale, we proceed towards Punta Marinella. Part of the beach is reserved for the use of the military personnel (anachronistic concept that I hope will soon disappear from Palmaria), while the trail rises past high along the coast. The views are sublime, both behind, towards the Tino, and in front, towards the coast of Tellaro and Montemarcello on the other side of the Gulf of La Spezia.
Path of Palmaria island tour Path of Palmaria island tour
View from the trail on the Tino and on the opposite bank of the Gulf of La Spezia
Arriving over Punta Marinella, you will meet a house; from here, a path, only apparently closed by a gate, leads to a beautiful beach where to bathe, the most isolated and deserted beach among those reachable by foot (but, on summer weekends, the sea ahead is often full of boats). Continuing on the path at the top, however, you arrive immediately after to admire Cala Fornace.
Cala della Fornace, Palmaria
Cala della Fornace, full of boats ina summer weekend
Among the most beautiful features of Palmaria is that, scattered around the island, there are curious military remains, of which it is difficult to understand how they were used. As we made our way down a bumpy path with the aim of reaching another point on the sea of the bay of Fornace, we found ourselves passing through an unexplained tunnel in the middle of the woods. Its remote position and the danger of collapses had made it the home of many seagulls.
Tunnel on Palmaria island
A strange empty gallery in Palmaria

Returning to the main path, we continued up to the great Fortress Umberto Primo, then to the sea on the side inland of the Gulf of La Spezia. Here are some beach resorts (usually reserved for military and families), but also mussel crops.
Gulf of La Spezia and mussels
View inwards of the Gulf of La Spezia, with mussel crops in the foreground
The last sections of the trail is flat and allows you to return to Terrizzo, from where you can take a boat back to the mainland. In all, the tour of the island is about 7 kms for a total of 3 hours of walking, but often it takes longer with detours, "curious spots" and bathrooms.
A note on Portovenere: frequent buses connect it to La Spezia station, otherwise you can reach it by ferry (both from La Spezia and Riomaggiore). Driving is also an option, but in high season get ready to park far away, spending 10 euros for a day (or more if you approach the center of the village). Other than that... visiting Palmaria on the trails is a fantastic trip!!
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