The most popular among the three islands in the Portovenere Archipelago, annually attracts beachgoers in the thousands due to its pristine waters. With a name that likely stems from the word "Balma," meaning cave, rather than from dwarf palms, Palmaria offers diverse landscapes. The eastern side features Mediterranean vegetation while steep cliffs mark the western side, rising up to 188 meters in altitude. You can have a stunning view of Palmaria from Capitolare tower
A scenic route begins at Terrizzo, the ferry landing point. From here, one can head east towards the Fortified Battery Umberto I, now known as the "Sea Fortress." This 19th-century structure, restored by various administrations, hosts exhibitions, conferences, and cultural events. A fork in the road leads to the almost untouched eastern side of the island, passing through fragrant shrubs, vibrant wildflowers, and aromatic myrtle plants.
The path reaches Mariella Point, overlooking the unique Grotta del Roccio and Pozzale cove, home to quarries of the precious Portoro marble. The route then ascends towards the island's highest point, housing the Semaphore Battery and Fort Cavour, before winding down through Aleppo and maritime pines to the northwestern tip, where a niche once featured a bust of King Carlo Alberto.
Across the sea, the unmistakable outline of San Pietro church emerges, with the towering Muzzerone cliffs in the backdrop. As you conclude your round-island journey, the iconic seaside palaces of Portovenere come into view.
The island is part of the Portovenere Regional Natural Park, and efforts are underway to preserve its natural and scenic values. An on-site hostel, located in a former naval fort, offers lodging and is a yearly destination for young people keen on deepening their knowledge rather than mere leisure.
Palmaria is simply stunning. It is a famous island but esrtremely wild. Full of abandoned military fortifications and hidden corners. Look among the trees for abandoned Napoleonic forts, World War II anti-aircraft batteries.
Fun fact: The island has 20 permanent year-round residents and about 100 wild goats. This makes it one of the few islands in the Mediterranean whose main inhabitant has horns and 4 legs.
Fun fact number 2: seen from above it is heart shaped.
For those embarking on this trail, which circles the island and passes through Pozzale, it's good to know the path is marked in red and white and numbered 510. The journey is approximately 6 km long with an elevation climb of around 340 meters. It generally takes about two hours to complete, although this can vary depending on your walking pace and any breaks you might take. To ensure a comfortable hike, it's advisable to pack enough water, put on suitable footwear, and perhaps even carry a swimsuit—you never know when the urge to swim might strike.
Tino Island, a triangular and rocky gem south of Palmaria, is a secluded natural sanctuary featuring maritime pine, holm oak, and other native flora. Spanning about 13 hectares and surrounded by a two-kilometer border, the island is primarily under military control. This restricted access has minimized human disturbance, making way for lush vegetation and a flourishing habitat that even includes Italy's smallest endemic gecko, the Tarantolino. Perched at 122 meters atop the island's western cliffs, an evolving neoclassical lighthouse has been a longstanding guide for sailors. The eastern side hosts a small harbor, the sole point of entry for limited visitor access. Significant historical traces, like Roman-era archaeological remains and the ruins of a medieval monastery, are also found near the landing area. While generally off-limits, the island welcomes visitors on September 13th, its patron saint day, and through special park-organized tours.
In 560 A.D., the nearby island of Palmaria saw the birth of Saint Venerio, a man who chose a hermit's life and was revered for multiple miracles. Among these was the unseasonal growth of barley, a divine act credited to him. He became known for lighting fires on the rocky outcrop to aid sailors and later gained fame as the protector of the Roman city of Luni from a menacing sea monster.
Bishop Lazarus sent multiple appeals to Venerio, who initially declined but later complied after days of intense prayer. At the creature's lair near the Corvo promontory, the Saint compelled the beast to vanish into the abyss. This feat, however, did not label him a "dragon-slayer" like St. George.
Apart from such miraculous acts, Venerio also experienced days of solitude, living off myrtle berries, while a daily gift of bread and meat was brought to him by a crow. After his passing, his relics were rescued from Saracen invaders, moved to various sanctuaries, and eventually settled in Reggio Emilia, where his cult continues. A Benedictine monastery was erected in his honor on Tino Island in 1056, becoming a focal point in later Pisan-Genoese conflicts.
Tinetto Island is a noteworthy yet tiny member of the Porto Venere island group, situated about 100 meters from Tino Island and separated by semi-submerged rocks. This humble island, with a peak elevation of 17 meters and spanning just over half a hectare, holds a significant place in biogeographical and historical terms. Home to the region's first monastic establishment from the 6th century, its ruins include a hidden oratory and a two-aisled church linked to another oratory and monastic cells. Known to experts as the terminating feature of "La Spezia's Blade," Tinetto Island is unique for its geological characteristics, including outcrops of Triassic carbonate.
Emanating an elegant grace, the Stella Maris statue graces the waters near Tino Island. Depicting the Virgin Mary with hands joined, it looks out towards the sea. While its presence adds a layer of spiritual significance to the area, possibly owing to the nearby monasteries, its main purpose is quite pragmatic. The statue serves as a maritime marker to caution sailors about a treacherous reef known as O Scogio do Diao, or the Devil's Rock, on which its base rests.
The Podarcis muralis Tinettoi, a rare subspecies of the common wall lizard, is one of Tinetto Island's most unique inhabitants. With a worldwide population estimated at just 200, these lizards are primarily found on Tinetto, but also inhabit Tino and Palmaria Islands. Thought to have diverged from the main species nearly 8,000 to 9,000 years ago, the subspecies has garnered attention for its unique behaviors, especially those colonies on Palmaria Island that show differing actions based on their geographical orientation.
You can visit the arcipelago with our sailboat tour. We can arrange a small ad hoc tour just of the islands if you want.