The name of the populous village near Porto Venere dates back to the followers of Madonna delle Grazie, established by the Benedictine monks of Monte Oliveto who settled in the secluded bay of the Gulf of La Spezia, building both the convent and the church, dedicated to Nostra Signora delle Grazie, or Our Lady of Grace.
The pride of the village are its shipwrights and caulkers, renowned and highly sought after since the early thirteenth century.
The village is best known for underwater activities. The divers of Le Grazie have been called to employ their great skill and courage in waters around the world. So proud is the town that the municipal council of Porto Venere voted to call the village "The City of Divers".
The Sanctuary of the Madonna delle Grazie, a parish church, was originally a small church founded by the monks, as happened for the adjoining convent, inside of which you can admire valuable works of art kept there. We mention a painting on wood depicting the Blessed Virgin; Santa Margherita, The Miracle of San Venerio, by Casoni; a Madonna with Child and Saints attributed to the painter Domenico Fiasella from Sarzana; an artistic choir inlaid by Paolo da Recco.
In the former Convent of the Olivetani, the refectory hall features an impressive fresco by Nicolò Corso, a Genoese painter who worked at the end of the fifteenth century primarily in Olivetani monasteries like Our Lady of Grace. Among the decorative friezes we can admire Madonna with Child and St. George, St. Bartholomew, St. Helen, St. Benedict and, in a large lunette, the Crucifixion, with the figure of Jesus Christ and two angels and, at the foot of the cross, St. John, the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene. In the background, some claim the landscape contains a reference to the Graces and the convent.
Cantiere della Memoria, or the Memory Yard, inaugurated in the summer of 2016 in a cellar of the ancient village overlooking the sea, was created to collect and celebrate memories of life on the sea. The center hosts exhibit, meetings, performances and educational activities for schools. Open year round, the center’s permanent collection features tools of shipwrights and caulkers collected over half a century by renowned local shipwright, Pietro Ricci.
Forte Varignano, or Fort Varignano—the current home of the Teseo Tesi Regiment of Navy Divers—is located at the western end of Le Grazie. Built by the Republic of Genoa in 1724, it was used as a lazaret and then later as a prison under the Savoy. Giuseppe Garibaldi was taken prisoner there on two occasions: in 1862 following the Battle of Aspromonte, when the hero was wounded, and in 1867, when he was arrested in Tuscany for recruiting volunteers to go on to occupy Rome.