Think yachts the size of small houses, worn cobblestone streets and indulgent three course meals with picturesque backdrops of translucent water and magical landscapes. They say money can’t buy happiness – well if it could, it should be spent in Italy’s dime-a-dozen darling, Portofino.
Renowned as one of the world’s most sought after destinations for lovers, Portofino, especially its famous Piazzetta, is the quintessential place for couples looking for a quiet retreat. In recent years, an eclectic mix of worldwide and elite visitors have jumped on the Portofino bandwagon, including artists and intellectuals, models and moguls.
Located on a peninsular of Italian Riviera on the northwest coast of Italy’s Liguria, Portofino is approximately 40km southeast of the city of Genoa. Home to a mere 250 locals, it was originally named Portus Delphini, or Port of the Dolphin, due to the large number of dolphins that inhabited the area. Aristocratic Europeans first established the tourist curiosity in this quaint and unfounded fishing village in the late 19th Century when they used to travel by horse from the nearby inlet of Santa Margherita Ligure. By the late 1950s, tourism had replaced fishing as the town’s principal industry and Portofino became a common haunt of the likes of Frank Sinatra, Bridget Bardot and Sophia Loren.
The main drawcard when visiting Portofino is the tranquil nature of the small cove; it is a place to discover peace and unwind. Nonetheless, for the more adventurous traveller, there is no shortage of things to do. In addition for the devoted shopper, Portofino shamelessly caters for those looking for luxury. The central lane, Via Roma, is lined with lavish designer boutiques, including Louis Vuitton, Giorgio Armani, Ermenegildo Zegna, Gucci, Hermes and Pucci.
Only a few minutes walk from the Piazzetta is the oldest site of Christian worship in Portofino, The Saint George Castle which was restored in the 1950s on a structure which dates back to 1154. Saint George is one of the most respected Saints in the Ligure region and as the legend goes, his relics are said to be found inside the castle. The primary position of the castle is no faux pas. It has always served a practical function for both strategic and surveillance purposes as the French, the Fiorentini, the Turks and the English have all fought on these hills in an attempt to gain possession of Portofino.
A holiday in Portofino is not complete without a visit to the Castle of Brown which was built during the medieval period for the purpose of monitoring the entrance into the small inlet. Castle Brown has been the manor to various prominent people, particularly the English consul in Genoa, Montague Yeats Brown from 1867. Since 1961, it has been owned by the municipality and is often used for exhibitions. The castle has timeless character, is filled with marble sculptures and is surrounded by beautiful gardens and old gothic windows that line the outside veneer like eyelashes.
While there is no beach at Portofino itself, the inlet is enveloped by a dazzling harbour. There are a number of coves that surround Portofino in which locals and tourists laze on the rocks and paddle in the glistening blue ocean. Paraggi, which is a five minute drive from Portofino, is home to a beautiful beach laden with colourful sun beds perfect for baking and bathing.
/ SOME ADDITIONAL TIPS…
TIME IT WELL
Visit Portofino in the months of April through to September, as most hotels and restaurants are closed during the European winter
HOT FOOT IT
Whilst there are readily waiting BMW taxis at the port (a two minute ride will set you back 25 Euro.) Walking is the only way to travel to take in the panoramic hillside views.
CLEAR THE DIARY
In the high season from July to September, when it comes to restaurants, visitors are advised to book one month in advance for weekend dining sessions during July and at least ten days in advance during August
Whilst this area is not known for its rampant nightlife, Paraggi’s “Le Carrilon” is the region’s after dark hotspot. The highly regarded club is an informal relaxed restaurant by day, and as the clock strikes midnight you’ll find yourself in the midst of a buzzing nightclub
This Italian Riviera’s prominent enclave is only a 90 minute trip by speed boat from Portofino and is well and truly worth the trip. Comprised of five small coastal villages linked by winding paths and small beaches, the Cinque Terra is well known for its wine, traditional foods and breathtaking views