"In the sweet enchantment of the morning, the sea brought you to me. I squint my eyes and close to me, in Portofino, I see you again".

Published on 3 Feb 2021
5 minutes
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Known by the ancient Romans as Portus Delphini, Portofino is the smallest village bordering the city of Genoa, located between the Paradise gulf and the Tigullio gulf. And also the most fascinating.

Cradle of Italian yachting and always considered an emblem of the dolce vita, in recent years it has been defined as the most instagrammable Italian seaside resort by the Financial Times.

Villa in Portofino, 1985
Villa in Portofino, 1985. (Credit to Slim Aarons)

Its unique style still has an international resonance today. It is no coincidence that inspired the sculptural design of the Ferrari Portofino and Portofino M, helping to open a new stylistic course for the legendary Prancing Horse. And the Portofino Bay Resort, which surprisingly reproduces the settings of the Ligurian village, is one of the most popular hotels at Universal Studios in Orlando.

The beating heart of the Riviera

Starting from Santa Margherita Ligure and along the enchanting coast road, which crosses the eastern Riviera, it only takes a few minutes to begin to see the bay of Portofino. Crux of the homonymous natural park, where the gaze is lost in the Mediterranean scrub made up of pines, olive trees and chestnut trees, which seem to blend with the surrounding coastline.

As soon as you begin to recognize the outlines of the marina, located at the base of the promontory and arranged as an amphitheater, one gets the impression of observing a work of art. The buildings of the time that compose it, with their bright pastel colors, look like the tiles of a mosaic and are the evident symbol of a great maritime tradition.

The bay is dominated by Castello Brown, which belonged to Sir Montague Yeats Brown, the English consul in Genoa. Who had the great merit of embellishing the structure by carrying out a conservative restoration, and show Portofino known to the great European aristocratic families.

On the eastern coast stands another wonder, reachable only by ship or on foot: the abbey of San Fruttuoso, one of the most evocative in Italy.

According to legend, the original structure was erected in the 8th century by 5 Spanish monks, fleeing from Arab raids. After an initial expansion by the Benedictines, it passed into the hands of the noble Genoese Doria family, to whom we owe the magnificent loggia with two orders of three-mullioned windows and the fortified tower, respecting the wishes of Pope Julius III.

Today it belongs to the heritage of the FAI (Italian Environment Fund), and enchants visitors with its pristine coast and the source of fresh water that flows from its foundations.

Abbey of San Fruttuoso panorama
Abbey of San Fruttuoso panorama (Credi to @michaelpezzaioli)

“And suddenly you discover a hidden cove, of olive and chestnut trees. A small village, Portofino, stretches crescent-shaped along the edge of this calm bay”. 

The privileged places of the jet set

The piazzetta of Portofino, elected as Italian historic place since 2012, is the privileged meeting point for a pleasant walk or sipping an aperitif, as if it were an open-air living room.

Between the piazzetta and via Roma, the shopping street that connects the city center to the hilly area (where some shops still make the traditional Flanders thread lace), Andrea Bocelli performed in 2012. The shooting of the show then merged into the Love in Portofino film, released and appreciated in 50 countries.

In Portofino, scenes of cult films from the 1950s and 1960s were also shot, such as Souvenir d’Italie (1957). It was chosen by Michelangelo Antonioni for some settings of Beyond the Clouds (1995) with John Malkovich and Sophie Marceau, and by Martin Scorsese for The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), with Leonardo Di Caprio as the absolute protagonist.

The model Christy Turlington at lunch in a restaurant in Portofino
The model Christy Turlington at lunch in a restaurant in Portofino (Credit to Arthur Elgort)

Among the accommodation facilities, the Belmond Hotel Splendido stands out which, in terms of refinement, is at the level of the Belmond Hotel Caruso on the Amalfi Coast. Its renowned restaurant, La Terrazza, directly overlooks the Portofino bay, giving strong emotions from dawn to dusk. Inside the suites, decorations created by local workers alternate with furniture designed by architect Gio Ponti and Loro Piana fabrics.

Portofino, over the years, has won the hearts of many VIPs. From Clack Gable, Liz Taylor and the Duke of Windsor, to Madonna, Christy Turlington and Lana Del Rey (who chose it as the location of the single Ultraviolence) and to the Dolce & Gabbana stylists, who still own a villa overlooking the Riviera. Because Portofino allows you to realize a dream: immerse yourself, lulled by the waves of the sea, in an atmosphere of pure classic Italian elegance. Portofino style.

“I found my love in Portofino”.

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