A seaside village on the Ligurian Riviera today an icon of elegance and fine Italian living
“A small village, Portofino, stretches crescent-shaped along the edge of this calm bay.” Thus wrote Guy de Maupassant when describing Portofino, tiny sea village on the Italian Riviera circumscribed by the green of the Natural Regional Park and Marine Reserve. This splendid sea resort with its lux, Mediterranean personality, also boasts an ancient marine culture, and of course is another one of those spots beloved by artists, famous personages and writers that have long sung its praises. The “Piazzetta,” meeting-up point for the international jet-set, is the symbol of Portofino, while the port, with its characteristic, brightly-colored houses, is the icon of this borgo’s maritime traditions, whose inhabitants were called delfini (“dolphins”) by the Greeks and Romans, so apt were they at sea navigation.
The charm of these places, the fine cuisine of the Ligurian Region, and the innumerable cultural and nature itineraries make this corner of the Gulf of Tigullio an ideal destination any time of year. Nonetheless, tourists most appreciate Portofino during the summer months, when the flora is at its most lush, and the warm seawater transports visitors beyond paradise.
Travelers will not be able to see everything here, so many are the historic, cultural and natural attractions. Still, make a little room in your schedule to see the Church of Portofino’s Patron Saint, San Giorgio, a construction from the 12th Century; inside are relics brought back by sailors after the Crusades, as well as a breathtaking panorama from the parvis (churchyard). Nearby, the Brown Castle (Castello Brown) is a fortress smack-dab in the middle of a hanging-garden, and characterized by partitions with lovely bas-reliefs, and architectonic embellishments in marble and slate. The lighthouse is accessible from here, and is situated on Punta del Capo (aka Punta Portofino), imposing itself over the entire bay. Equally-interesting is the Gothic Oratory of the Brotherhood of Mary Assumed (Oratorio della Confraternita dell’Assunta), preserving various artworks inside, including a 12th-Century wooden statue of the Assumption of the Virgin.
Those curious about the local traditions can stroll the streets of Portofino’s borgo, visiting the artisan workshops where the town’s women sophisticatedly work elegant patterns of bobbin lace. Prefer a little adventure out in the open? Take an excursion up to Monte di Portofino for a slight adrenaline rush, or navigate the Gulf of Tigullio in a boat, for close contact with the beautiful Mediterranean Sea.
Special events also take place rather frequently during Portofino’s summer season – everything from international regattas to glitzy evening engagements and religious celebrations - for instance the Feast Day for San Giorgio (April 23rd), with a procession and final bonfire illuminating the Piazzetta. Finally, if fine wining-and-dining is your thing (and it usually is), get ready for some prime sea-based dishes, served in restaurants throughout Portofino. Here the typical recipe is “Lasagna di Portofino,” delectable primo based on, what else, pesto. But before dinner, make sure you do as the locals do: head back to the Piazzetta for 7 o’ clock aperitivo, where you can snack on Genoese foccaccia and sip some Giancu de Purtufin, a wine that combines several of the territory’s grapes and that is only produced locally.
A visit to Genoa just 18.6 miles away, or to the Cinque Terre (31 mi); after all, Portofino is perfect as a hub close to countless intriguing destinations on the Riviera. A trip to the evocative Medieval Abbey of San Fruttuoso, just a few miles inland from the coast and surrounded by lush vegetation. According to legend, five Spanish monks fleeing from Arab-invaded Tarragon built the Abbey. The monks, after a long and dangerous journey, brought with them the relics of Bishop Fruttuoso. A visit to the little theatre (the teatrino, Teatro Perla del Tigullio) of Portofino, a favorite place for artists and intellectuals, where periodic conferences and events both national and international are held.